Courtesy Reuters

To the Editor:

Ronald D. Asmus is right to point out that the transatlantic alliance has been shaken over Iraq ("Rebuilding the Atlantic Alliance," SeptemberffiOctober 2003). But these differences are reconcilable. The European Union is in the process of adopting a security strategy that identifies terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, and failed states as the greatest threats to security. The same threats are identified in the 2002 U.S. National Security Strategy document. The United States and Europe thus disagree on the means, rather than the ends.

One of the biggest challenges -- on both sides of the Atlantic -- is to end dogmatic thinking about NATO. Nato should remain the hub of transatlantic military cooperation, but the EU's military role should also be strengthened. In practice, we see the outlines of how a division of labor might work, with NATO focusing on collective defense and high-intensity military operations, while the EU force concentrates on humanitarian operations, post-conflict stabilization, and, increasingly, homeland security.

This proposal does not imply throwing the United States out of Europe. Europe needs U.S. help in stabilizing its new neighbors. Washington, meanwhile, needs Europe's assistance in the Middle East. But it is time for the EU to take the lead in dealing with problems closer to home.

Such strategic vision requires firm leadership. This means European leaders must stop talking about a multipolar world -- as if Europe were a teenager forming its identity by deliberately opposing its parent. And it means having the courage to make long-term strategic decisions, rather than tactical ones with an eye on the next election.


Former Danish Minister for Foreign Affairs