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Friday, February 21, 2003


A good question, no? . . . even if the buggy prof says so himself, for once in his life able to see a major controversy spitting boorishly in his and everyone else's face. When you get down to it --- aside from the Iraqi crisis itself with which the troubles hounding NATO and dividing Europe are bound up, and the terrorist threat to all our countries on both sides of the Atlantic: not to forget North Korean bluster and nuclear swaggering now on hold, it seems, for US diplomacy except for some mid-level talks (it's rumored) --- nothing more central to US national interests these days than our difficulties with some allies, themselves dividing some European countries from others, right?


Note the subtitle above: a theoretical analysis. So far, there's been little worth while published anywhere that tries to get behind all the Bush-Blair-Chirac-Schroeder-Putin-Blix to-ing and fro-ing, with the Turks now in on the haggling . . . and probe much deeper than the facile observations bantered in the media and even in certain IR circles, whose members should know better.
Seeing as how the argument to be unpacked here is fairly dense and lengthy, more so anyway than your usual blog-fare eslewhere, keep in mind that it falls into four parts:

  1. The key issue at stake in the divisions within Europe, which pits the French and Germans against all the other Europeans, both in NATO and in the EU (save for two or three small neutral EU member-states), regarding major security threats and how to deal with them. Note: security threats, coping with them . . . not George Bush's style or religious rhetoric, or the US rejection of the Kyoto treaty (a position unanimously upported by the US Senate in a 95-0 vote in the Clinton era), or Jacques Chirac's eruptive schoolmaster scolding or Gerhard Schroeder's pie-in-the-sky utopianism come what may.

  2. Where theory enters in --- the deeper structural causes of this European division, reflected in markedly conflicting understandings of international relations and their underlying dynamics.

  3. How and why the Franco-German camp defines its security interests differently from almost all the rest of the EU regarding the US global and European roles . . . save for four small neutrals, one of them, Ireland, strongly endorsing a vigorous US presence in Europe anyway. Shared policymaking and elite mind-sets, and how they enter into this. National aspirations too. Public opinion, and a growing gap between the US and West Europe on this level. The changes East Europeans, 8-15, are bringing to the EU and NATO.

  4. Secondary and phony influences here --- Bush's personality and diplomatic style, oil concerns in the Middle East, French and German economic interests there, the role of the UN.



The Stakes

What's essentially at stake in these divisions within Europe and across the Atlantic isn't Bush's determined personality and American assertiveness or Chirac's imperious schoolmasterly ways or Schroeder's rigid simpleminded moralizing. Not entirely wrong, these claims --- personalities and diplomatic style usually having some influence in explaining fundamental tensions and conflicts within international life; but hardly at the core of the divisiveness. No, the core differences turn on widely contrasting interpretations of pivotal security concerns, and the pros and cons of the distribution of power ---globally and within Europe itself at present, and even more in the future.

On these crux issues, France and Germany, plus one or two other fence-sitters among US NATO allies like Belgium and maybe Greece, line up on one side, with the support of two or three of the small EU non-NATO countries, Sweden and Austria, each 10 million in size . . . the same as Belgium and Greece. Germany, remember, has 80 million, and France 60 million, both slightly above the EU's per capita income average of 65% of the US's. On the other are the British and Italians (each 60 million) and the Spaniards, 40 million --- plus Holland (15 million), Portugal (10 million), and Denmark (4 million). Not to forget 13 East European countries hectored by Chirac this last Monday, all gathered in Brussels to comment on US-European relations and the Iraqi conflict, 10 of them hopeful candidates for EU membership within the next few years. All 13 sided with the US. All were reprimanded by Head-Master Chirac as badly reared ("mal eleve") and not knowing when to shut up.

How does Europe, West and East, Divide on the Key Issues of Security and The US Global Role?

The French and German Camp

Start with the French and Germans and their uneasy current partnership --- which has had its ups and downs the last 53 years ever since the two of them became the joint motor-force in integrating West Europe economically and financially. French views and ambitions first.

In 1963, General de Gaulle --- the latest, most outspoken French leader to rally the French to a revival of great power prestige and influence, and hence reverse 150 years of steady decline since Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo --- signed a bilateral agreement of German-Franco cooperation, its aim to further that French cause. Simultaneously, to limit British influence on the Continent --- Britain seen as part of a triumphant Anglo-American world since 1815 that had displaced France from the pinnacle of power, and an American Trojan-Horse --- de Gaulle vetoed the British application to join the new, thriving European Economic Community of 6 countries: Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg, Holland, and France and Germany, something he did again in 1967. In 1966, as a further twist in that campaign to leverage French power and influence within Europe, and to use the European Economic Community (now called the European Union) as an instrument of French influence, de Gaulle ordered NATO headquarters off French soil, American forces stationed there to follow suit, and withdrew from the integrated military structure of the alliance. It's a policy that all French governments ever since de Gaulle quit power in a huff (1969) have been faithful to: overcome France's small size (60 million vs. the US's 280 million) and small GDP ($1.6 trillion), contain or reverse American influence and power --- even if an American presence in NATO was needed in the cold war to ward off the Soviet threat --- and use Germany and the EU for French purposes.

