Steps taken to stop 'Transatlantic drift'

By JASON MOLL, for United Press International  |  July 1, 2002 at 7:51 PM
share with facebook
share with twitter

WASHINGTON, July 1 (UPI) -- Increasing differences between the United States and Europe in defense policies, and in defense research and manufacturing capabilities, are jeopardizing security relations across the Atlantic, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a leading Washington, D.C., think tank.

The need for U.S.-European dialogue and mutual assistance in these areas is so crucial, CSIS believes, that it has created a special commission to study and advocate for opportunities for greater cooperation on both sides of the Atlantic.

Established last year, the Commission on Transatlantic Security and Industrial Cooperation in the Twenty-First Century is composed of 24 European and American business executives and former government officials. The group, which is co-chaired by Jean-Paul Béchat, chairman and chief executive officer of the Société Nationale d'Étude et de Construction de Moteurs d'Aviation, or SNECMA, one of the world's leading aerospace corporations, and Felix Rohatyn, former U.S. ambassador to France, will publish its findings by the fall.

"Defense technologies and investment initiatives that are pursued separately are creating conditions that encourage separate and even incompatible results," the commission stated in its declaration of common objectives, which was released last week.

"Reducing the formal and informal barriers that interfere with the ability of U.S. and European defense and aerospace companies to work together could go a long way toward renewing our partnership. Unless progress on this front is achieved quickly, a 'fortress Europe/fortress America' mentality could exacerbate our differences and limit our ability to counter common threats," the statement said.

In the statement, the members of the commission warned that the inability of European and U.S. defense markets to cooperate with each other is a serious threat that endangers the security of both continents. The commission is seeking to foster a transatlantic defense market characterized by a less restrictive flow of goods and services, and by effective common safeguards against unauthorized transfers to third parties.

Among other recommendations, the commission's report will propose ways to enhance cooperation among defense companies and governments on both sides of the Atlantic, and promote real reciprocity, fostered by a "level playing field" with the United States and Europe having equivalent access to each other's markets.

"It is not an exaggeration to say that our group has concluded that we are facing a serious state of affairs in the transatlantic community," said John Hamre, former deputy secretary of defense and now president and chief executive officer of CSIS. "Members of this commission are deeply committed to maintaining the health of the alliance, and they sincerely believe that defense cooperation can be an important glue to hold the alliance together."

This need seems to extend far beyond the committee's target topics. Tensions created by the unilateral courses of action recently chosen by the United States, and the desire of Europe to establish its own identity outside the old Cold War framework, are also causing the two continents to drift apart in critical areas related to defense, according to scholars at several of the nation's premier think tanks.

As a result, the CSIS committee's work reflects larger issues related to the future of NATO and the ability of the alliance to retain its strength in the new century. Radek Sikorski, executive director of the New Atlantic Initiative at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, says commitments to improving defense cooperation -- such as the CSIS committee -- are more crucial now than ever because previous methods of waging war are no longer always valid.

"The thing about defense is that the unexpected always happens," Sikorski says. "Both America and the old NATO members, and certainly the new NATO members, thought the most likely threat to the NATO area would be a threat to Europe. Well, (we found out) after Sept. 11 that instead of being helped by the United States, we have rallied around our ally, and European troops are fighting side by side with Americans in Afghanistan and other places, which is how it should be."

Some of the major sticking points between the United States government and its European counterparts include the U.S. refusal to sign the Kyoto Protocol, its objection to the establishment of the International Criminal Court, differences over the war in Afghanistan and efforts to facilitate peace in the Middle East.

Defense cooperation is somewhat hindered by the fact that both Europe and the United States compete to sell hardware to other nations, according to Tim Carothers, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. However, it makes sense for the two regions to coordinate production of certain military equipment because as allies, they may have to fight future wars together.

Benefits from trade are one-sided, Carothers says, because of the superiority of military technology manufactured in the United States.

"There are some things (European contractors) do with competence that we could buy and then concentrate on (creating) other things, but there are few areas where they really

outshine us," he says.

Helmut Sonnefeldt, a foreign policy fellow at the centrist Brookings Institution agrees. Often, he says, Europeans will manufacture things even though they would be much better off purchasing the goods from the United States.

Although the discrepancy between European and American competence in the defense industry is well known, Sonnefeldt says misperceptions abound on both sides of the Atlantic.

"The Europeans have been quite helpful (during the current conflict in Afghanistan), although there is kind of a myth on both sides of the Atlantic that they were not capable of doing anything useful, which is not accurate," he says. "And (it is also a myth) from the European side that we really didn't want them to interfere with the way we were doing things."

While cooperation within the defense sector is crucial, Carothers says more attention should be given to smoothing out issues of diplomacy, such as American unilateralism, which is the opposite of Europe's cooperative decision-making style.

"I think we have to be careful on some of the non-security issues like Kyoto and the International Criminal Court, and not look too arrogant, and send some signals that we are at least willing to talk, and are not completely oblivious to these concerns," Carothers says.

Although the differences between Europe and the United States are pronounced at the moment, Sonnenfeldt is optimistic about the present state of relations because the two continents share a wide range of beliefs and values.

"While there is a lot of nagging, a lot of criticism and a lot of talk about differences in values on things like the international criminal court, Kyoto and the treatment of prisoners, I think overall the interests of the two sides are pretty compatible, more than they are with any other part of the world," Sonnenfeldt says.

Carothers, on the other hand, warns against passivity and encourages engagement, lest suspicions deepen on both sides of the Atlantic.

"I think the distance between the United States and Europe right now is actually quite serious," Carothers says. "Some think that we should brush them aside and say 'They are never happy with what we're doing.' However, there really is a sea change in American foreign policy after Sept. 11, and the Europeans are feeling (it). They are too important for us to ignore them and figure they will just get in line. We really need to make sure to think of ways that we can get along better, and include them in some of the diplomatic processes we are undertaking."

Related UPI Stories
Trending Stories