Living With a New Europe

Living With a New Europe

Mini Teaser: The challenge posed to the United States by the European Union is seriously exaggerated--and this is particularly true of the proposal for an all-European defense force. Daniel Vermet, Christoph Bertram and Timothy Garton Ash respond.

by Author(s): Zbigniew BrzezinskiDaniel VernetChristoph BertramTimothy Garton Ash

N THE MEANTIME, a basic strategic priority of the United States should be the continued expansion of NATO. NATO enlargement offers the best possible guarantee of continued transatlantic security ties. It serves to create a more secure Europe, with fewer areas of geopolitical ambiguity, while increasing the European stake in a vital and credible alliance. Indeed, the case can be made that the 1999 NATO decision to return to the issue of enlargement no earlier than 2002 should be revised, and that a serious effort to decide on new members should be made in 2001, once a new U.S. president is in office. Several countries appear to be ready for inclusion, meeting not only the standards set recently for Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary, but even previously for Spain. An earlier resumption of the process of enlargement would provide a clear signal that not only does the transatlantic security link remain vital, but that America and Europe are both serious about shaping a secure Europe that is truly European in scope.

American support for the resumption of NATO enlargement is consistent with the American stake in expansion of the EU. The larger Europe becomes, the less likely it is that either external or internal threats will pose a serious challenge to international peace. Moreover, in the longer run the more overlap there is in membership between NATO and the EU, the greater will be the cohesion of the transatlantic community and the more compelling the complementarity of the Atlanticist and Europeanist visions. It is a felicitous fact that some of the candidates currently qualified for either NATO or EU membership happen to be the same countries. The United States can argue persuasively that Slovenia, Slovakia and Lithuania already meet, or are close to meeting, the criteria for NATO membership. According to a comparative study prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers, several Central European states (including Slovenia and Estonia) are more qualified--in terms of macroeconomic stability, GNP, economic interaction with the EU, and economic infrastructure--for EU membership than was Greece. Poland and the Czech Republic--both already NATO members--were recently listed in The Economist as being more qualified than Italy! Which makes it all the more egregious that "the present accession requirements are more numerous and stringent than those that were faced by the South European countries that joined the EU earlier."

That some countries merit entry into the EU and NATO should facilitate and encourage stronger U.S. support for the enlargement of both. High-level NATO-EU consultations regarding a staged, progressive and continuing expansion therefore would be very much in order. But it is premature at this stage even to speculate as to what might be the eventual outer boundaries of the two, hopefully overlapping, entities. Much will depend on the evolution of Russia, for whom the doors to an Atlanticist Europe should be kept open. An expanded EU overlapping with NATO can encourage Russia's positive evolution by dampening old imperial temptations. Russia may then recognize its own interest in accommodating and becoming associated with NATO. If it does not, then a larger NATO will provide the needed security for a larger Europe. But in any case, the a priori exclusion of any qualified European state either from NATO or the EU would be unwise.

Moreover, from a geopolitical as well as economic point of view, it is not too early to note that once both NATO and the EU have expanded to include the Baltic and some southeastern European states, the subsequent inclusion not only of Turkey but of Cyprus (following a Turkish-Greek accommodation) and of Israel (following a comprehensive peace with all its neighbors) may also become desirable. In addition, as Europe expands, the transatlantic community at some point will have to respond to signals from countries such as Ukraine, Georgia and even Azerbaijan, that their long-term objective is to qualify for participation in the great historical undertaking occurring within the EU and under NATO's security umbrella.

In promoting this great project, the United States should remain supportive of the EU's quest for deeper integration, even though that support will be mainly rhetorical. The United States has wisely avoided identifying itself with the conservative British opposition to Europe's political as well as monetary unity, and it should likewise avoid the occasional temptation to display Schadenfreude when Europe stumbles. Precisely because European integration will be slow and because the European polity will not be like America, America need not fear the emergence of a rival. The transatlantic relationship is more like a marriage that blends together mutually respected differences--including some division of labor--as well as commonalties, and both in fact serve to consolidate the partnership. That has been the case over the last half century, and it will remain so for some time to come.

