Washington is not listening to European leaders at present-not even to Tony Blair.by Charles Grant / March 20, 2002 / Leave a comment
Published in March 2002 issue of Prospect Magazine
Europe’s leaders are finding it hard to cope with the swashbuckling style and policies of the Bush administration. They acknowledge the skill with which it reacted to the terrorist attacks and ran the war in Afghanistan. But they despair at the Bush team’s contempt for “nation-building” and its lack of interest in the causes of terrorism. Consider the following comment from a senior figure in the British ministry of defence, a deeply pro-American institution, in January 2002:
“In order to help the US war effort, we are spending large amounts of money, for example by providing air tankers for US aircraft, and we are putting the lives of our special forces at risk. And yet, in return, the Americans do not listen to a word we say and frequently create difficulties, whether on the organisation of the peacekeeping force in Kabul or any other military matter. I have to ask whether it is in the national interest that we should go on offering such unstinting support.”
European views of the Bush administration have now passed through three phases. During the first eight months, there was growing unease about Bush’s “unilateralism,” exemplified by his rejection of the Kyoto protocol. Then 11th September heralded a warmer phase in transatlantic relations: the Europeans showed strong solidarity with the US, while the Americans worked hard to build alliances, apparently taking international institutions seriously once again.
However, since victory in Afghan-istan, the Bush administration seems to have reverted to unbridled, right-wing unilateralism. It has scrapped the ABM treaty, supported Ariel Sharon’s attacks on the Palestinian Authority and, in the treatment of prisoners held in Cuba, has been cavalier in its observance of the Geneva Conventions. The president’s “axis of evil” speech bracketed both Iran and North Korea with Iraq, although the Europeans have been trying to engage in dialogue with the first two. Colin Powell, the sec…