On July 1, 2003, the Lexington Institute held the third in its seminar series on the limits of alliances. The speaker was Dr. Simon Serfaty, director of the European Studies Program at CSIS. The discussion focused largely on the Bush Administration’s approach to Europe and the impact on alliance cohesion of the events surrounding the situation in Iraq from September 2002 to the present. Dr. Serfaty started his remarks by asserting that the U.S. and Europe had common interests and values that far outweighed any policy differences. The trans-Atlantic community is tied together economically to a degree unmatched by any other region of the world. Where the two sides of the Atlantic diverge is with respect to the best strategy for addressing the current world disorder. The European view, as characterized by Dr. Serfaty, was of a balance between power and order. The U.S. view, he asserted, was between power and weakness. A grand strategy was needed, one that would reconcile the European concern for order and the American determination to shape world events by employing power.
In this context, the U.S. should welcome the closer integration of Europe through the E.U. in order to have a strong partner. Dr. Serfaty noted that there were three theories about the role of the E.U. vis-a-vis the U.S. These theories were of the E.U. as counterfeit, counterweight or counterpart. By counterfeit what is meant is that the E.U. would not be a real community or power pole. The counterweight theory holds that the E.U. will be an alternative international power operating in opposition to the U.S. The counterpart theory, held by Dr. Serfaty, is that the E.U. will be able to work with the U.S. to achieve international order, each bringing their best capabilities to the mission.
Dr. Serfaty expressed the view that the collision at the U.N. between the United States and some of its closest alliance was not inevitable and reflected, instead a confluence of events that, most significantly, would be difficult to repeat. France did not have it in mind in September 2002 to sabotage U.S. policy towards Iraq. Rather, President Chirac found himself in the unexpected position of being allied with Germany and Russia in opposition to the U.S. and seeming to speak for a European public overwhelmingly opposed to war.
Regardless of how the split came about, Dr. Serfaty and the seminar were of the opinion that the appropriate policy would be “to forgive Russia, engage Germany and isolate France.” The key is Germany. Dr. Serfaty pointed out that the Schroeder Government had attempted a rapprochement with the U.S. after the German elections but had been rebuffed by Washington. France, he argued, could not stand alone against U.S. interests if Germany was not at its side.
One of the critical indicators of the future of U.S. relations with Europe will be management of the problem of Iran. Dr. Serfaty saw signs that the U.S. and the major European powers were developing a unified position on Iran.
Overall, the seminar thought that the appropriate U.S. strategy for dealing with Europe was one that followed two tracks. The first track would emphasize cooperation, particularly with states such as Germany, Italy, Spain, the U.K. and Poland. The second track would be to seek to influence the balance of power in the E.U., particularly as it came to the leadership role to be played by France. This two-track approach held out the greatest hope for capitalizing on Europe’s strengths, on the E.U. as a counterpart and simultaneously ensuring against the rise of the E.U. as a counterweight to U.S. power.
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