- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 9, 2002

Stop freaking out

Jack Straw, Britain's secretary of state for foreign and Commonwealth affairs, member of Parliament for Blackburn and her majesty's top diplomat, had some pungent advice for those worried about a widening split between the United States and Europe: Stop "getting twitchy" and stop "freaking out."

In a thoughtful address on relations between the United States and the European Union, Mr. Straw's basic premise was that the values and interests that united Europe and the United States were strong and enduring, despite headline-grabbing divisions over issues such as steel tariffs, Middle East policy or global warming.

"We may differ from time to time about our priorities," Mr. Straw told a packed auditorium at the Brookings Institution, "but we do not differ on the values we share and the freedom we defend together. We may differ on specifics, but we do so as friends."

Mr. Straw said Britain has had public disagreements with its EU allies with France over energy deregulation or with Italy over the site for new EU agencies, for example without inspiring hand-wringing over the fundamental health of overall relations, our correspondent David R. Sands reports.

But even in Britain, with its vaunted "special relationship" with America, "it seems that we get more twitchy about specific differences of opinion and policy than we do with our European allies," Mr. Straw said.

In the question-and-answer period, Mr. Straw gave a more unvarnished analysis, reflecting perhaps the "Cool Britannia" diplomatic style of his boss, Prime Minister Tony Blair:

"Within Europe, we don't freak out every time there's a disagreement. We sit down and try to sort it out. And I think we ought to be as relaxed about differences with the United States," he said.

On issues of more pressing interest, Mr. Straw said he believes European leaders would support a U.S.-led military assault on Iraq if there is ample prior consultation and the action is "careful, considered and proportionate."

The British foreign minister gave few details of London's thinking on the U.S.-sponsored Middle East peace conference this summer.

However, he said the "one precondition" going in to the meeting should be that "we have to know in advance this is going to be a relative success." It would be a "catastrophe for the region," he warned, if the gathering "wasn't properly prepared."

NATO online

NATO's magazine, NATO Review, has made its Internet debut, featuring a debate over the enlargement of the Western alliance.

Czech President Vaclav Havel, in one article, expresses his hopes for the November summit in the Czech capital, Prague, where nine candidates are campaigning for membership.

NATO's earlier expansions are reviewed by James M. Goldgeier, director of the Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian studies at George Washington University. Dmitri Trenin, deputy director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, writes about Russia's new outlook toward expansion of the alliance.

The experiences of NATO's newest members, Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic, are analyzed in an article by Andrzej Karkoszka of the Democratic Control of Armed Forces Center in Geneva.

The Internet edition also includes a debate over whether NATO can remain an effective military and political alliance as it continues to expand. Ronald D. Asmus of the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington says yes, while Charles Grant of the Center for European Reform in London says no.

"Past enlargements have made NATO stronger, not weaker," Mr. Asmus wrote. Mr. Grant, however, said, "I doubt that the new, post-enlargement NATO will be a strong military organization."

NATO Review can be found at www.nato.int/docu/review/2002/issue1/contents.html.

New ambassadors

President Bush has tapped two career diplomats to serve as ambassadors to Burundi and Peru.

Mr. Bush this week named James Yellin, director of the State Department's office of Central African affairs, as his envoy to Burundi, where he was deputy chief of mission from 1995 to 1999.

He nominated John R. Dawson, director of the State Department's office of Mexican affairs, for the post in Peru. Mr. Dawson is a former deputy chief of mission in El Salvador.

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