Remarks to the Atlantic Council’s Seminar for the European/NATO Parliamentary Assembly Members at the National Defense University, Washington, D.C.

By Doug Bereuter

Good afternoon. The following are headlines in recent American and European news articles about the European-American relationship:

  1. “U.S. Allies Chafe at ‘Cleanup’ Role” (International Herald Tribune of 11/26/01)
  2. “The War on Terror Finds Wary Support in France” (International Herald Tribune of 10/4/01)
  3. “Bush Warning to Allies Grates on European Nerves” (International Herald Tribune of 11/12/01)
  4. “This Raging Colossus: The New U.S. Ruthlessness Turns Out to be a Greater Threat Than the Islamic Fanaticism That Provoked It” (Guardian of 11/19/01)
  5. “[The U.S.] A Solo Performer by Nature” (Financial Times of 11/23/01) and on European-American Relations,
  6. “Allies in War, Not in Perspective” (Washington Post of 12/02/01)

I appreciate the opportunity to talk to you this afternoon. Actually, the Congress was supposed to have completed its work for the year by now – theoretically by October 5th, but we are still in session and will, as in the case of the Persian Gulf war, not adjourn sine die at all this year.

Late last week the House approved the final appropriation bill for this fiscal year, the Defense bill, which includes significant increases in defense spending for the coming year. The House bill, by the way, provides for $18.9 billion in additional spending or an increase of 7 % over last year ($317.5 billion). On Wednesday, we expect to conclude the conference on the much-changed, post-September 11th Intelligence authorization bill. Conferences on four of the thirteen necessary appropriations bills are yet to be completed.

It is good to see so many friends and Assembly colleagues here today. As I attempt to provide you with a congressional perspective on the Alliance, I would state what I believe to be obvious – we meet at an historically important time. This is an appropriate time to begin anew to assess the status and future of the NATO Alliance, but such an assessment can only be tentative since the world has been changed. It is only ten weeks since the Alliance invoked Article 5 in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11th and only eight since the Ottawa meeting which I thought did palpably re-enforce the vigor, solidarity, and resoluteness of NATO countries in the war against terrorism.

That unanimous decision to invoke Article 5 demonstrates again the profound linkages between the two continents and the 19 member states. NATO’s collective response to terrorism makes it clear, contrary to the dire warnings of the nay-sayers, that in times of severe challenges, the Alliance remains firm. NATO chose to act, and act decisively. The vote to aid the United States against a foreign attack came – not after weeks of wrangling – not after days of debate – but in the early morning hours of September 12th, after only 6 hours of discussion and presentation of the facts.

It is ironic that the first time Article 5 is invoked, it is invoked on behalf of the United States. It had usually been assumed, certainly in the United States, that it would be the U.S. and Canada called upon by Article 5 to help our European allies – that Americans would be called upon to defend against a massive Soviet assault through the Fulda Gap or to respond to some other European flashpoint or out-of-area crisis.

As one who has experienced innumerable congressional burden-sharing debates, I have heard skeptical Members of Congress asking, relatedly: Why should American lives be put at risk for a Europe that is not paying its fair share? Why should American forces still be in Europe 56 years after V-E Day? Now in the case of Operation Enduring Freedom, European AWAC planes are assisting U.S. fighter patrols over American cities. I would add that, for the first time in my memory, the issue of burden-sharing did not arise in the House debate of the recently approved Defense authorization or appropriation bills.

European participation in the war on terrorism undoubtedly will soon be even more tangible. And, the less visible enhanced cooperation on law enforcement and intelligence-sharing is really more important in a necessarily sustained war against terrorism, with applicability to fight international narcotics trafficking and global crime syndicates as well.

Throughout the conflict, British forces have participated, and a significant contingent now occupies the Bagram airbase outside Kabul. President Chirac has committed ground troops to secure the airfield at Mazar-i-Sharif and is anxious to deploy a squadron of Mirage fighter-bombers. Obviously, Turkey is in a unique position to contribute to the war effort, and has demonstrated its willingness to do so. Similarly, Prime Minister Berlisconi has expressed a desire to commit Italian assets. And, the recent historic vote in the Bundestag makes it clear that our German allies are participating in new and important ways.

