Tuesday, December 1, 2009


This recently-published report, authored for the European Council on Foreign Relations by Jeremy Shapiro (Brookings) and Nick Witney (formerly European Defense Agency), argues that the greatest danger to the currently-troubled transatlantic relationship is the failure of European leaders to move beyond entrenched perceptions of the alliance forged in decades of US hegemony and to create European strategies to effectively address the new challenges and changing nature of American power in the world. As Europe's governments harbor the notion that they each nurture a privileged relationship with the US, they jockey for America's good graces (and patronage), all at the expense of genuine European influence in the world.

The highly-pragmatic Obama administration is willing to work with anyone, in Europe or elsewhere, ready to help it meet numerous global challenges. With the end of the Cold War Europe is no longer the US's central security preoccupation, and Europe's failure to act collectively to manage new threats is disappointing to the US. Shapiro and Witney invoke the notion of a European "fetish" for the transatlantic alliance - obsessed with the pursuit of harmony for its own sake, without knowing the end objectives. More summits and declarations are not needed, but rather a re-imagined European approach driven by defined interests, clarity, and results.

This Power Audit means to incite European political will to act. With references to the Visa Waiver Program, the Container Security Initiative, and climate change, the report's principle recommendation is that Europe discard sentimentality and adopt a more "business-like approach." More specific recommendations are offered on 3 issues:

1 - Develop a European strategy for Afghanistan. Whatever its modalities, there simply needs to be one.
2 - Step up to the plate on Russia, including reflection on what the NATO and EU security guarantees provide and dialogue on the very different Russian threat perceptions held throughout the continent.
3 - Increase Europe's role in the Middle East. Leverage economic weight/presence to halt Iran's accession to nuclear and to obtain a full Israeli settlement freeze.

A particularly interesting point in this study is the notion that the transatlantic economic relationship is actually one of the most successful aspects of the alliance. Why? With all of its faults, disputes, and tensions, there is an absence of fear of conflict as well as the presence of well-articulated interests that allows for real, and expeditious, progress to be made in even the toughest negotiations.

Here is the link to ECFR to download the full report, in which I participated : Towards a Post-American Europe: A Power Audit of EU-US Relations