Tag Archives: U.S.- Europe Relations

Keeping Transatlantic Relations Real

U.S.- EUImagine the headline:  “Breaking news:  The sun came up this morning!  Some European leaders suspect U.S. involvement and demand an explanation; others decry the lack of U.S. leadership in letting the sun set every evening.  In other news, it has been alleged that government intelligence agencies actually collect information.  The weather today: cloudy.”

It is not my intent to make light of the recent outcry among our European friends over alleged U.S. intelligence information gathering.  The accusation in all this outrage is not only  a privacy violation, but also government overreach reminiscent of authoritarian regimes, both past and current.  Frankly, the privacy argument falls a bit flat in the share-all facebook and twitter age.  And when did U.S. information gathering last injure one of our friends and allies?  And who can throw the first stone when it comes to collection of intelligence?

Even if only meant for public consumption, all this outrage is unnecessary.  The sun comes up every day.  Intelligence agencies collect information.  We want to know about our enemies’ communication patterns.  At times those communication paths cross your territory.  So give us a break and help us out.  The same groups that mean to harm us have the same in mind for you, after all.   What little we may have come to  know about you incidental to our anti-terror efforts (and no doubt discarded) is still far less than what many of you share readily with a wide audience on facebook or twitter.

As a U.S. diplomat in Europe, I routinely experienced the sense of ownership of our leaders among many of our European friends.  An American presidential election was also a European political event.  Somehow, even if unstated,  you expected your views of our presidents to be given the weight of those of our own citizens.  Following the irrational European dislike of our last president followed  first adulation and then European disappointment in our current one.  To a degree such attitudes were understandable and had in the past even been precipitated by us.  We Americans, for a long time, lived the role of leader and protector of the free world, its territory and its values.  But enough is really enough.

There was a time in the aftermath of a devastating hot and then a cold war when your focus on our leaders was logical, since to a great degree we influenced your fate even more fundamentally than did your own leaders.  But in the 21st century your dream and ours has been realized.  Nearly all of Europe is whole, free, and at peace….. and you own it!  Our friendship and alliance have never been stronger, more important, or  more equal.  Because and not despite of this, we both try to figure out what the other side thinks.  We both gather information on each other and our common enemies.  Other than the rough and tumble of free market competition and occasional policy differences, America and Europe have a critical stake in each others success and well-being.  As the co-architects of today’s Europe, we are proud of the powerful union you have become.  You in turn have every reason to trust in our paramount commitment to our relationship.  The U.S. does not act to the detriment of its European  or other allies.

So, my dear European friends, let it rest.   A man I used to work for and respect most highly, General Colin Powell, once made the definitive statement about American military engagement that applies equally to our ventures into cyberspace:  “We have gone forth from our shores repeatedly over the last hundred years … and put wonderful young men and women at risk, many of whom have lost their lives, and we have asked for nothing except enough ground to bury them in, and otherwise we have returned home to live our own lives in peace.”

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A World of Opportunity Ready for U.S. Leadership

U.S.-EUDemocratic political transitions always provide a good opportunity for strategic policy reviews and fresh starts.  That includes second terms of incumbents.  Many expectations of a new beginning accompany  Barack Obama as the American people prepare to swear him in for his second term.  The Administration’s dance card for the next four years is already full, even before the first inaugural ball strikes up the band.  Critical economic deadlines loom, along with other complex domestic concerns, from gun violence to immigration policy.    All of the toughest foreign policy challenges of the past remain, with several coming to a head in the near term:  Afghanistan/Pakistan future, Syria civil war, Iran nuclear ambitions, Putin’s Russia, China’s global role, Al Quaida’s and other terrorist whac-a-mole appearances around the world, and the list goes on.

The President’s new national security team is taking shape.  Stacks of briefing papers will greet the new cabinet members in their offices, many reiterating the past and some projecting the future.  Much of the focus will be on the trouble spots and less on new opportunities, especially in foreign policy.  We have become a bit cautious in our ambitions.   Americans are exhausted from years of recession, economic uncertainty and personal sacrifice and loss — from Kabul to Newtown.  Our friends in Europe and many other parts of the globe share in this weariness.

