It is nothing new that for a few years now Europe and US have been drifting apart. Their positions were different on the Kyoto Protocol, the nuclear weapons system, how to act to win the war on terror, multilateralism, and the question of the death penalty. The climax of this diplomatic war across the Atlantic came with the justification of the war in Iraq, the question of its legality, the WMD etc. In Europe, the US and its president were considered bigger enemies and dangers to security than people like Kim Jong Il or Saddam’s Iraq. Anti-Americanism was born; in America a project to divide Europe emerged: new Europe and old Europe…and ignore France.
However, as time passed, the two sides, including America’s leader, understood that the West cannot afford to remain divided; in order to make changes in the world it needs to stay united. Some argued that it was unthinkable and undesirable to have two Wests and one Europe instead of one West and two Europes. Both Chirac and Bush got the message.
Soft politics and military muscle
But why? Why does America need Europe and vice versa? Or, do we really need America? Oh yes, we most certainly do! Both sides should and can learn from each other: Europe can teach America respect for other nations in the world; it can show how to use non-military means in global affairs, what is often referred to as “soft politics”. On the other hand, Europe can learn from America that it cannot fulfill its goals and objectives without having one, strong, powerful voice in the world. And this is simply impossible in the world of 21st century without one, strong, powerful and modern military arm. Europe needs it now; America can provide it now. Europe has to build it for tomorrow; America can help us do so.
The Iraq lesson for both partners has been a tough one to learn: the US learnt that it is no longer capable of winning wars by itself. Military capacities are not enough to achieve a long-lasting peace. Moreover, even American military capacities are limited. Hence, Washington is now leaning closer towards its allies.
Similarly for Europe: it learnt that it cannot stay divided. It learnt it needs its own military capacities. It learnt that in realpolitik Europe is not as powerful and influential as it wants to be. Hence, Brussels, Paris and other capitals, are leaning closer towards the US.
The result? Bush and Chirac, 2003’s biggest enemies, shaking hands in Normandy. President Chirac’s word “jamais” entered history books with a new meaning. The long-awaited process of reconciliation between both sides has just begun.
Iraq in this perspective is a test for this “renewed” partnership: can America now, with European help, stabilize the situation down there? If this is the case, than we can sleep easy in our beds over friendly US-EU relations. If it is not the case, than the Americans will turn away from Europe, but this time not towards unilateralist action. Rather, they will look for other allies, such as Russia or Asia. This, however, remains highly hypothetical as things are slowly seeming to settle down.
To add to the argument of an improvement in Euro-American relations, we can look at the statistics concerning mutual trade. This is booming which means not only that both partners are more dependent on each other economically, but also that they trust each other and are willing to do business together. Will the victory fries become French again? In any case, booming trade adds to the improvement of the situation. In the short or long term it will have an impact on mutual political behavior.
In conclusion, we could argue that even if Bush won a second term in Washington, it would be no great tragedy for Europe since American unilateralism died somewhere between Najaf and Karbala. All partners have to do is to co-operate.