I do not want to neglect any of our allies, NATO and other countries, because, frankly, the response has been overwhelming and uniformly positive. Thus far we have enjoyed great cooperation in areas such as intelligence-sharing and cooperation, permission for overflights and base rights, and European assumption of greater responsibilities in the Balkans and elsewhere. For the cooperation we have received, the U.S. and I thank you very much! The level of trans-Atlantic cooperation and support for the United States in the wake of the attacks of September 11th is truly gratifying, and it should give all friends of NATO reasons for satisfaction and reassurance.

1. A Growing Perceptual and Attitudinal Gap between Europe and the United States

However, while gratified by our Alliance solidarity emerging in the wake of the terrorist attacks, I am compelled to nevertheless express my concerns about a growing gap in the views, orientation, and rapport between the developed democracies of Europe and the United States. In doing this I point out that here I will give you my personal congressional perspective, but there are other Americans, in Congress and outside, who are beginning to share similar concerns. (I certainly won’t attempt to characterize Canadian relations with either the U.S. or Europe.) I begin this discussion of my concerns about the solidarity of the Alliance with the following theses: Before the terrorist attacks against the U.S., the Alliance was headed in a direction of less solidarity than our post-September 11th cooperation, support, and statements of resoluteness might suggest. Let me be perfectly clear, however, before I proceed with the heart of my comments today about a growing gap in European-U.S. perceptions and rapport, the NATO Alliance remains strong today – re-invigorated by the tragic events of September 11th; my following comments should be thought of as a dose of preventive medicine to avoid problems in a healthy Alliance.

Today I will voice these concerns about the long-term cohesion of the Alliance among my friends, because I am convinced that everyone here is committed to the continued well-being of NATO. Yet, as fellow parliamentarians, and as friends, we have an obligation to be candid with one another to avoid problems and misunderstandings. We would want to reverse any negative trends and conditions. (After those comments I’ll close with brief remarks on NATO enlargement.)

For some years now, I have been concerned about a widening perception gap between the United States and our European partners, and about our increasingly divergent views about issues and about America’s actions and values. For example, on an increasing number of issues, it seems that in certain areas the European notions of what are legitimate U.S. national interests, and our actions to defend them, are fundamentally different than the views of the majority of Americans.

I suspect that part of this gap may result from what Europeans see as American cultural imperialism. Movies and music, EuroDisney, blue jeans, and McDonalds’ fast-food – the more pervasive or crass manifestations of America can irritate even our best friends.

Frankly, I can understand the resentment that results from some of the more aggressively entrepreneurial aspects of American capitalism. Admittedly, our polyglot society’s fast-paced assault on the ‘traditional’ and our national characteristic of self-confidence can surprise, or concern, or offend even our friends.

This clash of cultures or sensibilities may not cause the growing European-American gap, but it does appear that cultural hypersensitivity on the part of some Europeans, and cultural insensitivity on the part of some Americans, can create a milieu where more serious and fundamental differences are allowed to fester.

American Stanley Hoffman cogently writes in the New York Review (October 10, 2001) that:
“We [Americans] have tended, in the last ten years, toward a form of self-congratulation that can be grating for others: we are the ‘indispensable nation’……
“benign American hegemony, we often say, provides a modicum of order without threatening anyone. And yet a powerful country can both attract and repel…..We need not only to protect ourselves better at home….., but also to understand why even non-terrorists sometimes feel smothered by America’s cultural, economic, political, and military omnipresence.”

For these reasons and for others, I believe that we must examine whether fundamental differences have emerged. Most troubling are increasingly apparent differences of opinion regarding our global or at least regional, responsibilities, and how those responsibilities translate into American foreign policy vis a vis the foreign policy of individual and especially collective European states.

In that respect, there was an interesting article in the Washington Post yesterday by an American professor serving as a visiting fellow at the Cambridge Centre of International Studies in England. The headline of the article reads: “Allies in War, Not in Perspective.” Dr. Peter Feaver of Duke University in that article warns: “President Bush, and the American public he leads, should not assume that our allies see the world in the same way we do.” (He places the primary cause as the less objective media news coverage in Europe.) (Washington Post of 12/02/01)

The U.S. is the world’s sole remaining superpower. That is a fact B a fact not to be trumpeted proudly; with that status comes responsibilities not to be shirked or neglected either. Indeed, throughout our history, Americans as a people have often been reluctant to see their country take up the mantle of leadership that circumstances have thrust upon us. Our revered Founding Fathers after all had warned us to avoid foreign entanglements, and those words still resonate in parts of our electorate – yes, even in this era of globalization. During the last decade our Government and people, on occasion, acted as though our superpower status was an unwanted and inconvenient burden distracting us and draining our resources from domestic priorities. A great many Americans were impatient for “the peace dividend” at the end of the Cold War. But September 11th may well have largely put an end to that ambivalence or identity crisis, as well as ending any misbegotten sense of homeland invulnerability.

