US unilateralism

US President George Bush has met with a cold reception in Europe. We are not referring, of course, to the protest rallies held by some dozens of thousands of Germans but to the widely admitted division between Europe’s political elites and the US administration on a number of key issues. The regular use of the word «chasm» in the press in reference to US-European relations is a sign of the existing climate. European and US views had diverged before September 11. European criticism of the Bush administration’s growing unilateralism was already intense three or four months after Bush came to power. But the dramatic events of September 11 and Europe’s willingness to back the American war on terror created the impression that the divide between the two was gradually being bridged. This was not the case, however. First of all, the White House turned down all European offers for help in the Afghan war, thereby displaying a new tendency for unilateral military action which caused the Europeans deep concern about Washington’s plans for the future of NATO. Furthermore, the Bush administration sought to list as targets of its anti-terrorist crusade countries which seemed to have no direct involvement in the attacks, jeopardizing Europe’s self-sufficiency in the energy sector. Iraq, Iran, Syria and Libya were portrayed as countries that make up the «axis of evil» or were described as potential US nuclear targets. The USA’s military superiority is unquestionable. An alliance, however, cannot be based solely on the interests of the most powerful member, even less so if the alliance goes against the interests of the other partners which, also constitute the strongest powers after the USA, not only in Europe but in the world as well. The Bush administration may feel at the heart of an endless war. The fact that American citizens have fully embraced the US perspective undermines Bush’s ability to grasp the fact that Europe has a different understanding of international developments. Europe wants to see consultations, substantial dialogue, convergence, and a synthesis of US and European interests rather than a one-dimensional predominance of American objectives in the name of an emergency situation. Bush’s visit will only prove fruitful if his contacts with European leaders enable him to grasp this reality.

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