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The Unequal Transatlantic Brothers

What do Americans and Europeans really think of the transatlantic relationship?

May 23, 2002

What do Americans and Europeans really think of the transatlantic relationship?

Continued disputes over the war on terrorism have underlined policy differences between Americans and Europeans. The prejudices often go both ways. Europeans see themselves as sophisticated and cultured, while many Americans are bewildered by continental traditions and ways. Our new Read My Lips feature examines the relationship between the two partners.

How important are U.S.-European relations for global security?

“When Europe and America are divided, history tends to tragedy. When Europe and America are partners, no trouble or tyranny can stand against us.”

(U.S. President George W. Bush, June 2001)

Where does the NATO alliance stand?

“We’re in danger of developing a two-class military within NATO: a bleeding class — and a precision class. The Europeans will provide the soldiers — and the Americans will provide precision weapons. Americans will be saying, ‘We’re ready to fight to the last European.”

(NATO official in Brussels, August 1996)

Is that view justified?

“If the choice is between ‘guns and butter,’ then the Americans have chosen guns, and the Europeans have chosen butter — but protected by American guns.”

(Geoffrey Wheatcroft, British author and journalist, March 2000)

Has the U.S. approach since the end of the COld War made things worse?

“Once the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union dissolved, Americans suddenly viewed Europe as being “fixed”.”

(Jeffrey Gedmin, Director of the Aspen Institute, May 2003)

Under what circumstances could NATO dissolve?

“If NATO doesn’t address the central strategic issue of our time — which is terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and the remaking of the Middle East — it will cease to be America’s premier alliance.”

(Ronald D. Asmus, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Europe, May 2002)

What is the U.S. President’s point of view?

“I refuse to let any issue isolate America from Europe.”

(U.S. President George W. Bush, June 2001)

What makes Europe cautious about the destruction of the al Qaeda network?

“The stunning unexpectedly rapid success of the military campaign in Afghanistan has perhaps reinforced some dangerous instincts: that the projection of military power is the only basis of true security.”

(Chris Patten, EU Commissioner for External Affairs , February 2002)

Can Europe do something to channel U.S. power?

“We have to try to temper the hard-power approach of the United States the soft diplomacy approach of the EU and get that really important dialogue going better.”

(British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, August 2003)

What do Europeans complain about?

“The United States suffers from a sort of schizophrenia. On the one hand, the Americans say, ‘You Europeans have got to carry more of the burden.’ And then, when Europeans say: ‘Okay, we will carry more of the burden,’ the Americans say, ‘Well, wait a minute, are you trying to tell us to go home?”

(NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson, March 2000)

Is there any fear behind this schizophrenia?

“Seen from Washington, a cohesive Europe is one tempted to answer back.”

(Philip Stevens, Financial Times columnist, May 2003)

Where do tensions exist in the diplomatic field?

“The United States is the proverbial 800 pound gorilla in its relationship with its European allies — unrivaled but one whose consistency of purpose is often questioned.”

(Tom Buerkle, International Herald Tribune columnist, November 2000)

What makes Americans hit the roof?

“When a U.S. president fails to consult his European peers on any number of issues, he is often criticized for disregarding allied views — and acting in an arrogant manner. But if he goes around seeking advice in various capitals, he can be lambasted as feckless and indecisive.”

(William Drozdiak, Washington Post correspondent, July 1994)

How mighty is NATO today?

“NATO is now becoming an OSCE — with sidearms.”

(Jeffrey Gedmin, director of the Aspen Institute Berlin, May 2002)

So, would the United States quit NATO over policy differences?

“NATO is indispensable to our own national security, for political, logistical and military reasons. Even the world’s greatest superpower can’t go it alone.”

(Richard A. Holbrooke, former U.S. Ambassador to Germany and the UN, May 2002)

Is NATO still a strong alliance?

“Keep the myth alive.”

(Douglas J. Feith, U.S. Undersecretary of Defense, May 2002)

And finally, where do both share the same view?

“Given that the new Europe is still a mystery for Europeans, it is not surprising that the Americans also fail to understand it.”

(Dominique Moisi, director of Institut Français des Relations Internationales, July 2001)