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Facing the Transatlantic Truth: Divergent US and European Security Interests

January 27, 2019 in Economics

By Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter

Media reports that President Donald Trump discussed the
possibility of US withdrawal from NATO with other officials on
several occasions in 2018 have produced enhanced anxiety among
Alliance partisans on both sides of the Atlantic. But Trump is
hardly alone in suggesting that a new transatlantic security
relationship may be needed.

NATO’s Cold War mission receded into history more than a quarter
century ago, and there is growing awareness that while America and
Europe have important security interests in common, those interests
are far from being congruent. Not all security problems impact all
portions of the democratic West equally. It is irrational to assume
that disorders in the Balkans, North Africa, or elsewhere on
Europe’s periphery should be as important to the United States as
they are to the European Union countries. Likewise, it is not
reasonable to believe that EU members should be as concerned as the
United States about problems in Central America, the Caribbean, or
Venezuela.

Indeed, expressions of that realization surfaced during the
first post-Cold War decade — and did so at least as much in
Europe as in America. As NATO increasingly pursued “out of
area” missions during the 1990s and early 2000s, some NATO
traditionalists in Europe became very uneasy about the implications
for the Continent. Comments like those of Secretary of State
Madeleine Albright, who suggested that NATO become a force for
peace “from the Middle East to Central Africa,”
strengthened such apprehension. Albright’s former Clinton
administration colleagues Warren Christopher and William Perry
went even further than she did, urging that the
Alliance be an instrument for the projection of force anywhere in
the world the West’s “collective interests” were
threatened.

US leaders should
encourage European ambitions for an independent security
capability, not blindly emulate previous administrations and seek
to sabotage those ambitions.

French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine cautioned against that
approach, warning that it ran the risk “of diluting the
alliance”. Without a reasonably tight geographic focus, he
believed, NATO could become a global crusader, endangering European interests in remote
arenas. Spanish Foreign Minister Abel Matutes was even more
specific that Europe did not have a stake in every geopolitical
problem the United States might want to address somewhere else in
the world. He stressed that what happens “8,000 kilometers
from us — in Korea, for example … cannot be considered a
threat to our security.” Vedrine echoed his point, saying
that NATO “is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, not the
North Pacific”. Such comments indicated a graphic recognition
that American and European interests were distinct and separable,
not identical or even always compatible.

Henry Kissinger, …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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