Our governments are responding to citizens’ concerns, as they should.  But that’s not enough.  Even as we are calling on our leadership to “do something,”  and often make conflicting demands, we are actually not asking for what we really need — a new project, new hope.  We have been to the moon, but U.S. astronauts now need a ride from the Russians to the International Space Station.   We need new “moon missions.”   And they have to be bold and exciting.  President Obama has called for investments in domestic infrastructure, research, and education.  Yes, absolutely; and maybe bold given our fiscal state, but hardly exciting.

So what would be an exciting effort to pull us out of our doldrums?  How about a tremendously ambitious project that, if successful, would result in happy, prosperous, employed people enhancing and powering the largest economic and political relationship in the world?  How about the much talked-about, but never realized U.S. – Europe Free Trade Agreement? How about totally eliminating redundant and expensive barriers to trade such as differing standards from car bumpers to yogurt?  How about turning a $16 trillion U.S. economy and a $17 trillion EU economy into a $33 trillion transatlantic economic juggernaut?  Expected GDP bumps range from 1%  to 2%, yielding hundreds of thousands of jobs on both sides of Atlantic. Now that’s exciting!  As a confidence building measure between Administration and Congress, the two should agree on fast track legislative approval for a deal.  Reaching for this goal would signal hope.  Success would signal U.S.and European energy, confidence, and commitment in a critical relationship.  The markets, and our other trading partners and competitors, would be impressed, as they should be.

We must snatch the initiative for creating good news from reacting to bad.  This is just one new “moon mission.”  We really need this — and more — on both sides of the Atlantic and around the world.

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A Diplomat’s New Life

I am back.  On July 22 this year I departed Estonia for the last time as U.S. Ambassador and launched the transition from 35 years in my country’s Diplomatic Service into my new life as a private sector diplomat.  On October 1, I joined the new McCain Institute for International Leadership as Senior Director.  Located in Washington, D.C. and supported initially by a $9 million gift from the McCain Institute Foundation, we are part of Arizona State University (ASU), America’s largest public university.  Our mission is to advance leadership based on security, economic opportunity, freedom, and human dignity, in the United States and around the world.

I will be directing a unique new global leadership fellows program that will bring emerging leaders from around the world to the U.S. to engage in a year-long deepening of their “character-driven” leadership skills, along with professional development in their respective fields.  As an ASU Professor, I will also be passing on 35 years of diplomatic and international leadership experience to the next  generation of U.S. and international foreign affairs leaders.

And of course the issues and subjects that have been important to me in the past continue to excite me in my new capacity:  cyber security, e-governance, U.S. global leadership, the trans-Atlantic relationship, American values, and technology and policy, to name just a few.  Thank you for your patience with my temporary absence from the blogosphere and stay tuned — you will hear from me on these and many other issues again from now on.  Follow me and the McCain Institute also on Twitter and Facebook.

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An American Diplomat’s Message in Support of Europe

As I prepare to depart my mission as U.S. Ambassador to Estonia in a few days, the future of European unity — economic, political, and perhaps most importantly, emotional, remains hotly debated by our friends in Estonia and the rest of the continent.  Governments, parliaments, and supreme courts are passing judgments.  Their sovereigns — the people of Europe — are expressing their views forcefully.  In a determined effort to emerge from the current economic crisis, European leaders are seeking to put systems in place to heal current ills and prevent future disease.

With its decision last week, the Estonian Supreme Court supported Estonian Government’s participation in the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), designed to create a rescue fund for ailing economies.  Despite the burdens such participation places on his country’s finances, Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip is quoted as saying:”I have always believed that our interests are protected through cooperation.  In the last 20 years, Estionia’s primary foreign policy goal has been integration with ….European institutions.” 

The firm and politically courageous (and risky) statement by this European statesman again demonstrates the model role Estonia continues to play in European affairs today.  One of the smaller members of the Union, Estonia is also one of its most courageous and most committed.  Courage and commitment in support of European cohesion — and correction — are exactly what is needed right now, along with further swift action.  The U.S. position is clear:  we support a strong and united Europe and any and all actions in support of this unity and common success.

Clearly failure is not an option.  Errors of the past matter only in so far as they inform future success.  Stakes are too high for both sides of the Atlantic, as are the opportunities for greater prosperity of our 800 million people in the U.S. and Europe.  It is at times like this that as an American diplomat I am reminded of our first, and infinitely more emminent  American diplomat, who in a wholly opposite context spoke words that nevertheless have some meaning in Europe today:

“We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

– Benjamin Franklin, in the Continental Congress just before signing
the American Declaration of Independence, 1776.