Our superpower status means that, quite frankly, our world-view is somewhat different than that of many Europeans. We are the force of last resort, drawn upon when other avenues of conflict resolution fail. As such, Americans are more suspicious about international efforts that would set limitations on our flexibility in using our power.

The next point I would raise to explain the widening European-American gap is the fact that Americans are highly protective of national sovereignty. In part that is because of geography; in part it is because of our history (pioneers carving a nation out of the frontier). When we deploy forces overseas, we expect that the rules of engagement for our military will serve U.S. interests, and will be drafted in Washington.

Take, for example, the proposed ban on land mines. With 37,000 troops on the ground in South Korea, and with a militant and seemingly irrational threat force posed by North Korea and its million man army, our military commanders warn that land mines remain the only way to slow and defeat a possible sneak attack against Seoul – the heart and soul of South Korea. If we were to immediately eliminate the land mines along the DMZ rather than phase them out in their current form over seven years, the United States would have to deploy tens of thousands of additional troops to have the same level of military capability.

Likewise, the majority of Americans believe that Ballistic Missile Defense must eventually be a component of homeland defense. As various rogue regimes move ever closer to a meaningful intercontinental ballistic missile capability, no American leader can close the BMD threat option.

Americans always have reserved the right to use military force to protect our vital national interest and honor our treaty commitments. This is a right, we believe, that does not require the prior approval of the United Nations or any other international body. Certainly, when the United States (or any nation) engages in military operations, the support of the United Nations in the form of a resolution is highly desirable. But Americans feel very strongly that the absence of such support does not prevent American action to defend our national interests, to meet our treaty obligations (certainly including the NATO Treaty), or to roll back an aggressor nation. A Security Council veto will not deter us; nor should it if the cause is just and our motives are benign.

American attitudes and policies are influenced by our history and culture, and, of course, the same is true for Europe. Because of Europe’s unique history, its geography, and the close proximity of so many strong nationalities – with all of their history of bitter wars and changing alliances – Europeans naturally have a predisposition today to support multilateral initiatives and institutions that limit the unfriendly or detrimental actions of individual nations on their neighbors. This gradual embrace of multilateralism in the 20th Century has generally served Europe well, resulting in a level of integration and cooperation that Europeans’ forefathers could not have imagined. It has also helped the smaller, less powerful European states act collectively to reduce the unilateral options or use of power of the larger European states – and to attempt to harness the United States as well. Some Americans certainly do see U.S. membership in multilateral institutions or treaties as foreign efforts to put limits on American powers to protect our national interest. Of course such views neglect the full array of positive impacts that America also receives from such memberships or treaties. But some Americans’ greater skepticism about multilateralism and the resultant limitation on our ability to effectively pursue our national interests increasingly causes some of the fundamental differences of opinions between Europeans and Americans. This factor, growing in importance, should not be underestimated.

While Europeans don’t like to hear such words, the nations of the EU have given up increasing elements of their national sovereignty on a day-to-day basis and have accepted a higher level of regulation and standardization than would be acceptable to the American public – ever or at least for the forseeable future. The protection of American sovereignty rings strongly in the American consciousness. But as Philip Stephens writes in his Financial Times column of November 23rd: “Here [in Europe] governments have few hang-ups about pooling sovereignty in the cause of greater security or a cleaner world. They do it every day in the European Union.”

This difference in attitude in the importance of national sovereignty is a big, big reason for the increasingly divergent attitudes and actions between European nations and the United States. It is getting bigger every day too. To illustrate my point I would mention that during my sixteen years as a delegate to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, I have participated in innumerable debates on the issue of whether a U.N. mandate is necessary for NATO out-of-area operations. The American delegation has always unanimously opposed such proposals, while a growing number of our European colleagues (perhaps now a majority) view a U.N. mandate as a necessary prerequisite for out of area activities. For further illustrations reflect on the fact that the majority of European policymakers would prefer a continuation of the ABM Treaty, and would rather the United States not pursue ballistic missile defenses. And, the vast majority of European national leaders, on the other hand, supports a ban on land mines, and does not believe any strategic or tactical military advantage justifies the damage and destruction landmines can inflict. There is, it seems, a growing difference of opinion as to whether international “bad actors” can be contained by international law and international treaty regimes. Taken as a whole, Europeans place more value on international law vis-a-vis national statute than does the United States. This difference of attitudes between European Union nations and the majority of Americans regarding capital punishment has affected the extradition of law-violators to the United States for some period of time and it may effect the extradition of al-Qaeda terrorists to America. Now this issue, I suspect, has the potential to become a very unpleasant debate and a major irritant for the majority of Americans.

