- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 23, 2002

The Europeans aren't the allies they used to be, or are they? President Bush speaks in Berlin today to outline his vision for a new American-European alliance against terrorism. But the question on everyone's mind will be whether the American-European relationship can even survive the storm that started with Mr. Bush's refusal to enforce the Kyoto treaty and has been gaining in strength as Europeans grumble over being sidelined in America's war against terrorism. Mr. Bush must answer the question whether the relationship is still worth nurturing with a resounding "yes."

To this end, he must address trans-Atlantic differences, including military spending, threat perceptions, alliance decision-making and future threats. Little has been learned since September 11, however. Germany, for instance, cut its 2002 defense budget by 600 million deutschmarks after the attacks. Mr. Bush must stress that if Europe and the United States are to work together within NATO, European nations must have the military capabilities to be viable allies.

Increased military expenditures alone will not solve the capabilities gap. There must also be the willingness to use military power. Although the European allies invoked NATO Article Five following September 11, much of Europe was horrified when the United States finally decided to attack Afghanistan. While Europe waited for evidence that Osama bin Laden was behind the terror attacks, Mr. Bush knew that America had to act against terrorism globally to prevent future attacks on the American homeland.

Because of this European reluctance, Mr. Bush evaded the issue of the help that Europeans did offer. As a consequence, the United States is 50,000 troops short of what it needs, said Gary Schmitt, executive director of the Project for the New American Century. The United States has, instead, treated NATO as a toolbox from which to pick particular European allies for its mission of the moment. "I personally will resist people taking individual tools from that box," NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson said in an interview with the New York Times over the weekend.

Europe will need assurance that NATO is still an alliance Mr. Bush believes in. In fact, he will have a whole plateful of issues to address. With President Jacques Chirac in France, he must discuss the threat that nationalism poses to democracy. With Russian President Vladimir Putin, he must stress that Russia's global responsibilities do not end with the signing of an arms-control agreement. Despite the invitation for Russia to become a virtual NATO member, Mr. Bush must make it clear that Russia has no power to block the decisions of actual NATO members.

And in his speech today to the German Bundestag, Mr. Bush must begin to tear down the wall of misunderstanding that has slowly been built between the United States and Europe. September 11 should have taught us all that drifting apart is not an option.

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