Writing on the eve of the Europe/Asia summit in early March, Brian Beedham explained why Europe is weak and dividedby Brian Beedham / April 20, 1996 / Leave a comment
International Herald Tribune
29th February 1996
Eighty years ago this week, young men were being mowed down like grass in the fields around Verdun, in a battle that killed 250,000 French and German soldiers to virtually no military effect. Next 1st July it will be 80 years since the start of the battle of the Somme, which killed 400,000 young Britons, Germans and Frenchmen for the sake of a slice of land the size of Paris’s Left Bank. If you wonder why the Europe of 1996 stumbles around the world in a daze, remember how that first war led to Hitler, and an even greater war only 23 years later, and understand that Europe is a place made smaller by what it has done to itself.
The diminution of Europe will once more be on display when most of the EU’s leaders go to Bangkok to meet their Asian counterparts. But the Europe on show in Bangkok is no wielder of power. Although Europe’s trade with Asia is growing faster than the US’s, the Europeans in Bangkok will have little to say about other things that matter more than trade. It is the US, not Europe, that is trying to manage the potentially explosive confrontations in Korea and the Taiwan Strait. It is the US that has been burdened with the job of trying to construct a network of institutions that might control 21st century China.
The foreign policy horizon of most European politicians remains astonishingly narrow. It is not just east Asia that lies outside their range of vision. The danger zone in central Asia, where Russia meets the Muslim world, is still terra incognita to them. Closer to home, the land to their east is a blur: they have been slow to open the EU to the new democracies of eastern Europe, and they are reluctant to work out what they will do if by July there is a President Zyuganov in Moscow. Even on its own doorstep, Europe still leaves much of the door-minding to others. Richard Holbrooke was right when he said that the Europeans slept through the recent row between Greece and Turkey. They also missed the point of the Yugoslav disaster-there can never be “neutral intervention.”
Why is it that the countries of an EU that has more people and more money than the US cannot behave like a power in the world?…