Courtesy Reuters

The Real Crisis Over the Atlantic

Dominique Moisi is Deputy Director of the Institut Francais des Relations Internationales and Editor-in-Chief of Politique etrangere.

Antony J. Blinken has denounced with talent and conviction what he calls "the false crisis over the Atlantic" (May/June 2001). Although he is correct in saying that a continued transatlantic alliance would be "good for the United States, good for Europe -- and good for the world," he misses the fundamental sea change at work. Most important, he fails to recognize the interaction among three international developments: the end of the Cold War, the changing nature of Europe, and globalization.

The United States and Europe are still united by democratic values and deep common interests. They make up a privileged, peaceful, and prosperous part of the world. To preserve what they enjoy, they need to enlarge their zone of lasting peace to their immediate neighborhood and beyond. They also need to reassess the fundamentals of their relationship.

The Cold War ended more than ten years ago, but it has taken that long to understand what its demise implied for transatlantic relations. With the exception of its chaotic first months, the Clinton administration oversaw a generally smooth but somewhat artificial transition period. The reflexes of the Cold War still dominated in the early 1990s. Most Europeans wanted more, not less, of America in Europe, especially after war returned to their continent in the Balkans. In addition, American benevolent indifference toward European efforts at autonomy in foreign policy, coupled with a relatively modest tone in U.S. diplomacy, contributed to an impression of reassuring continuity. But today, the combination of American moralizing at home and cynicism abroad could severely harm relations between Europe and the United States. It is highly significant that no one in Europe seriously considers George W. Bush's America a political model in the way that Ronald Reagan's conservative revolution inspired many European intellectuals and politicians. And the recent U.S. presidential election chaos did not encourage European confidence in American democracy.

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