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Interview with Frances Burwell - 2003-02-13

The apparent split within the ranks of NATO, as well as division between the U.S. and its usual allies, are complicating the effort to rid Iraq of dangerous weapons. VOA-TV host David Borgida spoke with Frances Burwell, Director of the Program on Transatlantic Relations at The Atlantic Council of the United States. They address why the usual coalition of countries is not rallying around President Bush and also the tension within the NATO community.

Now joining us to discuss all this, Frances Burwell of the Atlantic Council of the United States. It's a nonpartisan foreign policy institution here in Washington.

Thanks so much for joining us. And maybe you can shed some light, we hope, on this very complicated situation. Is the Iraqi situation, Ms. Burwell, threatening to upset the NATO alliance even more than it appears to be upset at the moment?

Well, thank you very much for having me here.

I think that certainly this is a crucial week for the Alliance. And NATO does appear to be in quite a bit of disarray. Right now, as we are talking, I understand that the North Atlantic Council is meeting yet again, at 9 o'clock in the evening in Brussels, to try and resolve this situation.

The disagreements over Iraq are at the core of the problem right now in the Alliance. I do think we need to remember that many of our European allies, and certainly their populations, hold a different view than we do, than this administration does, about what should be the appropriate policy in Iraq. But what has happened now this week at NATO I think is even more serious and goes to what is at the core of the Alliance. And that is that not just the United States but now Turkey has asked for consultations under Article IV of the Washington Treaty.

And under Article IV, any Alliance member who feels themselves to be under threat can ask for consultations about other Alliance members coming to defend them. Eventually this would probably result in the invocation of Article V, which you may remember is what happened immediately after September 11th, when Article V was invoked in defense of the United States following the attacks in New York and Washington.

Is the U.S.-Franco and U.S.-German relationship, which have been frayed at various times, is that getting still more frayed, too?

It is getting more frayed. As you know, the German-American relationship has been very difficult since Chancellor Schroeder's reelection campaign and the comments that were made during that time. And it has not warmed significantly, even though the election is now some distance away.

The French-American relationship has become noticeably chillier, particularly since the statements that were made during the anniversary of the Franco-German Friendship Treaty a couple of weeks ago, when the French squarely put themselves in disagreement, in opposition to the United States in the Iraq situation. And the fact that France is now leading an effort in the U.N. Security Council to put forward an alternative plan regarding the inspectors has not been, I should say, warmly welcomed by the U.S. administration.

Now, as we go over some of these fractured relationships, I do want to know, is there some concern that there is mention of an old Europe versus a new Europe in countries throughout the continent? Some suggest that the comments by Secretary Rumsfeld, in which he mentioned old Europe versus new Europe, had an effect of dividing Europe itself. What is your take on that?

I don't think it's so much a description or a division between old and new Europe. I mean, after all, Britain has been very much with this administration on the question of Iraq, and they certainly could be categorized as old Europe, if you're talking about membership in various institutions. Many of the new Europe countries that Secretary Rumsfeld seemed to be pointing to don't consider themselves to be only recently in Europe but rather returning to Europe.

I think it really is much more about the division over when the use of force is appropriate. But I think that the consequences now are becoming very serious. The fact that we have moved now from a division over Iraq and what to do in the U.N. Security Council to such a difficult discussion about what to do when an Alliance member requests assistance and consultations on that is really -- these are two different issues. And I think that, as well, the fact that NATO is having such a difficult time making up its mind and coming to a consensus on this has probably done, unfortunately, a lot of damage in terms of the way this administration views the Alliance as an effective decision?making organization.

Well, we will see how these tough relationships and tough times affect these alliances in the weeks and months ahead.

Frances Burwell, thanks so much. You're with the Atlantic Council of the United States, here in Washington. Thanks so much for joining us. I appreciate it.

Thanks very much.