In fact, the evolving character of the international system should reinforce the transatlantic bond. Europe and the United States account jointly for less than 15 percent of the world's population and are highly visible as islands of prosperity and privilege in a seething and restless global environment. In this age of instant communications, an awareness of inequality can be rapidly translated into political hostility targeted at those who are envied. Hence, both self-interest and a sense of potential vulnerability should continue to provide the underpinning for a durable U.S.-European alliance.

The European polity, situated on the western edge of Eurasia and in the immediate proximity of Africa, is more exposed to the risks inherent in rising global tumult than the politically more cohesive, militarily more powerful and geographically more isolated America. The Europeans will be more immediately at risk if a chauvinistic imperialism should again motivate Russian foreign policy, or if Africa and/or south-central Asia suffer worsening social failures. The proliferation of nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction also will endanger Europe more, given Europe's limited military capabilities and the proximity of potentially threatening states. For as far as one can see, Europe will continue to need America to be truly secure.

At the same time, a close relationship with Europe philosophically legitimates and gives focus to America's global role. It creates a community of democratic states without which the United States would be lonely in the world. Preserving, enhancing and especially enlarging that community--in order to "secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity"--must therefore remain America's historically vital task.

Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security adviser to the president, is author of The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives (Basic Books, 1997). This is the second of three articles on U.S. foreign policy by the author. The third will appear in the Fall issue, and will address the topic of Russia in the context of U.S. policy, the EU and NATO.

Comments on Brzezinski

Daniel Vernet:

ZBIGNIEW Brzezinski knows exactly where a European defense force could be deployed: in Corsica! Thank you, Doctor. We already have the French gendarmerie, a kind of national guard that is in great demand in Bosnia and Kosovo, for that.

More seriously, Brzezinski represents the benevolent side of the American attitude toward the European integration process, including the attempt to build European projection forces allegedly capable of acting independently of NATO. He does not criticize this decision. He does not recommend that Washington should undermine it. He does not transform it into a problem of principle, which could divide the two sides of the Atlantic. Being more than skeptical about the ability of the Europeans to accomplish what they have embarked upon, he gives the American administration a piece of sound advice: do not fear the emergence of a rival. Brzezinski has a good case, underpinned by arguments that are hardly dismissible. Let me stress a few of them:

1) Integration has replaced unification as the ultimate goal of the European process. It will be a slow process, as a too speedy one could divide Europe rather than unite it.

2) Europe will grow horizontally rather than vertically, and widening is not compatible with deepening.

3) ESDI--the European Security and Defense Identity--does not represent a threat to NATO because, even in the most optimistic hypothesis, it will be effective only in unserious crises.

4) NATO and the EU should extend at the same pace, excluding no country a priori and including close association with Russia. Russia should recognize that this combined NATO-EU enlargement does not contradict its own interests. If it does not do so, NATO and EU enlargements will be needed to provide security to an expanded Europe.

Brzezinski seems to accept the Attali vision of a Europe from the Atlantic to Vladivostok, which is inconsistent with the dream of the founding fathers of the Common Market and the European Community. That dream envisaged the new Europe not only as a free-trade zone but as an international actor, a political partner for America--maybe not a global power for this generation or the next one, but a regional power, not only overcoming the historical conflicts between its member states but exporting security and possibly prosperity to its "near abroad."

Brzezinski is right: there is a contradiction between this vision--traditionally supported by every French government but not necessarily shared by all its partners in the EU--and the present shape of Europe. He is also right to point out that this situation will probably not change in the next few years. In some matters (the institutions, for example) Europe is more likely to accommodate the existing framework than to make the profound changes needed by a grand bond en avant. In other matters (such as defense), it lacks either the will or the means, or both, to have a common policy; in particular, it lacks the political will to allocate more resources to defense budgets, without which it will be impossible for Europe to have a common foreign and security policy.

Essay Types: Essay