Monday, February 11, 2008

American Mars and European Venus over Eastern Europe

Souce: "Pipe Dreams: Eastern Europe, America, and Russia";The Economist; January 24, 2008

Does Hobbesian America really care Eastern Europe more than Kantian European Union? The Economist has published a controversial article on January 24 (Pipe Dreams: Eastern Europe, America, and Russia). According to this, while the United States is concerned with geopolitical rivalry against Russia with regard to Eastern Europe, the European Union cares more about institutional reform and carbon emission targets.

Last year, the European Union has expanded to Romania and Bulgaria. The EU is exploring further expansion and common policy framework. Although the common constitution was rejected at national referendums in France (“France and the Referendum on the EU Constitution” by Markus Wagner; European Policy Brief by The Federal Trust; March 2005) and the Netherland (“EU Referendum Tests the Dutch Political Establishment” by Ben Crum; Centre for European Policy Studies; 19 February 2007) in 2005, the EU is trying to ratify the Lisbon Treaty (See BBC and the Economist) as an alternative. Taking this into account, I would argue that Brussels should assume much more responsibility in Eastern Europe than Washington does.

The Economist begins the article as the following.

Europeans may not always like it, but America still matters most for their security. As Kosovo edges towards independence, NATO ponders further expansion and Russia rips Europe's threadbare energy policy to rags, every debate involves America. And the mood is gloomy.

In Kosovo, the United States is encouraging independence of ethnic Albanians, while Europe remains cautious of it in order to avoid conflicts with Russia. Currently, the West and Russia are competing to expand influences in “swing states” across Eastern Europe, including EU member states such as Latvia and Bulgaria. NATO expansion is the key to counter Russian penetration in this area. Expansionist America and cautious Europe will discuss this issue at NATO summit in Bucharest this April.

Regarding oil and gas pipelines, the United States worries Western vulnerabilities to Russian energy supply, and endorses the energy route build across the Caucasus and the Balkan Peninsula. This line can bring oil and gas from Central Asia and the Caspian area to Western Europe, without passing Russian territory. See Nabucco and the Trans-Caspian lines in the map.

Ronald Asmus, Executive Director of the German Marshall Fund and Former Assistant Secretary of State under the Clinton administration, raises a concern about the EU’s silence on security in Eastern Europe and erosion of Western influence there.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates made a similar comment when he spoke about NATO mission in Afghanistan at the 44th Munich Conference on Security Policy (“US Presses Allies More Afghan Troops”; Washington Post; February 11, 2008). He urged more European commitment to this operation.

When it comes to US foreign policy, the media and bloggers have been talking so much about the War on Terror in the Middle East and challenges by authoritarian capitalist economies such as China and Russia. However, I would argue that the most critical foreign policy issue during the Bush era is the transition of the trans-Atlantic alliance. Will President Bush succeed in arranging a partnership for the future at Bucharest in April? In order to find some clue to this question, I would like to discuss political changes in Europe on another occasion.