 

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Fifteen Years AmCham Estonia: A Booming Business

A few days ago, together with my friends, Estonian Foreign Minister Paet and Ambassador Kaljurand, Estonia’s Ambassador to the U.S., I congratulated the American Chamber of Commerce  in Estonia on its 15th birthday.  Almost as old as renewed independence for Estonia itself!

Estonia’s journey from Soviet occupation to a vibrant and innovative economic leader is an example for others to study and follow.  Of  course, for neither Estonia or the Chamber was the path always easy or without its challenges.  But similar to Estonia’s transformation as a nation, the rejuvenation of AmCham I have witnessed over the past several years is tangible and deserves enthusiastic recognition.   AmCham’s mission and desire to grow into an ever stronger and more prominent voice for U.S. business in Estonia is being realized.  I am proud of my Embassy’s strong and creative partnership with AmCham in that role.  Our cooperation runs the gamut of issues and events. From drawing attention to issues such as intellectual property rights, to American community events like our joint Fourth of July celebrations, to creating the Estonian American Innovation Award, we indeed have much to be proud of.

Looking ahead, we see new challenges and opportunities that will require even stronger engagement to help create more jobs on both sides of the Atlantic.  Through expanded business ties and putting our respective innovative economies in high gear.

Many pundits have spoken recently about the United States turning its attention away from Europe and towards Asia.  This has stoked fears that U.S.-European economic and security relationships will suffer. They will not.  The U.S. and Europe, politically, economically, socially and emotionally represent two sides of the same coin.  As to our relations with the Asia/Pacific region, Americans, Estonians and other Europeans can and will walk and chew gum at the same time.

Let’s recall the facts:  Transatlantic trade accounts for 40 percent of the global economy.  Americans and Europeans are not only preferred, but also natural partners.  We recognize that concerted action by the United States and our allies in Europe is required if we want to tackle the global challenges and opportunities of our time.  This is true for building a vibrant and free 21st century global economy, mitigating climate change, engaging emerging economies, and recovering from the global financial crisis.  And it is true for combating terrorism or cyber threats, and completing our mission in Afghanistan.

On the business front, the U.S. and EU are working through one of my favorite cross-ocean institutions — the Transatlantic Economic Council.  We seek to avoid unnecessary divergence in regulations and standards that impede trade; develop fully compatible approaches to emerging technologies; and coordinate our activities to level the playing field for our companies in third countries, particularly in emerging economies.  All of this is under the overarching goal of creating a truly open transatlantic marketplace and improving the prosperity of our 800 million people.

Estonia, and AmCham Estonia, have important roles to play in the U.S.-European economic partnership. In this, Estonia’s compact size is both a plus and a minus.  A small and advanced rule-of-law country can quickly take advantage of new entrepreneurial opportunities.  It can offer stability and low risk that many much larger economies can only hope for.  But a small domestic market also means that the 800 million people have to become Estonia’s target  market.  And a small population means having to tackle the limits of in-country human capital – in terms of education and training as well as immigration policy.

Estonia, and more importantly, “E-stonia, is already an established leader in a number of 21st century economic priority areas.  These include processing rare earths; developing alternative as well as new forms of traditional energy; information technology; and of course the myriad of e-services that Estonians already treat as routine and that make the rest of us jealous.  The world has come to learn about innovative Estonia.  Expanding and delivering on that reputation will be the task of Estonian entrepreneurs and this AmCham together with American innovators.  My Embassy will continue to be part of this exciting and promising future. 

With that in mind, once again, Happy 15th Birthday AmCham Estonia!

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Smart Defense For The 21st Century

At the beginning of this year, the President of the United States and Secretary of Defense Panetta outlined our nation’s Defense Guidance and Priorities for the 21st Century.  This new policy direction by our leadership sets new parameters for the U.S. military posture around the world while at the same time confirming long-standing principles of America’s security.  When the world’s strongest military power, also a member of the world’s most successful military alliance, announces a new strategic focus, both our allies and our potential adversaries listen closely.  Our allies, of course, not only listen, but are active partners in working with us on a strategy that protects the United States, our friends and allies, and world peace.  Sounds good, so no problem, right?

