Europe crosses the Rubicon

Whatever the fallout of the current crisis between the US and the Franco-German axis, the West will never return to the geopolitical equilibrium which used to prevail. Relations between the two NATO pillars have been tense in the past, but the qualitative characteristics of the present crisis indicate that we have entered a new historical phase. The tiff over the Iraq war has brought to the surface a longstanding trend. Western Europe has for years sought to wean itself from Washington, but has also hesitated in doing so for fear of upsetting the transatlantic bond. This paradox has caused much vacillation, but this time the situation is different. A decisive factor is the Bush administration’s attempt to impose a global American hegemony, which leaves room only for obedient allies, meaning privileged satellites. It is no accident that amid the ongoing rift, Washington has blatantly tried to undermine European unity and political power. Reacting to Washington’s imperial demeanor, the Franco-German axis crossed the Rubicon, without this meaning an escalation of the crisis. Last week’s summit highlighted that EU states are capable of consulting with each other and reaching a common denominator. Unlike Britain, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Denmark have not made the strategic decision to act as a US advocate. The governments of these states take their relations with the US very seriously and even played into Washington’s hands on Iraq. But they wouldn’t go so far as to torpedo European integration. The summit’s political wager was not whether the EU peers would hammer out an Iraq policy, but whether they would manage, after earlier discord and US pressure, to reach a common position. Success in doing so shows that there’s more keeping the EU states together than pulling them apart.