Friday, December 09, 2005

Bush Foreign Policy: Improving with Europe, Straining with Asia

Currently, NATO foreign minister meeting is held in Brussels on December 8 and 9. Unlike the last summit between the United States and China, and South Korea, the transatlantic relation is improving.

Since the Iraq War, the relationship between Europe and America deteriorated. However, things are changing. The Franco-German alliance has been the core of European integration since the era of Conrad Adenauer and Charles de Gaulle. A Europe under the Franco-German leadership makes sense when there are only 6 members. Today, the European Union is expanding eastward, to include “New Europe”. Therefore, it is necessary to make an alternative model for the future of Europe. In a situation like this, the transatlantic relation is improving, because both America and Europe find it essential to manage Europe in transition.

Most importantly, Angela Merkel won the election to become the chancellor, and Gerhard Schröder stepped down. New German administration will put more emphasis on the transatlantic alliance than the Franco-German axis. Even France is trying to move closer to the United States, in face of the Arab riot near Paris. Both Germany and France are beginning to recognize that they keep close ties with the United States in order to defeat common threats, particularly radical Islam terrorists. US Under Secretary of State, R. Nicholas Burns says that the conflict between Europe and America on Iraq is over. He argues that both France and Germany had come to see a stable and democratic Iraq in their interest this year. There is no doubt that Germany under the Merkel administration will be more pro-American than her predecessor. Even though France resisted very hard against US attack on Iraq at the UN Security Council, it had joined US effort to restrain Syria.

How will things go after NATO foreign ministers meeting? The key person will be new Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel. The media focus too much on her as the first female chancellor in German history. But more importantly, she is from former East Germany which is a part of “New Europe”, and the centerpiece of German foreign policy is expected to shift from the Franco-German alliance to the transatlantic partnership. Former US Secretary of State, Henry A. Kissinger contributed an interesting article “A New Generation in Germany” to the International Herald Tribune on November 22. In this essay, he says that the transatlantic alliance represents hope for East Europeans, and further European integration means more solid ties with the United States. In this respect, they are completely different from West Germans who participated in the 1968 demonstration to dissociate themselves from American influence. For Chancellor Merkel, European integration means, “To learn on vacation to feel as comfortable in France as they now do in Bulgaria.” The days of de Gaulle and Adenauer have gone. Europe is evolving into the next phase.

Contrary to Europe, US foreign policy in Asia faces difficulties. On his trip to APEC summit, President George W. Bush met leaders of Japan, China, and South Korea. The meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi was very friendly. However, the talks with China and South Korea were in a strained atmosphere. What is US policy in Asia like?

China is one of the greatest challenges to America’s Asia policy, as witnessed in rapid military build-up, and territorial disputes. On the other hand, both the United States and Japan need to cooperate with China in the war on terrorists and nuclear non-proliferation in North Korea. In addition, both countries have to pioneer the Chinese market. Given these aspects, the New York Times criticized President Bush’s approach in their editorial “Cold War China Policy” on November 19, because the president uses Japan and India as counterbalances to China. Currently, the US-Japanese alliance confronts China on human rights, Taiwan, and security in the East China Sea. China is a country for cooperation and confrontation. This makes it extremely complicated to deal with China.

Dan Blumenthal and Thomas Donnelly, both of them are Resident Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, argued against the NYT article in the Washington Post on November 27. They insist that Japan is an important ally in US endeavor for global democracy, and a counterbalance against Chinese expansionism. Also, Dan Blumenthal maintains that the United States embrace Japan’s desire for a global power status in the article written with Research Assistant Chris Griffin. However, both Blumenthal and Donnelly are concerned with Japanese prime ministers’ visit to the Yasukuni shrine. Actually, Japanese people are getting more nationalist these days. Some of them defend Japan’s wartime policy, and raise cases against the Tokyo tribunal and postwar democracy. Such a warning trend will undermine the US-Japanese alliance. In any case, US policy in Asia is turning increasingly complex.

What makes Europe and Asia so different? In Europe, former communist states convert themselves to staunch allies to the United States. For “New Europe”, America is the guarantor of their security, freedom, and stability. Their loyalty to the transatlantic alliance will be of considerable help to reinvigorate the US-European partnership. The victory of Angela Merkel will change the US-German relations and Europe. To my regret, there is no “New Asia.” No wonder President Bush faces difficulties in dealing with Asia. Just wait. Mongolia may be a good candidate. Just as “New Europe”, Mongolians are liberated from communist oppression, and they deadly need American help.