Europe's Best Bet

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Europe's Best Bet - David P. Calleo

Since EMU there has been a certain logic and dynamism in European affairs that challenges all countries -- each in its own way -- to reconsider basic national strategies. This is no less true of Britain and Italy than of France and Germany. Since EMU, of course, there have been more dramatic events in Yugoslavia. It is too early to assess their effect on overall European trends. I suspect, however, that they will reinforce rather than reverse the momentum gained from EMU.

Europe's Economic and Monetary Union is a very great achievement. It represents a remarkable exercise of political will among the continental political classes generally. Not only in France and Germany, but also in Italy and Spain. Too much is now at stake to let the project fail. But making it succeed will require a major advance in Europe's capacity for collective decision-making. European politicians will have to figure out how to establish a common monetary policy for Europe, both in the context of a general economic program, as well as an exchange rate policy.

The new ECB will obviously play a critical role. But with over 12% unemploy­ment, Europe's politicians will not be willing to abdicate their responsibilities to a group of technocrats. This is not to say they want to return to the bad old days of inflationary policies in the 1970s. They would like, I suspect, an ECB rather more like our Federal Reserve than the Bundesbank. Many believe having a common currency, together with a major reserve currency, will give them much greater freedom for moderately expansive policies. Moreover, having a common monetary policy will require some mechanism for substantial fiscal transfers, particularly if the EU enlarges its membership.

How will the EU structure itself to make such decisions? For usual Gaullist reasons, that structure is unlikely to become "federal", at least in the usual American sense of the term. Instead, it will remain a hybrid - a Europe of States with numerous federal elements. "Variable geometry" will doubtless be much in use. But, in itself, variable geometry does not solve the problem of how decisions are made within the inner circle - or how they are enforced on the outer circle.

Because EMU will bring constitutional issues to the fore, enlargement itself will probably grow more problematic. Insofar as it occurs, it will require some regime of tutelage. States of West Europe will be reluctant to endow the prospective new members - with their radically different economies - with real decision-making power over the EU. As a result, the EU will become much less of a corporatist institution than it has been, where everyone participates and decisions take a long time, and where small countries have a disproportionate influence. Instead, the EU will become a more imperial structure, where big states call the tune.

Present trends probably also favor Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). There would seem to be three or four reasons: Europe's security problems are different from what they were in the Cold War, when there was a big and highly organized enemy - a nuclear superpower - confronting the West along a very clear frontier. Such a situation called for and legitimated a heavy American presence - among Europeans and Americans both. Now, by contrast, the "new" security problems - terrorism, drugs, gangsterism, and ethnic guerilla warfare - are increasingly internal to Europe. In many respects, they are police problems rather than the traditional military problems of the Cold War. This "internalization" of security, will, of course, grow insofar as the EU enlarges to the East and Southeast.

It is increasingly uncomfortable that the management of such internal problems be directed by an outside power, however friendly. It is uncomfortable for Americans as well as Europeans. Without the Soviet threat, the question of the legitimacy of American leadership in Europe is bound to grow more and more insistent. Moreover, the Americans may well not be very good at managing these new kinds of internal problems. Evolution of American domestic politics does not give much encouragement for those who expect its leadership abroad to be highly professional, constant and oriented toward long-term perspectives.

Europeans tend to be highly critical of the American role in Bosnia, offended by an outsized American tendency for self-congratulation. No doubt, Europeans will eventually find much to criticize about the American role in Kosovo, where American perspectives seem very different from European. The Clinton administration tends to see Kosovo as an opportunity for demonstrating its capacity for leadership of a Western coalition in defense of Wilsonian principles around the globe. Europeans are America's faithful helpers. Europeans see Yugoslavia as a European problem, and as a chance to create a broad pan-European union that will enforce basic human rights and a general regime oriented toward finding common interests. In other words, the best European govern­ments want their Community writ large across Europe. They want American help in Europe, but are not inclined to accept American dictation. They are wary of being enlisted in a global crusade under fitful American direction.

In any event, as the EU becomes an economic and financial superpower, it is an anomaly that it should remain a military dependency of the US-its principal ally but also its principal competitor. And as the future of Europe's defense industries - and with them, European high technology in general - becomes more and more a concern, CFSP will seem more and more attractive.

Of course, a reviving Russian hostility will encourage European eagerness to keep the Americans around. So should continuing instability in the Middle East, where Americans are much better than Europeans at dealing militarily with the Saddam Husseins of this world. But the reverse side is that to Europeans, Americans increasingly seem to be part of their problems with Russia. Exuberant American military involvement in Russia's Near Abroad is, for example, a constant irritant. Unless Russia goes completely off the rails domestically, Europeans are likely to believe increasingly that their security is better served by diplomatic engagement-finding a modus vivendi with Russia-than by emphasizing an abrasive military preponderance. Similarly in the Middle East, American diplomacy's inability to engage constructively with either Iran or Iraq, or to broker a basic deal among Palestinians, Israelis and their neighbors, is likely to encourage Europeans to distance themselves from that diplomacy. To exaggerate a bit, Europeans will tend to see the United States less as a solution to their security problems than as a major cause of them.

Having policies of their own will require the Europeans to have more serious collective military capabilities. To hedge their bets, they would prefer to have these capabilities within NATO. But not within a NATO that, in effect, requires European initiatives automatically to come under American command. If the United States blocks restructuring of NATO to permit independent European initiatives, Europeans will probably be driven, in due time, to more radical arrangements.

The European Union is not one country, of course, but many. These trends obviously have a different impact on each member, challenging it intellectually and culturally. Among the big countries, Britain remains the most challenged in its European vocation. Joining the European train means rethinking Britain's basic geopolitical strategy since WWI. That strategy has been to ensure the commanding presence of the United States in European affairs, with the belief that Britain's future is best served by remaining America's special friend, a policy greatly favored by the Cold War, but not so favored now. At bottom, it is a strategy based on the assumption that Europe cannot be stabilized internally, and therefore requires an external stabilizer - the United States. Reconsidering that assumption requires some fundamental retooling of the British geopolitical imagination. It requires altering some perspectives on the Continent.

But even among the twin "engines" of European integration - Germany and France, these trends pose basic problems. Germany has found a new, respectable postwar identity as a civilian power. Unlike Britain and France, Germany lacks nuclear weapons. Indeed, in some respects it lacks an independent military, making it difficult to participate meaningfully in collective European defense outside NATO. Changing this requires not only a change of forces and structures, but of mentality. It is part of a complex process whereby Germany recognizes itself once more as a great power, but avoids making the same mistakes as the last time it thought of itself as a great power. Germany's long-term strategy has been to cultivate its special relationship with France - and with the EU in general. But Germany has a new temptation - or rather an old one - its special relation with eastern Europe.

France, too, faces a basic challenge in Europe's new situation. The trends toward greater European diplomatic and military cooperation are those which the French have presumably predicted and wanted- at least since de Gaulle's time. Getting what you wish for is not always a happy experience, however. France has been very skillful all these years in having its cake and eating it too. Moving forward in Europe will presumably require more binding commitments and reduce lower France's margin for maneuver.

Indeed, present trends reflected and reinforced in EMU pressure all European countries to make a more definitive bet on their European Union. Very probably that Union is the best bet for Europe in the 21st century. And in a global system that seems inexorably fated to grow more plural, a strong European Union is probably a good outcome for America and the rest of the world as well.

David P. Calleo is the Dean Acheson Professor and Director of European Studies at The Johns Hopkins University SAIS, Washington D.C., and the author of many books, including The Bankrupting of America and Beyond American Hegemony.