A leading expert on post-communist societies in Europe, University of Maryland political scientist Vladimir Tismaneanu, says the east European countries wanting to join NATO and the European Union dislike having to choose between being pro-American or pro-European. Mr. Tismaneanu spoke Wednesday at Washington's Wilson Center.
Mr. Tismaneanu says the political leaders in eastern Europe are firmly pro-American and are unlikely to temper that view when they become members of the European Union. The University of Maryland scholar believes disagreement over the Iraq war has split Europe into anti and pro-American camps. France, Germany and Russia led the opposition to the U.S. and British led drive to oust Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
Mr. Tismaneanu says, while east European nations want to rejoin the rest of Europe from which they had been separated by four decades of Soviet domination, they are even more enthusiastic about NATO. The western defense alliance, he says, is seen as a guarantor of their independence and the means of preserving a vital U.S. presence in Europe.
"The political center for western civilization from the central and east European perspective is in Washington and not in Paris, Berlin or Moscow," he said. "NATO's future therefore is crucial for the reshaping of the world in such a way that fascist like regimes and religious terrorist movements would be neutralized and if need be annihilated."
By contrast, the European Union, which will expand to include eight east European states next year is seen as an uncertain project.
"There is the challenge of the double integration," he said. "Eastern Europe has oriented politically and militarily towards the United States and has regarded the European Union as a still problematic and uncertain economic community. These two trends often compete with each other: integration within the European Union, which is a soft power and integration with the empire of power, symbolized by the United States and Britain.
Mr. Tismaneanu says east European politicians continue to fear Russia and view western Europe as militarily powerless. He believes that much of the anti-Americanism on the continent stems from insecurity, envy and frustration with the economic dislocation associated with globalization.