Trans-Atlantic Relations: Accentuating the Positive
March 04, 2004
A meeting between U.S. and EU foreign policy chiefs in Washington this week barely registered in the media, underscoring a reconciliation in trans-Atlantic relations that has taken shape one year removed from the Iraq war -- and almost completely on U.S. terms. Although trans-Atlantic disagreements will continue to flare up, Europe -- in particular France and Germany -- is in no mood for a reversal in relations and will continue to accommodate Washington on priority issues.
Top U.S. and EU foreign policy officials met March 1 in Washington for ministerial-level talks on a range of foreign policy issues including Iraq and Afghanistan, a U.S. plan to modernize the "Greater Middle East," weapons proliferation, Bosnian peacekeeping and the Israeli peace process. EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, Irish Foreign Minister Brian Cowen and the EU's External Affairs Commissioner, Chris Patten, headed the European delegation, with Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice on the U.S. side. Bagels were eaten, views exchanged, a press conference was held - - all of which registered barely a blip in the mainstream media.
The lack of both controversy and coverage underscores a general rehabilitation of trans-Atlantic relations since the Iraq war, when French- and German-led opposition to the war divided Europe and fractured relations with Washington. Those fractures generated loads of juicy news stories on the deteriorating trans- Atlantic relationship and focused the media microscope in the months following the war on meetings that previously went pretty much unnoticed. Things now appear to be getting back to normal.
A number of recent events have helped to solidify rickety relations between Europe and the United States. Most recently, U.S. President George W. Bush called French President Jacques Chirac on March 2 to "hail the excellent U.S.-French cooperation on Haiti and thank France for its efforts," according to a Chirac aide. That follows a Feb. 27 meeting between Bush and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who had run seriously afoul not only of the administration but also of Bush personally. Washington always expected France to be difficult, but Germany's betrayal was much harder for Washington to swallow.
France and Germany -- together with Belgium -- amounted to an "axis of evil allies" during the Iraq war, and Washington set out to make life uncomfortable for them. In that context, personal efforts by Bush to reach out to both Chirac and Schroeder in the last week are quite remarkable.
Though their rehabilitation in Washington's eyes is far from complete, relations have drifted back toward a status quo in which Europe and the United States -- based on shared interests - - work more or less in tandem on major foreign policy issues, Paris strikes out on its own where it sees fit, and occasional spats center around issues of trade and more nuanced foreign policy disagreements. For lack of a better word, we will call it "normalization."
It is important to note two things about this normalization. First, it has happened almost entirely on U.S. terms. Washington effectively froze Paris and Berlin out of Iraq, while the major initiatives to mend relations have come from the European side. Having managed to rebuild some trust and goodwill with Washington, Europe -- particularly Paris and Berlin -- is in no mood for another reversal.
Second, on the flip side, it should not be assumed that Europe has capitulated to the United States and agreed to take a subservient global role. This was not the case before Iraq, and it is not the case afterward. Trans-Atlantic relations are complex and will remain so, but they will be friendlier in the coming year than they were in 2003.
Since summer 2003, Europe has been cooperative on major U.S. foreign policy priorities. In Afghanistan, Europe has supported a limited extension of NATO's role and responsibilities under European command, which has taken some of the burden off overstretched U.S. troops. The same is true for Iraq, where Europe largely has stopped challenging U.S. leadership. In addition, the two sides recently came to an important tentative agreement on the compatible operation of the U.S. military- controlled Global Positioning System (GPS) and Galileo, Europe's plan for a competing satellite navigation system. That deal was good for both sides. It preserved GPS as the dominant system for military use by NATO, while allowing Europe to continue development of a potentially better -- and thus more profitable - - commercial system. The United States succeeded in its primary goal, while Europe didn't simply roll over.
European leaders have been fairly careful not to antagonize Washington, even when standing up to it. One example is the EU's March 1 implementation of World Trade Organization-authorized trade sanctions on certain U.S. exports. Europe gave Washington substantial time to get rid of the underlying corporate tax credits, making this a well-telegraphed trade punch. It could also be argued that Europe has pulled its punch. Sanctions will build slowly by 1 percent a month from a baseline of 5 percent. More importantly, Europe did not choose to apply sanctions to politically sensitive sectors (citrus fruit, textiles, certain manufactured goods) that might hurt Bush in key battleground states (Florida, Ohio, Michigan) in the upcoming election, choosing instead to apply them to fairly innocuous goods such as jewelry, toys, honey, refrigerators, paper, nuclear reactors and roller skates -- none of which have particularly large political lobbies.
