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Mapping Out Europe's Strategy

Why does Europe need to start carrying its own weight?

April 13, 2005

Why does Europe need to start carrying its own weight?

Robert Cooper is a British career diplomat and currently the EU Council's director general for external and politico-military affairs. He is also the author of "The Breaking of Nations." Quite contrary to the conventions of his profession, he is upfront and outspoken. In this Globalist Interview, he lays out his vision for the EU to adopt a foreign policy with a stronger global reach.

Why have European countries drawn much closer together?

“Europe — perhaps for the first time in 300 years — is no longer a zone of competing truths. The end of the Cold War has brought with it something like a common set of values.”

What is paradoxical about Europe's current situation?

“Europe may have chosen to neglect power politics because it is militarily weak. But it is also true that it is militarily weak — because it has chosen to abandon power politics.”

Is the United States a modern-age empire in your view?

“If America is not imperial in the usual sense, it is certainly hegemonic. It does not want to rule — but it does aim to control foreign policy.”

How does this hegemony manifest itself?

“Every other country defines its strategy in relation to the United States.”

Why is that?

"The rest of the world reacts to America — alternatively because it fears America, lives under American protection, envies, resents, plots against, depends on America."

What explains the difference in political culture between Europe and the United States?

“European countries are based on nation and history. For America, history is bunk.”

Does Europe have a track record of resisting change?

“Both communism and fascism were attempts to resist the effects of the modernization of society — brought about by the ideas of enlightenment and the technology of the industrial revolution.”

Why did Europe and the United States get along much better during the Cold War?

“During the Cold War, differences were concealed. Europe was the battleground and the prize in the Cold War. Because of this, it had an importance that exceeded its military strength.”

Are there downsides to a Europe at peace?

“The escape from power politics has brought great benefits to Europe. Unfortunately, it has also brought illusions.”

What makes U.S. foreign policy seemingly more determined and focused?

“The United States is the only power with a global strategy.”

What is holding Europe back from taking on more responsibility?

“The gap between Europe and the United States is not just about capability — it is also about will. It is unsatisfactory that 450 million Europeans rely so much on 290 million Americans to defend them.”

Is the United States overreaching in its goals?

“Empire is expensive, especially in its post-modern voluntary form. Nation-building is a long and difficult task. Great caution is required for anyone contemplating intervention in the pre-modern chaos.”

Did Saddam Hussein's human rights abuses alone justify U.S. intervention?

“Humanitarian interventions are particularly dangerous for those who intervene. The risk of ‘mission creep’ is considerable.”

Yet, is a more belligerent United States really that different from a more diplomatic Europe?

“Soldiers and diplomats are, in the end, trying to do the same thing — to change other people’s minds.”

Why do European countries have misgivings about using military force?

“In Germany, Italy, Greece and Spain, the use of military power has — for good historical reasons — low legitimacy.”

In what way is Europe more imperial than the United States?

“The most far-reaching form of imperial expansion is that of the European Union. In the last few years, countries all across central Europe have transformed their constitutions, rewritten their laws, adjusted the rules of their markets, set up anti-corruption bodies — all in the interest of becoming members of the European Union.”

For more on these and other issues, read Robert Cooper’s "The Breaking of Nations".