Political tug of war

The veto with which NATO members France, Germany and Belgium blocked a US proposal for the immediate implementation of measures to protect Turkey shows that the internal crisis at the heart of the once western alliance is not merely circumstantial. In other words, it is not just a disagreement which got blown out of proportion. Essentially, «old Europe» responded in kind to an attack from the USA – delivered last month by a pro-Bush letter signed by eight European leaders. This diplomatic arm-wrestling demonstrates the will of the Franco-German «axis» to persevere in its efforts toward emancipation from US guardianship. And the truth is that Donald Rumsfeld’s European tour succeeded in deepening this divide rather than bridging it – largely due to the defense secretary’s arrogant approach. The French and Germans do acknowledge the leading role played by the USA, but are reluctant to accept its status as hegemon. This is the essence of the current dispute, not the one-dimensional and artificial dilemma «Do we side with Washington or the Franco-German alliance?» The real question is whether the European Union will allow itself to lapse from the role of partner (within a one-sided alliance) into the position of a privileged satellite power to the USA. A war against Iraq is significant enough in itself, but the political risk is great; the quality of the European-US link and the progress of European integration per se are at stake.