Skip to comments.Ferdinand Mount: Europe still hasn’t learnt the lesson of US power
Posted on 04/12/2003 3:23:30 PM PDT by MadIvan
There have been some strange summit meetings these past weeks. It was bizarre to see George W Bush and Tony Blair pop up in the Azores flanked by the prime ministers of Spain and Portugal, as though they were all there for some fiesta for the port and sherry industry.
Odder still was to see Bertie Ahern slip in between the president and the prime minister in what Bushs minders unnervingly called Belfast, Ireland, suggesting that they were not quite up to speed with the current Ulster situation.
The Irish, after all, though heroic fighters when enlisted under British colours as we have just seen, have not as a nation been displaying much thirst for combat recently. When I landed at Shannon a month ago, the airport was ringed with hundreds of gardai to protect US warplanes refuelling for the Gulf from being damaged by enraged Irish peace activists. The alarmed Americans decided to refuel at Prestwick instead the only retreat recorded by US forces in the entire campaign.
But the most peculiar summit yet has been the meeting this weekend in St Petersburg between France, Germany and Russia. What does this bunch of wallflowers, this salon des refuseniks hope to achieve beyond advertising their shared rancour? More pique than summit, in fact.
The fall of Saddam is an occasion for heartfelt rejoicing. In military terms it has been a dazzling victory. In human terms, as all wars are, a miserable spectacle of death and destruction. There is not much to be gained by blaming, boasting or gloating. But the stupidest reaction of all is to try to open up a second front against the Americans.
The meeting at St Petersburg reminds me of the more famous conference held at Tilsit a few miles down the Baltic coast between Napoleon and the tsar, with the king of Prussia tagging along behind. The tsars first words as he stepped aboard the raft where they were meeting were allegedly: I hate the English as much as you do. I will back up everything you do against them. To which the gratified little emperor responded: In that case we can do business and they proceeded to carve up Europe.
But as Donald Rumsfeld so embarrassingly pointed out, that was the old Europe, and the new Europe thinks differently. St Petersburgs nearest neighbours Poland, the Baltic republics, the Czechs have all been strong supporters of the coalition, and the Poles sent special forces to the Gulf.
Anyway, there is a good deal of playacting in this pretence that somehow the St Petersburg Three are going to act as a counterweight to American superpower. Apart from their varied economic doldrums, none of them shows any ambition to increase military spending to a level where a common foreign and defence policy would carry much weight.
In practice, despite their histrionics during the war, they are likely to show as much alacrity in helping to rebuild Iraq as they did in reviving the United Nations oil-for-food programme. They are, after all, desperate to see some of the money Saddams Iraq owed them $12 billion (£7.6 billion) due to Russia alone and billions more in pending contracts to the three of them.
Publicly, Jacques Chirac denounces the bloodthirsty Anglo- Saxons. Privately, we are told, he rings Blair and asks for France to be included in the post-war relief and reconstruction effort. And when, in the face of the anarchy and looting in Iraqi cities, Chirac declares that only the UN can run the country, he cannot expect anyone to take him seriously. In fact, Chiracs diplomacy seems rather like Napoleons attitude to his foreign minister: I dont employ Talleyrand when I want a thing done, but only when I want to have the appearance of wanting to do it.
There are signs in any case that the French public, though hostile to the war, are wearying of their governments relentlessly negative view. Paris Match is now praising Blairs courage. Le Figaro welcomes a historic victory, and Libération says Chirac faces an uphill struggle to avoid France being marginalised.
But still the resentment is grinding on. Gallant little Belgiums prime minister, Guy Verhofstadt, has denigrated the United States as a deeply wounded power that has now become very dangerous. Now he is holding his own mini-summit at the end of the month with France, Germany and Luxembourg to further the EUs ambitions to set up a rival to Nato and cut out the Americans.
Nor is the resentment confined to the Continent. You can see it spill over into the anti-war arguments of the Tory Europhiles. Ken Clarke, who earlier ventured a comparison to Vietnam, now says we must move on and stop being automatic followers behind the Americans. Chris Patten said he didnt see why the continentals should pay to clean up after a war they didnt support, and more or less accused American religious fundamentalism of being as much to blame for conflict as Islamic fundamentalism.
My reaction to all this is to say, grow up. American power is a fact. You have to learn to work with it and try to push it in the direction you favour as Blair has in pressuring a previously unenthusiastic Bush to commit himself to a viable and independent state of Palestine, something which all the niggling from the EU never began to accomplish.
There must be a temptation now for Blair to smooth over the hard feelings. For all his determined leadership in the face of passionate opposition, he remains someone who likes to see smiling faces about him. If he cannot deliver on the euro as yet, perhaps he might let the new European constitution slide through without too much fuss.
I have always wanted to see the EU adopt a constitution which would offer a final settlement and spell out the division of powers. What we dont want is a blueprint for a superstate, which is exactly what the drafts from Valéry Giscard dEstaings constitutional convention seem to be offering us. According to articles 10-12, the EU is to have exclusive or shared competence in almost every important policy area.
Even where the competence is shared, the member states may act only within the limits defined by Brussels, just as local authorities in Britain may act only within limits laid down by the government. Article 13 says member states shall actively and unreservedly support the Unions common foreign and security policy in a spirit of loyalty and mutual solidarity. It has also been suggested that no member should be allowed to withdraw from the Union unless two-thirds of the other members give their consent.
The driving idea is to transform the EU from a voluntary association of like-minded nations into a cohesive, indissoluble rival to the US. In other words, deep down it derives from the same anti-American impulse that has torn Europe apart these past weeks and will do so again if it is not resisted. At this rate I am not sure which will take longer to rebuild, the shattered cities of Iraq or the bruised egos of Europe.
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This little pissant needs to shut up..
These people are utterly mad. They say self defense is acting wounded, and they say calculated risk is acting dangerously. What they are doing is shrieking murder. They are wannabe dictators who dream of a world dictatorship.
They are. That's exactly what the EU will be, a french dictatorship. All the Brits can expect out of it is to furnish the military that Jacques has long wanted. He watched their performance in Iraq and decided it's just what he needs to conquor the world. He expects the Brits to die for him, and furnish the military might his cowardly citizens lack.
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