Not so fast.  With the Cold War long over, we approach 21st century security at the beginning of 2012 just as we  emerge successfully from two deadly conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and with a strict budgetary mandate to reduce U.S. Government expenditures.  So things are going to change and change is hard.  Part of our new military security paradigm involves adjustments to a defensive posture that has served us exceedingly well since the end of WW II.  Here in Europe, some analysts are concerned that a U.S. military focus on Asia and the Middle East leaves Europe vulnerable to security threats that still exist on this continent. Some also argue that along with military re-focussing, our diplomatic, economic, and even emotional attention will shift away from the transatlantic relationship.  The final verdict by several observers seems to be that America’s Atlantic Century is over and Pacific America has begun.  Part of Europe would bemoan this if it were true, but some would gladly wave us good-bye.  “The U.S. is broke,” they say.  “It has to scale back its military might and we should think about other potential partners.”  

In the end, other than providing interesting academic fodder for discussion and publication, this is a lot of Sturm und Drang over very little Sturm.  Our national and military leadership have taken a close look at the security threats to America and its allies and we have decided to adjust ourselves to those challenges; not to the exclusion of any one geographic region, but to the inclusion of all in relevant proportion.  As a diplomat, I have always held my military colleagues in highest regard, both for their bravery in defense of our country, and also for their unequalled competence and success rate.  I have also been a bit envious of their sense of purpose and strategic clarity.  Their mission was always so clear.  Their objective so obvious.

And so it is for 21st century U.S. Defense Priorities and Choices.  Where should our military be?  Where there is trouble or where trouble is most likely to strike.  And how should we respond to trouble and with what kind of force?  Again, modern experience and current budgetary reality teaches us that efficient, agile, technologically superior, and infinitely adaptable is the recipe for military success.  That is what we are planning for, developing and maintaining, and deploying around the world.  “Around the world” is most relevant for our European allies.  We are of course not leaving Europe.  We will maintain sizeable and most capable ground, air, and naval forces here.  We are adding new capabilities such as missile defense.  And we are sustaining our full nuclear triad of weapons as the ultimate deterrent to potential aggressors against us or our allies.

The U.S. has always been both an Atlantic and a Pacific power.  We have always maintained deep interests in both east and west.  We come, as Americans, from Europe and Asia and from the Middle East and from Africa and, and….Our best days as a nation are still ahead of us —  as a most powerful ally in Europe and to our friends in any other part of the world, and as a champion of universal values of freedom and human progress.

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Smart Power in Austere Times

There has never been a better time than right now to set in motion Smart Power as the new pardigm of American foreign policy than during current belt tightening by governments on both sides of the Atlantic.  I have always disliked what I would call the predecessor of Smart Power:  “Do more with less!”  Unless we are talking about nuclear breeder reactors, there really is no “more with less.”  In an organizational context  that term has always suggested to me that people should work more hours, achieve all the same goals with little or no prioritization, and with fewer resources and even less compensation for their efforts.  You can do this for a brief period to bridge a temporary crisis, but in the long term, any organization that demands more with less ends up only achieving less with less and demoralizing its workforce, robbing it of its  creative energies.

In contrast, Smart Power proposes to to do more and to do it better by combining the energies of more contributors to a common goal, even as program and human resources of individual organizational units are being reduced.  Take as an example Secretary of State Clinton’s “3 D’s ” of U.S. foreign policy:  diplomacy, defense, and development.  Through the combined efforts of the Department of State, the Pentagon and USAID, along with those of other U.S. government entities in support of the 3 D’s, U.S. foreign policy becomes smarter and more effective, even as the budget knife cuts into U.S. government outlays.

Such constructive interagency cooperation is far from routine in an environment famous for interagency disagreements and outright bureaucratic battles.  And while the leadership of President Obama and his relevant cabinet officers is a decisive factor in making Smart Power work, necessity also plays a key role.  The common enemy of deficits and economic downturn is no small motivating factor in turn bureaucratic warriors into Smart Power players.  In Washington and around the world, we have already made a strong start down the Smart Power road and the coming years will show whether we can sustain this new foreign policy paradigm even as our fiscal situation improves.

Our friends here in Estonia are also Smart Power players.  Estonia, since regaining its independence 20 years ago has been a Smart Power nation.  The rewards for the country and its people have been remarkable, making Estonia today one of the most economically and politically stable and future-oriented places in the world.  And here too, sustainability of Smart Power policies will be tested as things get better, as prosperity and popular demand for public services grows, and as government’s ability to do more with more becomes possible.