As for the French-German partnership, the French from the start regarded themselves as the senior partner. Germany, after all, was divided; it didn't have nuclear weapons; and its independence in diplomacy was entangled and held back, by memories of World War II and the need for the Germans to appear to be good Europeans. Did the French hopes for using Germany as a junior partner succeed? No, not really. On the forefront of the cold war, divided, facing a huge Soviet and East German military threat on its borders, no German government before the end of the cold war would choose Paris over Washington or jeopardize its need for NATO.

Then came German unification, abruptly and to everyone's surprise as the Soviets retreated from East Europe under Gorbachev in 1989 --- not least French surprise --- and the end of the cold war. Since then, the Germans have generally disappointed French hopes to use Germany for counter-balancing the US and reaffirming a European identity separate from the US and amenable to major French influence. Until last year, if anything, Berlin under both Christian Democrat and Green-Socialist governments have demanded changes in the EU that favor German interests and concerns --- many legitimate (lopsided payments to the EU Commission, mainly benefiting the French and two or three small countries; a quick expansion into East Europe for both security and stability reasons, also economic prospects favorable there to German industry and finance) --- and the Franco-German partnership sagged, then buckled, and relations between Paris and Bonn (now Berlin) soured in unison, the low point reached in 1999 and 2000.

What has revived the partnership?

To answer, you have to look now at German views and ambitions, at any rate as held by the existing Social Democratic-Green government, in power now since 1998. The new assertive policies of the Bush administration, with a far different reading of the threats in Europe and the Middle East, all aggravated by the war on terrorism after the 9/11 attacks, have no doubt influenced the German backlash, but aren't the underlying thrust here. Ideology is. In particular, the Green-Social Democratic government led by Gerhard Schroeder and his Green Foreign Minister, Joschka Fisher, has clearly, explicitly, no mincing words here, decided that the future of the world needs to be shaped by a unique German way in foreign policy as a pace-setter for the rest of the EU and apparently the entire world . . . a principled stress, to put it plainly --- not lacking a demagogic appeal to German public opinion (increasingly anti-American, a term to be clarified soon) --- on using the UN and multilateral diplomacy and moral influence, along with a variety of radical changes in international law that, taken together, are said to reflect a specific West European contribution to world order and peace.

How does the US fit in here?

On the German leftist view, very popular in the country --- a kind of militant utopianism and self-righteous moralizing that seems to be the equivalent in fervor to German militarism in the past ("An der Deutschen Seele wird die Weltkrankenheit geniessen", "German spirit will heal the sickness of the world," as Wilhelmian cultural jingoists put it)? That's easy to answer.

From the German left-wing view, American global policies and power are something to be combatted and reversed, first and foremost in Europe itself. And while Fischer and Schroeder seem to differ on what this means for retaining any US-NATO links with Europe --- Schroeder more willing, it seems, to risk an outright buckling of the alliance --- their aim is to make the EU amenable to German views about the weight and impact of multilateral diplomacy, the UN, the EU, and radically reformed international law. In the upshot, if that means reversing the market-oriented trends in the global economy, subjecting it to more and more international regulatory agencies like the Kyoto Treaty global-warming regime, the Greens and Social-Democrats wouldn't be unhappy --- on the contrary.

Note some differences here with the French.

Some differences, mind you; not all . . . though the differences that do exist are crucial.

To clarify quickly. On certain key fundamentals, the current Gaullist-nationalist French government, dominated by Jacques Chirac as a re-elected president and a huge majority in the National Assembly --- with no noticeable dissent anywhere in the French political spectrum on these fundamentals --- seeks like the Germans to reduce US influence in Europe, increase independent EU action, and make the EU into a counter-weight to the US, in the process transforming the global distribution of power into at least bipolarity. Nor is that all. Whether on the left or right, French policymakers and ideologues have never been sympathetic to free-markets, whether at home or abroad . . . a tradition of hostility that is essentially two and a half centuries old: if that means allying with the Germans to reverse global capitalism of the Anglo-American sort and relieve the globalizing pressures on the French economy to change in key ways and become more competitive, all the better. It's a pivotal matter, to repeat, that the German left and most of its public share similar sentiments on.