2. The consequences of EU-North American Trade Frictions

Next, permit me to say just a few words about ever more intense U.S.-European trade frictions. I do this without illustrations because of time constraints and because getting bogged down in the details of European and American complaints and defensive rhetoric can, I believe, distract us from focusing on the potential impact in widening the solidarity gap between European and North American Alliance partners. This is the area of my greatest concern. Simply put, I fear that the already severe and growing trade friction between the European Union and North America and the economic consequences and anger about the perceptions of unfair EU trade barriers among Americans will increasingly spill over into our defensive alliance – NATO. That could be a major source of strife and Americans (and I believe Canadians) have a very different perception of the impact and implementations of EU trade policies and practices.

That is not a debate for this forum. But my strong concern about this growing area of divisiveness is why I suggested last Spring that the NATO Parliamentary Assembly create a Subcommittee on European-North American Trade Relations in the Economic Committee. I appreciate the approval of that suggestion. The co-rapporteurs began their investigation and reporting in a very good effort.

3. ESDP and European Defense Spending
As a final European-American gap that concerns me, I will refer to the ESDP and European defense spending. Here I am referring to both a perception gap or disagreement between Americans and the NATO countries of the European Union about the wisdom of creating the European Pillar in the EU, and the difference of views and expectations about both the capabilities of the ESDP and its effect on NATO. My Assembly colleagues previously have heard me give voice to the consensus of American concerns about this European Union decision. However, while we still believe NATO would have been a better home for the European Pillar, we accept the EU decision and will try to play the role of a constructive critic, and if necessary and possible, play a positive intermediary role as a NATO ally.

That said, a gap that both Europe (and Canada) and the U.S. should fear and seriously address is the real and enlarging gap in military capabilities the other eighteen NATO countries in varying degrees have with the United States. You all know about this gap and about the failure of most of the NATO countries to sufficiently increase their defense spending to narrow this gap. We have heard assurances that the creation of the ESDP will not detract from NATO assets, and we can only hope that is true. However, it is difficult to see how the generally meager increases in defense spending by most EU NATO countries and real cutbacks in spending in a few can either narrow the NATO capability gap or field the EU’s 60,000 troop force with its air and sea lift capabilities on time.

Low levels of defense spending have had both operational and perception consequences. We, on this side of the Atlantic, have heard Europeans voicing frustrations that the division of labor in NATO operations is inappropriate. The frustration that has been voiced is that American forces fight the campaigns while Europeans are asked to deal with the peacekeeping and reconstruction after the campaign has been completed. A headline in the International Herald Tribune last week read: “U.S. Allies Chafe at ‘Cleanup’ Role.”

Last week a European leader is reported to have complained: “The message from Washington is ‘we’ll do the cooking and prepare what the people are going to eat, then you [Europeans] wash the dishes’.” We also have heard complaints – whether in Afghanistan or in the Balkans – that consultation is inadequate.

If these European allies’ concerns have been accurately stated and are the concern of our NATO allies, then we should all take steps to resolve our differences. The complaints about inadequate consultations may, at times, be legitimate. The U.S. should take every step to ensure that consultation is adequate and that allied contributions are integrated to the greatest degree possible. But I also would say, in all seriousness, that the best way to remedy such frustrations is to add military capability.

It is in everyone’s interest that NATO and the ESDP are compatible and complementary. This is an issue that must be addressed at very senior political levels of our respective governments – if we leave it to the EU bureaucrats (and maybe I should add our own uniformed and civilian military bureaucracy), I fear for the Alliance. Next year’s NATO Summit in Prague will provide the opportunity to address these concerns, and that opportunity should not be wasted to address these gaps and inadequacies.