In the United States and in Estonia, we should look forward to that happy dilemma, but remain unalterably committed to Smart Power.

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Diplomacy: High Value – Low Cost

Things are tough right now.  The U.S. and European economies are seeking to regain their footing after a recession.  In the midst of European countries’ debt issues, the very structure of European unity is being examined.  Many government budgets are in defict and on both sides of the Atlantic we are faced with tightening our belts and reducing public expenditures.  People without jobs are struggling and many with jobs are deeply worried about their future as well.  In this hard reality, no public outlay can be held sacrosanct.  Of course our political leaders are looking for equitable ways to distribute cuts in spending, including in our diplomatic services.  

In nearly 35  years as an American diplomat, this is hardly the first time I have seen, discussed, and experienced reductions in my country’s foreign affairs budget affecting, among other things, our diplomatic capacities.  A few short decades ago, our intake of new diplomats had fallen to such a low level that we literally could no longer staff some positions in our embassies.  The watch word was “do more with less.”  In fact, our dedicated Foreign and Civil Service team worked long and hard hours to do what had to be done.  Morale stayed amazingly high, but at some point “more with less” in reality became “less with less” and U.S. diplomatic engagement inevitably suffered.  Eventually, under inspired foreign policy leadership, we rebuilt our diplomatic strength, enabling us today to strongly serve American interests globally, including in the most complex and dangerous environments such as Afghanistan and Iraq.   

Today I see cost cutting challenges facing European diplomacy.  Here in Tallinn, and in other parts of Europe, some European embassies are closing or reducing staff, in some cases even after opening diplomatic missions only a few years ago.  All public expenditures are understandably subject to scrutiny.  That said, it is important to recall what the cost and value of diplomacy is to any nation.  In the United States and in Europe, the foreign affairs part of national budgets generally hover around the 1% mark or even lower.  That means that for most if not all countries, even the complete elimination of all diplomatic functions and facilities (a ludicrous notion no one is suggesting) would mean a reduction of no more than a tiny precentage of public outlays.

Unacceptably high budget shortfalls will not be fixed by cutbacks in countries’ embassies or diplomatic staff.  On the contrary, just at a time when we need maximum diplomatic cooperation, coordination, and contact, the loss of even one diplomat or one embassy makes a difference.  In short, we need the 1% to help fix the 99%.  Really!

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Seizing the Future in the Balkans

This week the people of Kosovo and Serbia have sadly faced another set of violent incidents where those dedicated to peace have been harmed as a result of Serb mob action, and backward-looking political agendas.  NATO peacekeepers were injured, as were Kosovars and Serbs dedicated to putting an end to hatred and violence.  Estonia, its EU partners, and the U.S. and NATO have all called for the obvious from the Serbian and Kosovar governments:  fully engage in the EU-facilitated dialog process and refrain from precipitous actions, inflamatory rhetoric, and impediments  to freedom of movement.  And obviously, don’t attack KFOR peacekeepers or aid workers.  Pretty clear.

Amazing then that exactly the opposite occurred on September 27 and 28.  A violent Serb mob attacked a NATO-led KFOR unit.  A multi-ethnic group of USAID -supported community workers was similarly attacked.  What is it that the attackers don’t understand?  The U.S.  and Estonia — the EU and NATO — stand united in not allowing a better future for Kosovars and Serbs to be denied.  Their rights to a successful, Europe-integrated tomorrow are paramount.  The narrow and retrograde interests of some will not be satisfied.

As current U.S. Ambassador to Estonia and former U.S. Ambassador to Serbia, for me the contrast between a people seizing the future and others being allowed to descend into a dark past is particularly poignant.  Estonians suffered  50 years of occupation — much harsher than anything experienced in the former Yugoslavia prior to the wars of the 1990’s.  Since regaining its independence only 20 years ago, Estonia has remade itself into one of the most successful and progressive countries in Europe, in the EU, in NATO, in the world today.  The long-suffering people of Serbia and Kosovo deserve a chance at similar success.  We cannot let mobs and mob mentality deny them their rightful place in the 21st century among their fellow European and American friends.

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A Europe that Matters

Last week a gave a talk to students, faculty and visitors at Estonia’s Tallinn Technical University expanding on my earlier blog on this subject.  The engagement with a full house of very bright and knowledgeable individuals was invigorating and challenging.  So much so that I decided to come back in the future and explore the issue of “An America that Matters.”  Meanwhile, I want to share my presentation of last week on this forum.  The provocative question I posed and sought to answer was:  In today’s global political, economic, strategic and moral environment, does Europe still matter?  And more specifically, does it still matter to the United States?