For the rest, though, there is nothing --- nothing --- to indicate that any French policymaker of importance, never mind Chirac himself, share the German innocent belief in a radical breakthrough in power politics and the existing international order along legal and moral lines.

Consummate realists, opportunists forever looking to exploit the main chance and leverage French power and influence --- which means these days, as it has for decades, dominating the EU and transforming it into an instrument of French diplomacy as the best means to counter American power and influence, both within Europe and globally --- the French elites and the current Gaullist government will continue to jealously guard French political sovereignty; will continue to increase its military spending; will continue to develop its nuclear forces;, will continue to try undermining American influence in the Middle East by courting Arab states, Iran, Saddamite Iraq (France has been its ultimate protector for decades now), and reversing American influence in the region, economic and diplomatic, never mind military. On all these scores, they differ markedly with the Germans.

German Naivete, French Cunning and Opportunism

German governments, even on the right, have talked openly about EU federalism, an anathema to the French; are reducing military spending to derisory levels; show no interest in a nuclear force or even an EU nuclear force; have no interest, it seems, in replacing American influence in the Middle East with uncertain French influence --- German intelligence rightly worried about Saddamite Iraq's nuclear, biological, and chemical threat to Germany and Europe; and seem genuinely to believe in the principle of successful UN-supervised disarmament by more and more inspections. And to the extent that the German left in power is aware of ultimate French schemes to use them and the EU for their own national purposes, Schroeder and Fischer --- two hamfisted amateurs in diplomacy, whom Chirac and the seasoned French must regard as babe-in-the-woods innocents to be manipulated --- seem to think that they can win the French over to their moralizing views of the world.

Might as well un-tomb Napoleon and pin a pennant on him entitled, THE GREAT PACIFIST.

The Pro-US Camp

Essentially, to the dismay of Chirac and Schroeder, all the West European members of NATO --- save perhaps for the straddling Greeks --- have reaffirmed their belief that a close relationship between West Europe and the US, institutionalized within NATO, but also reinforced by trade and investment ties, is critical to their security and well-being . . . both within Europe and the turbulent global system. Those West European NATO states --- Britain and Italy (60 million each) and Spain (40 million), plus Portugal and Holland (10 million each), and Denmark (4 million) --- have been joined by Norway and Iceland, both small (Norway 4 million, Iceland 250,000), who aren't in the EU. That's also the case of the member applicants to the EU in East Europe, 7 right now, the biggest of which is Poland (40 million, heavily pro-American), and 6 small states. Eventually, Romania (also 40 million) hopes to get into the EU too, though Chirac and the French elites were disturbed that this Latin-country in East Europe is strongly pro-American and also mal eleve --- something the Romanian foreign minister made a play on when interviewed the other day --- as does Bulgaria, 10 million.

Within the EU, it's true, there are 4 neutrals --- all small: Ireland and Finland (4 million each) and Sweden and Austria (10 million each). One of them, though, Ireland has strongly supported a continued US presence in Europe, and just the other day, the Irish foreign minister visiting Warsaw outrightly reaffirmed not just his country's support for the NATO alliance as crucial to Europe's security, but defended the right of the applicant countries to the EU to express their support for the US however much it discomforted the French. Finland too has not committed itself to the French-German scheme, and it needs to be immediately added that neither Sweden nor Austria --- any more than the rest of the EU --- are anxious to have a Franco-German condominium in charge of the EU, doubly so because the French are notoriously imperious and self-serving in the EU and condescending to the small states, and because, too, Germany isn't free of their past suspicions as an unreliable and even domineering country.

From that angle, to be brief, the East Europeans, the British, and most of the Continental EU NATO members along with Ireland see a continued American presence as not only crucial to European stability and peace, not least in the war against Islamo-fascist fundamentalism and terrorism linked to it -- including Islamo-fascist regimes with WMD programs like Iraq --- but as critical to their ability to parry and hold off the French and Germans.

The Upshot: German Rigidity, French Nightmares

From that same angle, the Franco-German condominium is a dead start. The existing members of the EU, even the small neutrals, don't want it -- in fact dread it; and as new East European countries join the EU, the Franco-German alliance will be even more isolated . . . especially in foreign and security policies.

And it gets worse for Paris and Berlin.