Reconciliation will not mean that U.S. and European leaders will see eye to eye on everything, especially trade and certain foreign policy nuances such as the Israeli peace process. Israel, in fact, was one area of disagreement cited by the European delegation following the March 1 meeting. Cowen noted there was some disagreement over Palestinian leader Yassar Arafat's role in the peace process, but at the same time said the United States and Europe remain united behind the road map and the larger peace process.
Likewise, the U.S. and European delegations chose to emphasize their areas of agreement in the broader Middle East, including the administration's somewhat controversial Greater Middle East Initiative. Patten warned that the West should not be seen as "parachuting our ideas (for reform) into the region," and noted that Europe's Barcelona process for Mediterranean cooperation and integration was based on a principle of partnership. Still, Cowen called these initiatives "complementary" and said the two sides had "very good" talks. Both delegations went to great pains to emphasize the positive, overlapping areas where they can cooperate, while not shying away from the differences.
Just like the good old days. http://www.stratfor.com/
posted on 03/05/2004 9:16:47 AM PST
(Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
American journalists and Iranian elections
March 5, 2004
A recent Harvard book (1) reminds the public about the controversy provoked by New York Times' Walter Duranty reports from the Soviet Union and the Pulitzer prize he won in 1932 . Like many other journalists and intellectuals he was soft on Stalin's terrible suppression of peasants opposed to the forced "collectivization" of agriculture . Duranty and other Western reporters found many excuses for the bloodshed and repression accompanying the so-called Communist "experiment".
Reading about Iran in the past seven years in the New York Times , the Washington Post, the Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, Le Monde and many other Western papers, reminded me of the Soviet "enthusiasts" of the 1930s and 1940s in the West.
Indeed a majority of the Middle East reporters and specialists saluted the "landslide" election of Mr Khatami as president of the Iranian Khomeinist theocracy as a sign of democratization. They created their own out of whole cloth analysis of Iranian politics in presenting Khatami and his minions as "reformists" if not totally "liberals".
According to Western journalists these so-called "moderates" opposed the "conservatives" harsh liners and the supreme leader ayatollah Khamenei who had to compromise with them because of the popular support they enjoyed . This fictious explanation of Iranian politics perdured for seven years even in Western governmental circles .
The British, French and German officials, in turn, invented the so-called "constructive dialogue" with Tehran. They even boasted recently that they had persuaded Tehran's mullahs to make a clean breast of their nuclear programs and ambitions.
Not only did Khatami and his group of so-called reformists produce no reforms and were consequently rebuffed often by the hardliners, but it appears now that the mullahs, including Khatami and his ministers, deceived the UN atomic agency.
In that context, last month's elections, came as a clarifying "nostrum". Tired by the inefficiency and inaction of Khatami and his group, a majority of Iranians shunned the ballot box despite pressures and even menaces. The limited turnout of voters deprieves the theocratic regime of the few shreds of legitimacy it claimed. The conservatives impeached Khatami's parliamentary supporters before the vote and are therefore assured of a legislature at their entire devotion.
During the past seven years they had already muzzled the press and the media without facing any real reaction from Khatami. They also had unleashed their organized thugs against the students and other opponents. It seems that the general population, living in hardship, has lost hope for any peaceful reform and even turned its back to politics altogether. Only the students and a few liberal, democratic or leftist minded small groups pursue their opposition inside and outside the country.
Will finally journalists and other observers in the West come to a realistic assessment of Iranian politics? It took the so-called Soviet "enthusiasts" of the thirties and fourties almost half a century to revise their opinion. I don't think that Iranians can wait that long.
A quarter of century has already passed since the so-called Islamic revolution. Iranians seem totally disappointed by the attitude of the West. Some official declarations by the president about Iran and the Middle East in the past two and a half years kindled some hope. But they were quelled by contradictory actions and comments by cabinet members.
One can understand governmental fickleness: Indeed, Iran's Shiite theocratic regime can indirectly manipulate Iraq's 60% Shiite population and create problems for the Bush administration, especially in an electoral year.
But what about the press and the media? What about the Pulitzer Prize comittee? Are they going to help the mullahs gain another lease on life, as they did with the Soviet leaders in the thirties and fourties? http://www.iranian.com/FereydounHoveyda/2004/March/Journalism/
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