In the interest of full disclosure, let me be clear that I come at this issue with a certain bias.  As a U.S. diplomat, I have dedicated a large portion of my career to acting as a contributor to, and a steward of, the trans-Atlantic relationship.   As a result of my professional experiences, as well as my own personal story-I was born in Europe – I have always closely followed the relationship between our continents. It was with great interest that I read an op-ed by the president of the highly prestigious American Council on Foreign Relations, Richard Haass, entitled “Why Europe No Longer Matters” in the June 18th edition of one of our country’s most important newspapers, the Washington Post.  Richard is a former colleague and a friend and I am grateful that his think piece gives me the opportunity to talk to you about his thesis and my own today.

Richard Haass is a brilliant international affairs expert, who, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, has joined other political scientists in seeking to define and characterize the emerging new world order – or disorder as some might call it.  An early consensus of sorts was formed among many who believed that as the U.S.S.R and the United States were the two major world powers before 1991, by virtue of winning the Cold War, the United States became the world’s sole superpower.  Some went further and characterized the United States as the only hyper-power of the world and a historically unique nation that could singularly exert is might across the entire globe.

However short-lived that last assessment, since 9/11, the wars in the Middle East and South Asia, and the U.S. and world economic and debt crisis, an equally large number of experts today conclude that the uni-polar world of U.S. dominance has rather rapidly transitioned into a multi-polar world of various powers exerting their influence — not unlike 18th Century Europe. It is against this backdrop that I would like to examine with you Richard’s arguments and conclusions and my response on Europe’s status today. For brevity’s sake, let’s call his conclusion “Europe No” and mine “Europe Yes.”

First, let’s put my own perspective of Europe on the table:  Europe does matter.  That is not to say I fully disagree with Mr. Haass’ arguments.  In fact, I actually concur with many of his views about Europe and the way it exercises its role in the world today.  That said, however, I arrive at a different conclusion about Europe’s ultimate standing and importance as an international player and as a partner to the United States.    

So now to the debate and first the strategic security dimension.  “Europe No” posits that if NATO didn’t exist today, no one would feel compelled to create it.  The “Europe No” argument cites inadequate European financial and physical commitment to Alliance action as a case in point.  It points to the Libya operation, despite the success of NATO support to the Libyan people, as only the most recent example of lack of organization, lack of participation, and lack of capacity.  So for “Europe No”, if NATO stands for U.S.-European strategic power, then only the U.S. and a very few number of Europeans actually matter.  I believe “Europe No” would concede that Estonia counts among the allies that do matter.  In that we would certainly agree, but also concur as I would that not all allies are pulling their weight equally.

“Europe No” looks at divergent attitudes between Americans and Europeans and cites the wars in Iraq, Libya, and Afghanistan as demonstrating this parting of ways, along with the emerging European cultural norm of not accepting any casualties in the prosecution of a war.  Europe No” looks at NATO as a relic of the past, and along with an Asia-centric shift in world power, economic might, and U.S. orientation, sees this as a clear indicator that old alliances and relationships are dead or on their death-bed:  “Europe and the United States have changed. The World has changed.”  No argument with that last comment:  We have all changed.  Asia is incredibly important to the United States and the world and our relations with this emerging international economic juggernaut will inform much of the next century.  Other players are also increasingly demanding attention and input in a global structure where their economic power and strategic influence are required to make the world go round.

Where “Europe Yes” parts from “Europe No” is in the conclusion that with the entry of other power players into the new international order, existing participants are by definition marginalized or worse, sidelined completely.  NATO, if it can muster the political will, still wields an extremely powerful punch, matched by no one.  As to trade, 40% of all world economic activity still takes place between Europe and the United States.  Hardly an insignificant amount that does matter!

“Europe No” also describes the decline of a common U.S. and European set of interests, in the past, based on historical patterns of American elites that traced their ancestry to Europe.  Today’s broader elite in the U.S., Europe No, would argue relates to African, Asian, and Latin American roots and does not share the emotional or intellectual ties to Europe that defined transatlantic relations in the 20th century.  The “Europe Yes” response:  agreed that American elites are much more diverse today than in the mid 1900’s.  But I contend, for instance, that a Chinese-American raised in San Francisco has far more in common with an individual from the town of Rakvere, Estonia or Manchester, England, than he does with a Chinese individual raised in Beijing.  The American and European belief in democracy individual freedom and open markets transcends ethnic heritage and will continue to bind American motivations and goals throughout the world with Europe.

