My old think tank had a discussion about transatlantic issues yesterday, which produced some interesting points:
A member of the German Parliament said that compulsive military service will probably come to an end sooner than outside observers think. A Fistful of Euros, we think it will end pretty soon, and it’s nice to have that view confirmed. (Though not too specifically; he didn’t want to end up in the local paper.)
The American ambassador said that after the ruckus of the last two years, intergovernmental relations are much better than they were. Public dissonance, however, has grown, and that’s a less tractable problem.
The local consul general added something I thought insightful, which was that the missing piece is a positive vison from the EU of what transatlantic relations — especially in the military and strategic areas — should be all about.
According to people working in the corridors, the EU is on its way to supplanting NATO as the locus of transatlantic relations. NATO has survived many premature obituaries in its 50 years, and it’s far too soon to write off an organization with its resources and institutional memory. On the other hand, if this shift gains ground, it’s a big one and will be very uncomfortable for both sides. To touch on only the most obvious point, the US is in NATO but is an external partner for the EU. That’s a huge change.
These tectonic changes make a positive European vision of what transatlantic relations should be about all the more important.
It’s not just a US-Europe question. A staff person from the think tank had been part of a delegation of foreign ministry planning staffs who traveled to Asia recently. They fended off questions about multipolarity, all of which implied disassociating Europe and the United States. saying that Europe and the US will continue to work together in global security. That was good to hear, but the questions won’t go away.
I think we’re still a long way from having definitive answers to the questions that Timothy Garton Ash posed last May, “Are you with us? Are we against you?”