News

US-Europe Dialogue Turns a Corner

Multimedia

Audio

New leaders are now in charge of "Old Europe". Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel recently has been joined by Nicolas Sarkozy, the new President of France and Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Some analysts say the change in leadership will help reinforce the transatlantic alliance, which has been challenged in recent years.

U.S.-European relations have weathered a number of controversies in recent years.  Perhaps most notable among them was the crisis over Iraq in 2003, which strained transatlantic ties and bitterly divided the European Union itself.

But in the past several years, many analysts say, both sides have made efforts to restore strong relations.  And recent U.S.-E.U. summits have sought to emphasize areas of cooperation and partnership, especially in trade and business.  The transatlantic economic relationship is the largest in the world -- and growing.  Trade between the Atlantic partners tops $1 trillion dollars a year.  Their mutual investments amount to more than $1.9 trillion.

U.S. foreign affairs specialist John Hulsman, at the German Council on Foreign Relations in Berlin, says political relations have also noticeably improved, particularly since the coming to power of new "Old Europe" leaders. He says French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown have joined German Chancellor Angela Merkel in changing the tenor and substance of the transatlantic dialogue.

“Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair got into trouble for being too close to President Bush and former French President Jacques Chirac got in trouble for being too far away from President Bush.  Now you have Gordon Brown and Nicolas Sarkozy moving to almost a common position, which is the one that Angela Merkel is,” says Hulsman. “She set the groundwork to be much more pro-American than former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder was, but to make it clear you are allowed to disagree with America, while being a friend of America. And that fine line is the line that Brown and Sarkozy are now trying to walk after her.”

Disagreements Over Terrorism Remain

But Hulsman adds that despite better rapport at the government level, America's standing in Europe's public opinion has yet to be restored.

Dana Allin of the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies agrees.  He says many Europeans remain wary of U.S. foreign policy goals, which they say often override the interests of America's friends and allies.

"Popular affinities are tattered. You can see this in extraordinarily low levels of public support in various European countries for the U.S.," says Allin. "We don't really know how easily American moral prestige will rebound. It hasn't really sunk this low in a long time."

Allin says Europeans view the Middle East differently than Americans, for example. “There is a much greater consensus in Europe across the board, including a very Atlantacist country like Britain, that the resolution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict is crucial to broader stability in the Middle East and the relations with the Arab and Muslim world.  Americans have tended to look at it the opposite way.  They are saying they need a reformation in the Arab world in order to make Israeli-Palestinian peace possible.”

Moreover, says Allin, Europeans fear the U.S. is losing the battle for Muslim "hearts and minds" as a result of its military action in Iraq and some of its practices in combating terrorism.

Many Europeans would like to see the Guantanamo Bay detention center closed because they say it disregards international human rights accords.  Europeans are also concerned about the American program to detain and question suspected terrorists outside of the United States.

Many analysts say most disagreements stem from the competing foreign policy and security doctrines the U.S. and Europe have developed since the end of the Cold War.  Europeans generally favor compromise, political and economic engagement with adversaries and rarely opt for war.  Americans, mindful of U.S. global security responsibilities, often say unilateral action is justified to prevent serious threats.

The Next Test

Michael Brenner of the University of Pittsburgh says that more than 60 years after World War II, the transatlantic partners need to forge a new, 21st century security arrangement.  He argues its time for Europe to be more assertive.

"A Europe and America, each of which knows its own mind and each of which is prepared to act in the world and on that basis are prepared to act in concert, would simply be more effective dealing with problems than is currently the case,” argues Brenner.  “Allies can provide a corrective. They can raise questions. They can make it clear that doing certain things has some costs. The current balance is so out of whack that you pay a heavy price for it and we are."

According to Brenner, the next test for the transatlantic relationship is how to deal with Iran's nuclear ambitions. U.S. officials consider it an urgent matter that threatens security and stability in the Middle East.  They say military strikes on Iran's nuclear facilities are not off the table, if diplomacy fails.

But most Europeans strongly oppose use of force against Teheran, says John Hulsman of the German Council on Foreign Relations. "Iran is the deal-breaker. All these good trends go out the window if the United States unilaterally bombs Iran.  I think one more good knock at public opinion with America behaving unilaterally in terms of military action, this difficult, tenuous, frustrating, but incredibly important and prosperous alliance comes to an end," says Hulsman.

Still, some experts, including Dana Allin of the International Institute for Strategic Studies say there are signs that some European nations, like Britain and France, are close to adopting the U.S. position.  He points to French President Sarkozy's recent statement on Iran.

"He said it could come down to a choice between an Iranian bomb or bombing Iran.  And he said an attack against Iran would probably be catastrophic, but an Iranian nuclear bomb would also be unacceptable," says Allin.

President Sarkozy, some analysts note, is seeking a bolder global security role for Europe, which would remain strongly allied with the United States.

This story was first broadcast on the English news program,VOA News Now. For other Focus reports click here.

 

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Interneti
X
Mike O'Sullivan
June 30, 2015 8:20 PM
Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs