- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 5, 2003

We are "no longer in the prehistoric period when he who had the biggest club could knock another down in order to steal his leg of mammoth," French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie, sneered recently, as France launched into an almighty anti-American, anti-Bush hissy fit. Even French President Jacques Chirac, who has certainly been responsible for creating this atmosphere, was induced to ask members of his government to turn down the volume on their insults.
With "allies" like France and Germany, these days, who needs enemies? As comedian Jay Leno said the other day, "The Navy has now trained sea lions in the Persian Gulf to work as lookouts and detect terrorists that may be trying to blow up our ships. Isn't that amazing? Sea lions will help us, the French still won't." For Paris and Berlin these days, the problem is not how to contribute to a solution in Iraq, but how to "tie down Gulliver," aka Uncle Sam.
But guess who is looking like dinosaurs today. Provoked by French and German anti-Americanism and general arrogance about the leadership of Europe, eight other European countries last week signed a strongly worded public statement in support of the United States, published in the Wall Street Journal. Their message should be heard by every American who doubts the United States has foreign support for its Iraq policy:
"We in Europe have a relationship with the U.S. which has stood the test of time. Thanks in large part to American bravery, generosity and farsightedness, Europe was set free from the two forms of tyranny that devastated our continent in the 20th century: Nazism and Communism. Thanks, too, to the continued cooperation between Europe and the U.S. we have managed to guarantee peace and freedom on our continent. The transatlantic relationship must not become a casualty of the current Iraqi regime's persistent attempts to threaten world security."
The statement was signed by the prime ministers of Britain, Spain, Italy, Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Denmark, and Portugal. Since then, Slovenia, Slovakia and Latvia have added their voices in support of the United States.
According to Michael Gonzales, editorial page editor of the Wall Street Europe, the French and German press are already attacking the Bush administration for pressuring the Wall Street Journal and the eight European governments for public support. The idea that there are other European countries that count seem to have come as a total and unwelcome surprise in Germany and France. (A very interesting question is whether the French will eventually come around to supporting military action against Saddam Hussein, which would leave their friends the Germans isolated and subject to the charge of unilateralism in their foreign policy.)
A few weeks back, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld put his finger exactly on these emerging divisions in Europe. He somewhat snottily dismissed France and Germany as being part of " the old Europe," as opposed to the more appealing "new Europe" of the East and Central Europeans and others more friendly to the United States, like Italy, Spain and Denmark. Being labeled "old Europe" definitely did not sit well with Paris and Berlin.
The fallout from the Iraq crisis, as regards the future of NATO and the European Common Security and Defense Policy, will be truly interesting to watch.
Clearly, there is an unresolved question in Europe about relations with the United States, which will be magnified by the inclusion of the Central and East Europeans in NATO and in the European Union.
Some Europeans are outraged at the breach of etiquette against the "consensus process" within the European Union, committed by the eight signatories to the Wall Street Journal statement. The Belgians, who were not invited to sign, are hopping mad. And the Greeks, who currently hold the EU presidency, are equally irate and are expected to call a special session of EU leaders within the next 10 days.
Meanwhile, ideas are popping up in Washington regarding the disposition of 120,000 U.S. military personnel in Europe. The largest U.S. deployment overseas is in Germany with 70,000 troops, a country that has not been particularly friendly to the United States recently. This fall, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder actually fought and won a national election primarily on opposition to U.S. policy on Iraq.
The U.S. military has quietly started to make use of the assets NATO has gained with its first completed round of expansion, which includes Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic. According to USA Today on Monday, NATO's European Command in September moved its largest exercise involving 5,000 troops, Victory Strike, from Germany to Poland, where environmental restrictions on training are less onerous than in Germany. Meanwhile, the Army light infantry force based in Italy spent the summer in Hungary training for rescue missions.
The fallout from the Iraq crisis, quite apart from what happens to Saddam Hussein, could be shaking relations within Europe and across the Atlantic. A moment of truth has arrived.

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