Rebuilding the Atlantic Alliance

Courtesy Reuters


One of the most striking consequences of the Bush administration's foreign policy tenure has been the collapse of the Atlantic alliance. Long considered America's most important alliance and a benchmark by which a president's foreign policy skill is measured, the U.S.-European relationship has been shaken to its foundations over a series of disputes that culminated in the U.S.-led war in Iraq. To be sure, there have been rows across the Atlantic before: American opposition to the seizure of the Suez Canal by French, British, and Israeli troops in the 1950s; France's withdrawal from NATO's integrated military command in the 1960s; the battle over Euromissiles in the early 1980s; and the deep acrimony over how to stop war in the Balkans a decade ago. Still, the current rift has been unprecedented in its scope, intensity, and, at times, pettiness.

Several factors make the recent collapse in transatlantic cooperation surprising. The crisis came on the heels of the alliance's renaissance in the 1990s. Following deep initial differences over Bosnia at the start of the decade, the United States and Europe came together to stem the bloodshed in the Balkans in 1995 and again in 1999. Led by Washington, NATO expanded to include central and eastern Europe as part of a broader effort to secure a new post-Cold War peace. This initiative was also accompanied by the creation of a new NATO partnership with Russia. As a result, Europe today is more democratic, peaceful, and secure than ever. For the first time in a century, Washington need not worry about a major war on the continent -- a testimony to the success in locking in a post-Cold War peace over the last decade.

Moreover, although the Bush administration got off on the wrong foot with Europe during its first year in office over issues such as its spurning of the Kyoto Protocol on climate change and the International Criminal Court, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, unleashed a powerful wave

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