- The Washington Times - Friday, December 8, 2000

Overshadowed by heated discussions of the socioeconomic merits and demerits of globalization, it has hardly been noticed that the debates about the transatlantic alliance have faded into the background. Europe is no longer waiting for Washington to create a New World Order.

To be sure, the European Union is delinking more than its currency from Washington's unsteady leadership. Europeans have been alarmed by the conduct of President Clinton's imperious foreign policy for some time. The contrast between the original pursuit of an assertive multilateralism, highlighted by the preposterous concept of nation-building, and an increasing tendency to unilateral actions has not gone unnoticed. Frustrated Europeans have observed a decision-making process that from their perspective was dominated by counterproductive finger-shakings, sanctions, ultimatums, bombings and other military interventions at the expense of diplomatic persuasion and a clear definition of American foreign policy. In this context the humiliating exercises in Somalia, the Sudan, Serbia and Sierra Leone come to mind. Unimpressed with Mr. Clinton's push for peace in the Middle East and his delay of Palestinian statehood, his hollow African initiative, his hapless Iraq policy and uninspired handling of the Indo-Pakistan dilemma over Kashmir, the continent's leadership has drawn its conclusions. To advance on the road to completing the political union, Europe must be enabled to act autonomously in the whole range of civilian and military crises without formally cutting ties between Europe and the United States.

As much as the Germans, the French, the Brits and other EU members may fight and bicker over the harmonization of taxes, constitution, internal security, or the euro, they are united in the quest for European independence. With the institutionalization of a Common Foreign and Defense Policy, the EU has mustered the political will to stand up for Europe's interests.

The European initiative was set in motion by Kosovo. That crisis became the turning point in the mounting disenchantment with U.S. leadership, all too often amplified by the shrill sounds of a severely challenged secretary of state. Kosovo not only revealed Europe's military inability to deal with conflict in its own back yard, but it also exposed the shortcomings of NATO, which resorted to bombings, including of civilians and civilian targets, to remove a dictator. Europe's answer to the strains in the alliance is the development of a common security and defense policy (ESDP).

Focused on a rapid-reaction force of some 60,000 troops, this force, a powerful symbol of transnational unity, becomes a key integration project. As of now its relationship to NATO remains mainly undefined. Leaving collective defense as a domain for NATO, the EU aims to resolve crisis and conflicts in its orbit on its own terms. Whether the ESDP is Europe's long expected contribution to burden-sharing or the start of an emancipatory process liberating Europe from America is open to discussion. However, a growing number of observers welcome these developments as a healthy counterbalance to American global foreign policy decisions often perceived abroad as the arrogance of as the French see it the only "hyperpower."

Europe has changed. When the forced division of the continent ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall a decade ago, Europeans breathed a sigh of relief. As the Soviet empire collapsed and Washington was occupied with the enlargement of NATO, the concept of a fully integrated European Union gained momentum. What had started as a modest European Coal and Steel Community under French-German sponsorship after World War II is blossoming into a commitment to a new order in Europe. The introduction of the euro serves as a powerful glue to Europe's crucial economic integration. Moreover, as former French Prime Minister Michel Rocard pointed out to me, the ongoing argument between Paris and Berlin about the confederation of Europe versus a more tightly integrated federation keeps this vital issue on the front burner.

After its embrace of Eastern Europe the EU will rank as the largest domestic market in the world. By 2003 its eastward enlargement will result in a total population of 370 million. German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer predicts that at the end of the enlargement process EU membership could rise from 15 to 20 or even 23 countries.

The challenge for the next American president is to come to terms with the increasing assertiveness of a much more powerful and self-confident Europe. Differences between European and American foreign policy strategies will have to be addressed. Among the most contentious topics are the rejection of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty by the U.S. Senate and the abrogation of the ABM Treaty that could generate a new arms race. Washington's rejection of an International Criminal Court, the Land Mine Convention, American indifference toward the Climate Convention, the Kyoto Protocol and its approach to U.N. policy, have stunned and angered European policy-makers. Differing views also emerge on the crucial relations with Russia.

One of the best decisions regarding transatlantic relations made by the outgoing president is the subtle retreat from the controversial National Missile Defense system. Considered a threat to European security and the cohesion of NATO by our European partners, Mr. Clinton's reversal on the NMD is a legacy that is deeply appreciated on the other side of the Atlantic. Yet it will hardly stem the emancipatory tide in Europe based on divergent principles concerning the containment of violence and international relations in a multipolar world. Nor will it pave the way to a New Atlanticism.

Viola Herms Drath is a member of the executive committee of the National Committee on American Foreign Policy.

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