It might be an appropriate end to this section of my remarks by noting a November 26th article in the International Herald Tribune. It summarizes the views of Francois Heisbourg and others “that Europe needs to do more or risk seeing more U.S. unilateralism.” And Jim Hoagland of the Washington Post’s editorial staff in an August 21st article notes that as a result of the “capabilities gap” the European participants, in contrast to the coordinated air targeting of the NATO actions against Serbia are apparently faced with the contrasting choice in the war on terrorism being waged in Afghanistan. There he noted, “European participation in this war is on a bilateral basis [with the U.S.] and undertaken under clear U.S. command authority.” I ask: Can anyone believe the capability gap for our European allies is good for the solidarity and future of NATO?

4. NATO Enlargement: Congressional Perspective
Most of you are aware that there is a strong consensus in Congress for expanding NATO well in advance of the Madrid Summit. Certainly there were several influential congressional opponents to enlargement, and a substantial and influential part of the American academic and foreign policy community that was opposed. Most of the opposition centered around the possible Russian reactions to enlargement and to the suggested impact on Russian-American relations.

In fact, it was the U.S. House of Representative that led the action for enlargement and subsequently initiated the NATO Enlargement Facilitation Act of 1996, which called for the prompt admission of Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovenia. Senate support and action then followed the House initiative. The Clinton Administration joined the tide and proceeded; although that is not the way they like to tell the story.

Were there some partisan considerations and were American domestic ethnic political considerations present? Yes, of course, and admittedly those factors strengthened the resolve and accelerated congressional action. The only congressional regrets among the majority of pro-enlargement was that the controversy regarding Romania’s readiness for NATO membership had the unfortunate consequence that a deserving Slovenia was not offered membership.

There will again be sufficiently strong support in Congress for a second round of enlargement approvals at the 2002 Prague Summit. Just last month, for example, the House of Representatives approved the Gerald Solomon Freedom Consolidation Act of 2001. This bill, sponsored by this Member, was named in honor of our recently departed former Assembly colleague; it reaffirms Congressional support for NATO expansion. The bill recognizes the return to the right track by Slovakia, and adds that country to the list of nations authorized to receive aid under the previously enacted NATO Participation Act. In addition, the Act increases the authorized level of U.S. Foreign Military Financing for Bulgaria, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia as requested by the Bush Administration. The House bill makes it absolutely clear that the Prague Summit is the appropriate forum to consider worthy applicants and, the fact that the bill was approved in the House of Representatives by a vote of 372-46 is a testament to the level of support that NATO expansion enjoys.

There have been other expressions of congressional support for NATO enlargement. In general, these expressions take the form of resolutions introduced on behalf of specific countries. Our NATO Parliamentary Assembly colleague, John Shimkus, has introduced a resolution expressing support of membership for the Baltic states. Another Member of Congress, John Mica, has proposed similar language on behalf of Slovakia. In the Senate, Senator Helms has authored language encouraging NATO membership for Ukraine when it demonstrated its worthiness.

And, lastly, during the debate on admission to Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic, the Senate made it absolutely clear that any new member must bring real military capability to the Alliance. I am certain that expectation remains. Obviously, however, each applicant will bring its own unique assets. Some applicants, for example, may have particular strengths in peacekeeping. The Senate, which must ratify any expansion of U.S. treaty responsibilities, will probably forthrightly insist that all aspirants contribute to NATO’s collective security.


I have taken the opportunity this afternoon to express an American’s sincere appreciation for the support of our European allies in the war against terrorism, but also to raise concerns about the long-term health or solidarity of the Alliance. While the Alliance has performed admirably, there are growing perception, attitudinal, issue, and capability differences or gaps which are emerging. Moreover, there are deeper institutional issues in NATO-EU relations that need to be resolved, along with the procedures and programs to smooth out in order to maximize the beneficial prospects of this relationship. Ignoring these problems does not serve the Alliance well; therefore I have raised my concerns in the hope of constructive debate. I will say that I am very hopeful that these concerns can be resolved and will work in my capacity to that end. A continued healthy relationship among European, United States, and Canadian allies is so clearly in NATO’s best interest. I trust that the great majority in all nineteen NATO countries and aspirant countries want the world’s most effective defense alliance to remain strong as an instrument of peace and stability in the world.

Only by addressing these emerging differences head-on can we ensure the long-term health of the Alliance. I hope you will receive my remarks today in that spirit.

Thank you.

Leave a Reply