For all the Republican rhetoric about a more "Americanist" approach to foreign policy, the United States needs partners in global diplomacy. Unilateral decisions carry costs. Even if they are successfully imposed on foreign states, they build up resistance to cooperation in other areas where U.S. interests are at stake. Multilateral leadership requires negotiation and compromise with partners who respect American leadership and whose contributions American policymakers respect.
America's most dependable partners are the democracies in Europe, collectively organized through the European Union (EU) and NATO. With economic and political reform in Japan still blocked, and with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations weakened by the 1997 financial crisis and incomplete democratization, Europe remains the indispensable partner without which American global leadership becomes unilateral.
Transatlantic relations in the last decade have centered on redefining the U.S.-European partnership for the post-Cold War world. The most striking characteristic of the relationship today, however, is continuity rather than change. The gloomy predictions of American realists -- that Europe without the two controlling superpowers would dissolve into anarchy -- have proven entirely mistaken. NATO not only has survived but has developed new tasks and attracted new members. The EU has expanded its mandate and its membership and is now negotiating with 12 more applicant states.
Transatlantic relations are embedded in a dense network of multilateral links, including annual meetings of the Group of Eight major industrialized nations, semiannual consultations among top officials, and shared membership in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The transatlantic relationship's central organization, NATO, holds biennial summits, frequent meetings of foreign and defense ministers, and regular consultations among permanent national delegations based in Brussels. The partnership is supplemented by extensive cooperation among U.S. and European law enforcement agencies for combatting money laundering, drug trafficking, and illegal-refugee smuggling.
Most of the time, this multilateral dialogue works well, driven by the mutual interest of all participants in maintaining free flows of goods, services, and information. For all the
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