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Washington Smothers Independent European Security Initiatives

October 31, 2018 in Economics

By Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter

North Atlantic Treaty Organization defenders on both sides of
the Atlantic repeatedly express harsh criticism of President Donald
Trump for supposedly undermining the transatlantic alliance. For
instance, they were especially upset with him for his conduct
before and at the July NATO summit in Brussels. Critics charge that
the president is relinquishing America’s leadership, especially in
Europe, and wishes to abandon NATO.

Yet the president’s harsh words for the allies at Brussels
consisted of little more than a more insistent demand for greater
burden-sharing within NATO — a complaint that other U.S.
administrations have expressed over the decades. Nothing in Trump’s
comments at Brussels indicated that the United States sought to end
its dominance of NATO or its longtime hegemonic position in Europe.
Indeed, Washington’s policy on that score has remained consistent
throughout the nearly seven decades of NATO’s existence.

In fact, repeated U.S. attempts to sabotage independent European
security initiatives confirm the goal of preserving hegemony and
using NATO as the mechanism for doing so. The Trump administration
should adopt a far different attitude, but it is far too soon to
determine if the president will contemplate making such a
change.

Washington’s traditional, smothering stance and its unfortunate
effects became apparent during a revealing episode in the late
1990s and early 2000s. Key European Union members proposed the
European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP). The ESDP grew out of
the earlier European Security and Defense Initiative (ESDI), which
Washington found little cause to oppose. The ESDI was a classic
burden-sharing scheme, in which the Europeans promised to do more
by creating a stronger “European pillar” within NATO. But the
latter point was the crucial caveat; an increased European security
role would occur only within the careful confines of NATO.

Europe can shoulder its
own defense burdens — and should be encouraged to do
so.

Professor Christopher Layne, author of the seminal book, The
Peace of Illusions: American Grand Strategy from 1940 to the
Present
, concludes that ESDP was instead “envisioned as
the backbone of an independent European security policy, one
developed by Europeans without U.S. input.” If that was not enough
to unsettle U.S. leaders, Layne notes, at their November 2000
meeting, the European Union’s defense ministers “gave ESDP concrete
expression by announcing plans to create a sixty-thousand strong
Rapid Reaction Force (RRF).”

Even before those moves, U.S. leaders were uneasy about how the
Europeans seem to regard the ostensibly tame ESDI. The Clinton
administration’s policy demands reflected an insistence on
maintaining NATO’s preeminence — and, therefore, Washington’s
domination of Europe’s security architecture. The administration’s
approach insisted on the so-called “three Ds” that ESDI or any new
security initiative must …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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