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The Future of the Transatlantic Project

How is the U.S.-European alliance changing — and can it adapt to the world's future challenges?

June 21, 2005

How is the U.S.-European alliance changing — and can it adapt to the world's future challenges?

A host of complex international issues are part and parcel of the new U.S.-European agenda. To mention just a few, there is the Greater Middle East Initiative of the European Union and the United States to expand our relations in that troubled part of the world.

There is also the urgent need of dealing with Darfur, Sudan and Central Africa — where 3.5 million people have died over the last five years.

We also need to work strategically with a rising democratic India and a rising communist China — two very different great Asian powers that each require a distinctly different diplomatic approach.

And there is the question of how best to respond to the new wave of populism in Central America and South America — which for Americans is an urgent national priority.

This list of foreign policy challenges is why Europe should expect over the next several years to see and work with a United States that is increasingly outwardly directed.

We are a country with global interests. In particular, we have major security responsibilities and treaty relationships in East Asia.

We perceive that the challenges for our foreign policy will make us focus on South Asia — to a closer strategic partnership with India, to maintaining our relationship with Pakistan and to achieving a long-term security relationship with Afghanistan.

If you look at all the trends — population, economic growth, foreign policy — there is no question that India is the rising power in the East.

India is the world’s largest democracy. India has so much in common with the United States and with Europe in what it wants to achieve in the world and what kind of world it wants to see.

This will become a major focus of President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and it will be the area of greatest dynamic positive change in American foreign policy.

Looking further east, we obviously have an interest to maintain a peaceful relationship with China and to manage our differences in a constructive way — but we also have a competitive relationship, certainly in trade.

We also have major grievances with China — concerning human rights and a lack of democratization.

Managing our relationship with a rising China and ensuring stability and peace in East Asia is a major U.S. priority.

On this topic, we had an interesting and vigorous debate with the European Union after it announced that it would lift its arms ban on China — imposed for human rights reasons following the massacres at Tiananmen Square in June 1989.

The core of the U.S. argument was that Europe must understand that the United States has had security commitments in Europe over the last 60 years — and the same commitments in Asia. We are the guarantor of stability in Asia.

We felt that Europe had to understand how important it was to not negatively affect the military balance between China and the United States — particularly concerning the Taiwan Straits, but also the wider responsibilities.

We are very pleased now that the European Parliament has spoken out so clearly on the arms sales issue — it is a difficult one. We understand the motivations of the European Union, but we cannot accept that Europe would lift the ban when we are alliance partners and we have such profound security interests in East Asia itself.

We would like to see a more outward-looking European Union, a more outward-looking Europe that would work with us in democracy promotion in Asia — but also in trying to ensure stability in Asia. That is an important issue itself.

In Africa, we now face a common project in Darfur. The goal here is that Europe and America — the EU and NATO — will respond positively to the request from the African Union for military support.

The African Union needs airlift, logistical support, command support and communication support. With the help of the EU and NATO, the African Union can build its peacekeeping force in Darfur from roughly 2,500 people to 7,000 in July 2005 — and perhaps 12,000 in the fall.

This task will not put European and American foot soldiers in Africa, which the Africans do not wish to see, but it will give the framework and logistical military support necessary for the new African Union to succeed.

If you put aside the natural competitiveness in the security sphere between NATO and the EU, there is a place for them to work together in a positive way on this issue.

I also want to mention the terrible crisis in Central Africa — in the Congo — and to commend Belgium and France in particular for the leadership that they have shown.

The situation in the Congo is probably the worst human rights crisis in the world today. It is certainly the place where we have seen the greatest loss of human life over the last five years — in the fratricidal civil war inside Congo and in the conflict across the borders of the Congo.

But there is reason to feel slightly optimistic. President Kabila has sufficiently unified the country to move forward to elections in the near future.

Nevertheless, there is a continued need not only for humanitarian support, but for military assistance to augment the UN peacekeeping efforts there.

There are so many projects Europe and the United States can undertake together. I have not mentioned Haiti. And I have also not mentioned the continuation of Castro’s despotic rule in Cuba.

I have not mentioned human rights violators and people who do not believe in democratic government, but have a great deal of mass popular appeal in Latin America today. This is another common project that Europe and the United States can work on together.

Finally, I want to address the many Europeans who tell me: “You Americans are hopeless romantic idealists. What makes you think that, in the infertile soil of so many countries around the world where dictatorship reigns, democracy can take root?”

Well, I think we have always believed that the reason the United States has such a large role in the world is because of its obligation to democracy and liberty.

Sometimes we may do that in imperfect ways and sometimes we may not be effective, but that’s who we are as a country.

That is the essence of the U.S. view of the world — and of our democracy.

We believe that the Arab people deserve democracy and liberty just as much as we do in North America and Western Europe — as do people around the world. That is what we believe as Americans.

That will be the core of U.S. foreign policy — and the central connecting point in our relations with Europe for many years to come.

The author is U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs.