Multilateralists are convinced that second-term Bush will embrace themby Charles Grant / December 18, 2004 / Leave a comment
Published in December 2004 issue of Prospect Magazine
In the aftermath of George W Bush’s victory, Atlanticists and multilateralists in both Europe and America are immersed in gloom. Bush fought on a platform of “America first,” criticising his opponent for being too willing to consult allies and defer to the UN. The conservatives who dominate the Republican party do not see why they should treat Europe with greater respect. Meanwhile, many senior European policymakers who struggled to work with the first Bush administration are appalled at the idea of having to deal with an even more truculent and self-confident team in the second term. Some of them see little point in making an effort to engage the US. But the security problems faced by the US and the EU are too grave for either the nationalist Americans or the ignore-the-US Europeans to tackle on their own. Thankfully, many senior figures in the Bush entourage understand this. They know there are two ways for a US president to become multilateralist. One is through instinct, as with Bill Clinton. The other way is through experience, when unilateral routes have been exhausted. Thus Bush is pursuing six-party talks as the best means of getting North Korea to abandon its plans for nuclear weapons. Bush also knows that bodies such as the UN security council and the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA) have their uses: security council resolutions have given at least some legitimacy to the Allawi government in Iraq, while IAEA inspections have revealed that Iran has breached commitments that it gave on its nuclear energy programme. Bush’s second term could turn out more multilateralist than the first, for many of the problems he faces cannot be easily tackled without the help of allies and international organisations. The most serious of all is the broader middle east. Many Palestinians see no peaceful route to statehood. In Iraq, the security situation remains dire and the government has yet to win the confidence of many Iraqis. In Iran, neither the EU strategy of engagement nor the US policy of isolation has apparently yet deterred the regime from pursuing a nuclear weapons capability. President Bush should invite European leaders to a summit with the express purpose of developing a transatlantic strategy for Israel-Palestine, Iraq and Iran. Both Americans and Europeans would have to be ready to rethink some of their current positions. On Israel-Palestine, the US should promise to re-energise the peace process. And it should be prepared to put pressure on Israel to desist from policies that make it harder to pursue the path set out in the road map. Americans and Europeans should jointly declare that the road map’s goal of a viable Palestinian state and a secure Israel will be achieved by 2007. For their part, the Europeans should put more time and money into building up the administration and security forces of the Palestinian authority, but apply greater conditionality to their financial support. A new American stance on the middle east peace process would encourage greater European flexibility on both Iraq and Iran. Those European states which opposed the war in Iraq should make a financial commitment to its reconstruction, and boost their role in the training of Iraqi forces. On Iran, the Europeans should agree to impose severe sanctions – if and when the regime has clearly spurned the effort to place its nuclear facilities under international supervision. For its part the US would have to accept that a joint transatlantic policy of offering carrots and sticks is the one most likely to convince the Iranians to set aside their nuclear ambitions. That means the US would have to be willing to recognise Iran and promise not to overthrow the regime. The US and the EU face plenty of other common challenges. One is global warming. Europeans have to accept that Bush will not endorse the Kyoto protocol. However, US public opinion is becoming much more concerned about global warming, and several states are embracing the principle of carbon emissions trading. (The administration is also putting $1.7bn into research on hydrogen power.) The EU has created its own emissions trading system, which is now becoming a model for the rest of the world. So it is well placed to talk to the US about what system for reducing carbon emissions should come after Kyoto, how China and India can be brought into such a mechanism, and what kind of emissions trading system would best suit US interests. The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), and their possible confluence with international terrorism, is arguably the world’s most serious security problem. One weakness in the current anti-proliferation regime is that the Nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) effectively allows a country to develop nuclear weapons, and then withdraw from the treaty before deploying them. An NPT review conference meets next spring. The EU and the US should work together, and with Russia and China (which has started to take proliferation seriously) to introduce a new and more stringent regime. The EU’s enlargement has given it a new “near abroad.” Belarus and Ukraine now border the EU. In due course, as Turkey moves closer to the EU, the Caucasus states will become neighbours of the union. Russia still sees these countries as its backyard: it overtly supports anti-democratic forces in Ukraine and Belarus and it illegally keeps armies in parts of Moldova and Georgia. The US and the EU share a common interest in collaborating to nurture the independence of these countries, as well as democratic standards within them. The EU and US should also develop a common strategy for Russia itself. They should welcome Russia’s integration into the global economy, and its help in fighting terrorism and WMD proliferation. But they should also be more willing to speak out when the government breaches democratic norms. In addition to such joint initiatives, both the EU and the US should take solo steps to reinvigorate their relationship. The US should declare itself in favour of a more united Europe – the position of most administrations since 1945. If there is one policy guaranteed to boost support for Jacques Chirac’s idea that Europe should be built in opposition to the US, it is American hostility to the EU. Americans need to accept that a more integrated Europe is in their interests, even though there will be times when Europe disagrees with them. The EU will usually be on the same side as the US, helping it to tackle the world’s problems, because its fundamental interests and values are closer to America’s than those of any other significant power. The EU needs to turn itself into a more effective international actor. Ratifying the constitutional treaty would help, so that the new foreign policy machinery – with a “foreign minister” replacing the rotating presidency, and a new diplomatic service – can be set up. European governments must redouble their efforts to improve their military capabilities, especially their ability to deploy and sustain troops in distant places. The EU should state explicitly that it takes prime responsibility for security crises on its own continent, and – in partnership with the increasingly effective African Union – in Africa. Such a commitment would allow the US to free resources for parts of the world which are more pertinent to its strategic interests. Above all, “new” and “old” Europe need to put past rancour behind them and pool efforts to make the union stronger and more influential. Then the Americans – whatever their instincts – will have compelling reasons to take the EU seriously. Finally, both sides should think seriously about a new institution to foster joint strategic thinking on big global issues. Nato might seem the logical forum but it is no longer viewed as a front-rank organisation in either Europe or America. The annual EU-US summits, dominated by the details of a bureaucrat-driven agenda, are not the answer. Instead, once a year the US president and his cabinet should get together with the top EU officials, the heads of government of the larger member states and, by rotation, a few of the smaller ones. Officials and journalists should be kept out. Fireside chats and walks in the woods would help European and American leaders to build up the trust that a constructive transatlantic relationship requires. America’s conservative nationalists may find this kind of chatter uncongenial. But they have to accept the fact that Bush cannot easily impose his will on the rest of the world. His budget deficit is unsustainable and his army is overstretched. New powers are gaining strength, while failing states are breeding disorder. America on its own cannot create global order.