Admittedly, Europe is not the singular center of America’s universe.  It never really was.  America, since its inception with powerful European roots, has steadily continued to develop its global vocation.  But our ties to Europe form a critically important partnership – and, by the way – one that has never been one characterized by full harmony or equality of strength on each side of the Atlantic.  France kicked out NATO headquarters in 1966 and did not return to the unified NATO military command until 2009.  In 1983 Germans threw Molotov cocktails at the U.S. Embassy in protest over introduction of U.S. medium range nuclear missiles in Europe – for the defense of Europe!  And yet NATO stands today, 20 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, and is fighting – and winning – in Afghanistan, and just helped successfully to turn the tide in Libya.  Pretty good for an irrelevant Alliance.

Does this mean that we Americans are always happy with the security posture of each one of our allies?  Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates as recently as June of this year, stated that he had long harbored concerns about NATO becoming, “a two-tiered alliance that is split between those willing and able to pay the price and bear the burdens of alliance commitments, and those who enjoy the benefits of NATO membership but don’t want to share the risks and the costs.”   Doesn’t sound very happy to me.  And he was right.  Does that mean Europe is now or about to become irrelevant?  It does not.  Our very disagreements, sometimes loud and in public, bear testimony to the continuing strength of an Alliance not simply based on realpolitik or pure self-interest.  Ours is a value partnership, freely entered into by free peoples – a transatlantic bulwark that remains essential not despite an increasingly multi-polar world, but because of it.  And by the way, let’s not fall into the trap of characterizing certain opinions in Europe as “the European opinion.”  For instance, I would point to our broad agreement with our Estonian allies on the vast majority of issues.  Estonian opinion is no less the “European opinion” than is the opinion of any other ally or partner on this continent.

Implicit in “Europe No” is also the thought that Europe is somehow “solved.”  There are no more European problems, so why focus on a place that has no issues?  Fair enough, not even the most pessimistic among us believe that fighting may erupt anew in the Alsace.  But what about the 2008 Russian invasion of Georgia and the continuing tensions in parts of the Balkans?  What about the regime in Belarus?   What about energy security concerns?   What about the euro crisis and its effect on U.S. debt issues?  What about a drop in the NYSE in response to trouble on the DAX?  Just like the U.S., Europe will also never be “done.”  The challenge, the dynamism, and the capacity of seeking solutions on both sides of the Atlantic continue.  

And finally, beyond the security and economic dimensions, Europe plays a determined role alongside the United States on a vast range of global issues from human rights to the environment.  Despite occasional disagreements on tactics, the United States and Europe form a critically important policy community.  Our combined influence in world events weighs heavily on other countries and actors.  That is a powerful tool and a major responsibility we share.  Authoritarian regimes risk vital foreign investment and sanctions from Europe and the U.S.  Without our combined condemnation of Sudan over the genocide in Darfur and without our further engagement to encourage a referendum in South Sudan, would Khartoum have ever come to an agreement with the South?  Without sustained U.S. and European pressure, would the dissident Aung San Suu Kyi ever have been released from her house arrest imposed by the military junta of Burma?And together, Europe and the U.S. are central to cleaning up our environment, developing new forms of energy, and eliminating world hunger.  Wherever there is a need for action, we are present.

In contrast to vocal U.S. foreign policy and moral leadership, Europe does not always make the same headlines or dominate diplomatic discussions, but Europe’s voice counts, especially in unison with ours.  The example that the peaceful, democratic nations of Europe set for the rest of the world on the issues of democratization, human rights, the environment, conflict mediation, and civil action is unquestionably a major force for good in the world.  A force unmatched by emerging power centers in other parts of the globe.

So, the issue for me and for “Europe Yes” then is not whether Europe still matters, but how Europeans choose to exercise the significant power and influence they possess.  The American challenge as close allies and partners is to continue to insist that Europe must matter.  And that is one of the key lessons of the post-Cold War 21st century:  Abdication of global responsibility is no more an option for Europe today than it has ever been for the United States.

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