Hard times ahead if the US ignores the European Union

Any discussion with former Prime Minister Georgios Rallis at times as critical and dramatic as these are is bound to be very interesting. Apart from his great experience of public life, filled with a multitude of historical events of the recent past, the distinguished Greek statesman has always had the ability to approach events in a calm manner, to make judgements on the basis of common sense and to take a stand devoid of fanaticism, prejudice or ulterior motive. As was to be expected, our talk began with the latest developments in the Iraq war, and with the question of whether the apparent outcome vindicated the goal that Washington had invoked. Rallis was categorical. «I am afraid that the American leadership has not realized the most important fact: While September 11 was a terrible blow, it also brought a great gift, which was the sympathy and affection of the entire world. The feeling that – rightly or wrongly – had begun to prevail around the world in the months after the event was that the terrorist strike had been exploited and used as an excuse for promoting a kind of American world rule.» So do you believe that the Iraq crisis is an exaggeration of the terrorist risk? Not only is it an exaggeration of the risk, but I doubt whether there was any real danger to begin with. Where are the weapons of mass destruction? Have they found them? Shouldn’t they have found them by now? They’ve been there for three weeks. And a second question. Did they have reliable information about the existence of such weapons? Why didn’t they give this information to the inspectors? That is deceit. If they did not have information and were simply supposing, why didn’t they base their investigation on the inspectors’ reports as well? Apart from the origins and purposes of the war which you call into question, there is also the question of international legality. Of course, and that is the major issue that raises crucial questions for the immediate future. In the UN charter, which the US made a considerable contribution to drafting, article 2 rules out «the threat or use of violence against the territorial integrity and political independence of any state.» So it was unfortunate, to say the least, for the American government to state that its demand was for a change in the Iraqi regime. If this principle is valid, China could in future behave the same way toward Taiwan, and the more powerful countries generally could invoke the same «doctrine» to prevail in their regions. All these irregularities, as well as the unanswered questions, naturally enhance suspicions that the war in Iraq had other motives. You are referring again to the issue of American world rule. However, there has been a de facto redefinition of the world balance of power after the fall of communism. I do not accept the views of those who claim that the collapse of existing socialism and the Soviet Union was unfortunate for the world simply because the very existence of the Soviet Union acted as a counterweight to the US, and thereby somehow achieved an «equilibrium of terror» on the world stage. At the same time, however, nor do I believe that the imposition of the Pax Americana doctrine has been good for the world community, which as others claim, will bring happiness and peace to the nations of the world in the same way as the Pax Romana once did. The peoples under Roman rule could not have been – nor were they – happy, since they did not have what is one of life’s most important things, freedom. In my humble opinion, humanity is in for some hard times if the US, based exclusively on its military strength, ignores Europe and ceases to work harmoniously with it, as it has done until now. Yet it is the US that provoked the rift in relations with Europe. Some American leaders have invoked the debt of gratitude Europeans owe to the Americans for the victory in the two world wars. As a European I absolutely recognize the contribution of the US and its people in both the first and second world wars, which averted the subjugation of Europe to the powers of the Triple Alliance in 1914 and the Axis in 1939. It is just as certain that without the courageous and realistic Marshall Plan, Europe would not have been able to recover, and so quickly, after its complete economic breakdown following World War II. Particularly as a Greek, I can only praise the fact that my country, thanks to the daring and redeeming Truman Doctrine, escaped the fate of Hoxha’s Albania or Tito’s Yugoslavia. So you agree that Europe owes Washington a debt of gratitude, as it claims? I agree, but I would like to make one observation, or at least an «asterisk» as Andreas Papandreou used to say. There is no doubt that a free and allied Europe is absolutely to the benefit of US security and vital interests, which could have been dramatically threatened if the outcome of the two wars had been any different. I propose the same argument to American officials every time they unilaterally invoke, and somewhat exaggerate, their assistance as allies. For if Greece had entered the eastern bloc after World War II, the sea, air and military sovereignty of the free world in the Mediterranean and the Middle East would not have been at all certain.