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Nothing to Fear
In "Saving NATO From Europe," (November/December 2004), Jeffrey L. Cimbalo warns that a dagger is pointed at the heart of the Atlantic alliance, and the murder weapon is the European Union's draft constitution. Ratification of that document, Cimbalo asserts, would have "profound and troubling implications for the transatlantic alliance and for future U.S. influence in Europe." Washington, he believes, should "end its uncritical support for European integration" and work with its friends in Europe to halt the EU process and save NATO from an untimely death. In our view, Cimbalo's article is an example of much that is wrong with U.S. thinking about the EU and the transatlantic alliance today.
Our point of departure is the conviction that the United States needs a strong, self-confident European partner that can bring its political, economic, and military weight to bear in addressing threats to common interests in Europe and beyond. Support from Washington's richest, most democratic, and most militarily powerful partners can help spread the burdens of maintaining global security, expanding democracy, and supporting humanitarian aims. European backing also helps provide legitimacy for U.S. policies and thus makes them more sustainable. Many of the greatest challenges faced by the United States in the world today--stabilizing Iraq, stopping proliferation in Iran, building an Israeli-Palestinian peace, transforming the Middle East, and preserving the environment--are hard enough to meet with European support. Without that support, reaching those goals will be close to impossible.
Indeed, the United States' primary problem with Europe today is that, far from being too strong and assertive, it is too weak and inward-looking. The challenge for U.S. policy is to encourage Europe to develop the cohesion and capability to become a true transatlantic partner. Rather than intensifying a policy of "divide and rule," as Cimbalo suggests, Washington needs to get over its current ambivalence about European integration and adopt a new strategy overtly supporting the EU. It should do so in the same spirit as the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations did in the 1950s and 1960s: to create a strong and coherent Europe capable of working with the United States as a more equal and more effective partner.