An even larger number of East Europeans --- Romania and Bulgaria, the three Baltic States (Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, all tiny), and Slovenia, Slovakia, and Croatia (tiny too, though Croatia is about 10 million) --- are slated to join NATO this year . . . with Poland, the Czech Republic (6 million), and Hungary (10 million or so) members since 1999. And to the horror of Chirac and Schroeder, not just join NATO but join it with enthusiasm. This is the ultimate French nightmare: a NATO as strongly anchored in Europea as ever, with another 10 members from East Europe closely tied to the US and beyond French influence. Simlutaneously, an EU that will be ever harder to bludgeon into French-influenced policies and institutions, especially in foreign and security policy, as the new East Europeans come on board . . . demanding, expecting, a shift in agricultural subsidies away from French peasants, along with regional subsidies redirected from Mediterranean EU countries to the East.

Everywhere Paris looks these days, the EU and NATO and hence Europe looks like a nightmarish landscape full of American clients and Trojan Horses. Small wonder Chirac exploded twice last weekend and on Monday: first at his EU partners lining up with the US, then with the 13 "mal eleve" East Europeans whom he insulted and threatened with a French veto when it comes to EU membership.

Even the rigidly sanctimonious German government has begun to sense its isolation from the rest of NATO and almost all its EU partners, save for the cunning French who, Schroeder and Fischer now seem to appreciate, might cut loose from their condominium and join in the Anglo-American war with Iraq next month, now an inevitabilit, and leave the Germans suckered --- the saps who are left holding the bag . . . the bag itself totally empty, but marked clearly on the outside in French tricolor words, On m'a eu! I've been screwed!

The evidence?

Last week, with the French excluded from participation by their refusal to join it, the military committee of the NATO alliance --- which groups all other 17 member states --- met and endorsed sending Patriot missiles and other defense materials to Turkey, a position that the French and Germans, with their wavering Belgian ally, had opposed a few days earlier, but that, in the absence of Chirac-the-schoolmaster, the Belgians and Germans both now supported. Then on Monday, February 17th, Schroeder signed the EU joint declaration that indicated war with Iraq could be a last resort. The new wiggle room was immediately seized on by the Christian Democratic opposition in Germany as a somersault in policy, a marked retreat from "no war over-our-dead-bodies" moralizing perversity. Schroeder denied this. Naturally. The most unpopular Chancellor in the history of the Federal Republic --- an achievement attained within two months of his re-election thanks to the hard banging on the anti-American tom-tom that resonates with the German public --- he has nothing by way of support in the country, even his Social Democratic party now divided on his rigid government's stand over Iraq, except to go on catering to high-pulsating anti-Americanism

The French: Perennial Losers

Still, as always, the French are the big losers so far in their cunning game. They always are. By now, it seems to be a staple of international life since 1815.

Tangibly put --- ever since 1815 when Napoleon escaped his island prison of Elba where the British, Austrians, Prussians, and Russians had put him after his defeat the year before, returned to France, was hailed as the great savior power-maker who would renew French dominance of Europe, then quickly raised a huge army again, only to suffer an even worse defeat at Waterloo and permanent island-exile to Saint-Helena in the Mediterranean --- the French, who see themselves as markedly more intelligent and logical than others ("Nous sommes le seul pays logique de cette terre" said Michel Jobert, a foreign minister back in 1974 on French radio when discussing the American threat in those days: "we're the only logical people on the face of the earth"), have suffered one major diplomatic or military backfiring failure after another, always ending up losers save in WWI . . . this time, in the year 2003, isolated in the EU and NATO with a quirky German left-wing utopian government that faces mounting criticism within Germany, even from within its own Social Democratic ranks, for needlessly antagonizing and alienating the United States and likely to leave the rigid pulpit-pounders isolated if the French, seeing Bush and Blair starting war against Iraq, decide to join in.


Secondary or Phony Explanations of The Divisions within Europe Over the US Role

Well, yes--- different personalities and a gentler, less assertive style in the US might have helped a little in delaying the discord and resulting divisions, as would have a far less rigidly moralizing German government, replaced, say, by the Christian Democrats winning last September's election, not to forget a far less imperious schoolmaster ponitificating habit by the French. For that matter, even more forthright courage on the part of the other pro-US West European allies to confront their hostile publics on their governments' relations with the US. Note the adjectives here: West European publics's hostilty. No public demonstrations against the US and favoring Saddam Hussein's continuance in power took place in East Europe. The US policy is regarded with favor, as is the US; and the East Europeans lived for decades under Communist totalitarian rule. They have no illusions of the sort shared by radical, gut-level anti-Americans in the Western half TO BE CONTINUED

Replies: 1 Comment

Welcome to Den Beste's blogroll. With limited time for blogreadings, I let him pick my blogs. I"m going to miss Rachel Lucas, but you look like an interesting read. I look forward to Part II.


Posted by Lamont Cranston @ 02/24/2003 11:03 AM PST