How should we assess the state of transatlantic relations nowadays? With a nod to Wall Street, we can say that the Alliance is up, Europe is flat and the US is clearly down.
The Alliance is "up" for one key reason: the warming of France's relations with the US following Nicolas Sarkozy's election as French president. For the first time since Charles de Gaulle established the Fifth Republic, France's priority is no longer to live in opposition to the US.
The signs of this shift are profound, even spectacular. From a toughening of France's position on Iran to a real warming of relations with Israel, not to mention symbolic gestures like Sarkozy's summer vacation in the US, or Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner's arrival in Baghdad, this is a New France, one seriously considering a return to NATO's integrated military structure.
France's shift is the result of both political calculus and deeply felt emotion. For Sarkozy, the French are not anti-Americans, but simply anti-Bush. In his willingness to break with the past -- in particular with Jacques Chirac's legacy -- and in adding a global spin to his "mandate for change," Sarkozy is paving the way for the post-Bush US that will soon be here.
He knows that the "return of France" as an influential actor in Europe presupposes a France that is closer to the US, which will automatically bring France closer to Germany and Britain, not to mention Poland and Italy. Emotionally, too, "Sarkozy the American, Sarkozy the doer," who wants to be judged by his actions, tends to see himself as a Gallic incarnation of the American dream. He is the son of immigrants, the outsider whose rise to the top is living proof of French openness.
In the US, too, the attitude towards the alliance with Europe has changed mightily. The failure in Iraq, the risk of an "Iraqization" of Afghanistan, and Russia's newfound assertiveness have moved the US from the arrogant diffidence that characterized most of Bush's presidency to a rediscovery of the Alliance's value.
The US needs allies, and is not preoccupied by their potential independent strength. As one top US diplomat put it, "The last worry I have when I wake up at three in the morning is that Europe is becoming too strong."
But rapprochement between France and the US should not hide other realities. First, in Afghanistan, NATO is in danger of suffering its first military defeat. Where will the new troops that are needed come from? And a key member of the Alliance, Turkey, may be about to embark in a dangerous military adventure in Kurdish northern Iraq.
Second, one cannot speak of NATO without making noting that the Alliance's twin pillars -- Europe and the US -- are not in great shape. If Europe is "flat," one reason is Sarkozy. He may be encouraging news for the Alliance, his European policy is a source of worry for Europe. While Sarkozy claims that Europe is his priority, his methods seem to contradict his intentions.
The difficult personal chemistry he has with German Chancellor Angela Merkel is reinforced by his constant attacks on the European Central Bank and its president, Jean-Claude Trichet. One cannot simultaneously defend the Alliance in the name of Europe and weaken Europe with fits of populism and economic nationalism.
new key players
Europe's three key new leaders -- British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Merkel, and Sarkozy -- all belong to a generation that is no longer emotionally moved by the project of European integration. Their links with Europe -- if they exist at all -- are at best rational, not emotional. But will cool rationality be enough to create a European security pillar within the context of the Alliance?
As for the US, it is "down" in terms of both "soft" ideological power and "hard" military power. The US remains by far the world's strongest country, particularly in military terms, but it is confronted with fundamental questions about the use and utility of force at a time when power is relative.
Today, Americans and Europeans alike must demonstrate modesty. Unlike when the Alliance was created, a multi-polar world system has taken shape, in which the West's demographic and economic share has fallen, and in which it must now compete with successful authoritarian models such as China or even Russia.
In this new context, solidarity is as crucial as ever. Opinion about the US remains largely negative in Europe, and will remain so at least until the US presidential election next year. Likewise, US perceptions of France and of Europe are only slowly improving.
It is only by respecting our common values and not exacerbating our differences that the West will be able to reinvent itself. The Alliance may be "up," but its outlook remains uncertain.
Dominique Moisi, a founder and Senior Adviser at Ifri (French Institute for International Relations), is currently a professor at the College of Europe in Natolin, Warsaw.
Copyright: Project Syndicate
US President Donald Trump on Thursday issued executive orders barring Americans from conducting business with WeChat owner Tencent Holdings and ByteDance, the Beijing-based owner of popular video-sharing app TikTok. The orders are to take effect 45 days after they were signed, which is Sept. 20. The orders accuse WeChat of helping the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) review and remove content that it considers to be politically sensitive, and of using fabricated news to benefit itself. The White House has accused TikTok of collecting users’ information, location data and browsing histories, which could be used by the Chinese government, and pose
Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) at a ceremony on July 30 officially commissioned China’s BeiDou-3 satellite navigation system. The constellation of satellites, which is now fully operational, was completed six months ahead of schedule. Its deployment means that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is now in possession of an autonomous, global satellite navigation system to rival the US’ GPS, Russia’s Glonass and the EU’s Galileo. Although Chinese officials have repeatedly sought to reassure the world that BeiDou-3 is primarily a civilian and commercial platform, US and European military experts beg to differ. Teresa Hitchens, a senior research associate at the University of
There are few areas where Beijing, Taipei, and Washington find themselves in agreement these days, but one of them is that the situation in the Taiwan Strait is growing more dangerous. Such a shared assessment quickly breaks down, though, when the question turns to identifying sources of rising tensions. Several Chinese experts and officials I have consulted with recently have argued that Beijing’s increasingly belligerent behavior in the Taiwan Strait is driven mostly by fear. According to this narrative, Beijing is worried that unless it puts a brake on Taiwan’s move away from the mainland, Taiwan could be “lost” forever. They
Former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), who died on Thursday last week, coined the phrase “new Taiwanese” and used it in some of his public speeches. The concept of “new Taiwanese” was an important link in the chain of his political thought. Lee proposed the term in August 1998 on the eve of the anniversary of the end of the Pacific War. His intention was to consolidate a common understanding around the idea of “new Taiwanese,” and to embody the Taiwanese spirit of never giving up and not fearing hardship, and to create bright prospects for generations to come. However, after