U.S. and European policy makers and experts examined problems in the transatlantic relationship Tuesday at a Washington conference sponsored by Center for Strategic and International Studies. There was consensus that NATO and European Union enlargement are fundamental issues that signal a difficult transition.
Richard Haass, the director of policy planning at the State Department, told the gathering that with the end of the Cold War Europe is no longer at the center of U.S. security interests. A war in Europe involving the major powers, he said, is now unthinkable.
"The real challenge facing the U.S.-European relationship is one of relevance. And what we want to avoid is the day when the president of the United States is faced with a crisis and he says it's not worth the money to call Europe," he pointed out. "That's the day you want to avoid."
Mr. Haass stressed the continuing importance of the U.S.-European relationship. Despite some disagreement over a war with Iraq, he pointed out that Washington and Europe generally agree on the big global issues. He said the job of making Europe whole and free must be completed and Russia and Turkey should be integrated into Europe.
Christopher Meyer, the outgoing British ambassador to Washington, described NATO and European Union expansion as a massive convulsion. The Americans and Europeans, he said, are united in mutual schizophrenia.
"On the American side, you look at the Europeans and you say, 'For God's sake, get your act together. Integrate! One phone number [to call in the event of crisis], please.' And then when we show some modest sign of getting our act together, immediately the message comes from Washington, 'Don't you dare caucus or consult without talking to us first,' he said.
Europeans, added Mr. Meyer, are equally schizophrenic about America. "When the United State is perceived not to be leading," he explained, "the Europeans complain, 'Why isn't the United States leading. For God's sake you're the world's only super power. Lead!' And then when you do lead, immediately there are accusations of unilateralism, hegemony."
For Mr. Haass, the policy planner at the State Department, it is essential that the Europeans and Americans put aside their differences to provide the leadership necessary to finish the Doha development round of negotiations in the World Trade Organization to expand world trade.