the Second World War, successive US Administrations have
championed the cause of European unity. They never took
the idea terribly seriously, of course. The Europeans had
been fighting one another for centuries. They were hardly
likely to become peace-loving nations now. By European unity
Americans meant little more than the creation of institutions
to facilitate compliance with Washington’s commands. Rather
than having a dozen capitals to call, the President of the
United States could convey his wishes with a single phone
call to Brussels. The European Economic Community as it
was once known was seen as a mechanism to ensure that the
Europeans paid their share of NATO’s costs and did not wander
off the reservation pursuing their own separate foreign
the Cold War, any assertion of European independence was
met by US threats to withdraw from NATO. It was all a bluff,
of course, and the Europeans knew it. The Americans were
not stationing hundreds of thousands of troops on the European
continent out of the kindness of their hearts. Washington
had always regarded NATO as a mechanism to ensure US supremacy
over potential economic and political rivals. Nonetheless,
the Europeans went to some trouble to avoid antagonizing
the United States by overt displays of independence. The
Soviet Union was still around, and no one in Europe wanted
to shell out large sums of money on defense. This suited
Uncle Sam just fine, and thus was relationship of mutual
dependence born. Europeans lived comfortably and America
got to be "leader of the free world."
end of the Cold War inevitably brought all this to an end.
There was now nothing to stop the Europeans from asserting
their independence. While the US subsidy was still nice,
there was no real need for it any longer. Europeans could
make do with a much smaller defense budget, one that even
they could afford. The economic rivalries that had been
suppressed for the sake of Allied unity during the Cold
War broke out into the open. As individual nation states
the Europeans could not possibly challenge the Americans.
They were too small and vulnerable for that. But as member
states of the European Union they comprised a Great Power.
I wrote last week about the multiplying trade disputes between
the two continents. The World Trade Organization has served
to increase the ferocity of these fights, since everyone
ignores its rulings. Indeed, it can only be a matter of
time now before either the United States or the European
Union pulls out of the WTO altogether. The US claims that
the EU gives preferential treatment to bananas imported
from its former Caribbean colonies. The WTO ruled against
the EU. The Europeans ignored the ruling; the US unilaterally
imposed sanctions. The United States claims the EU unfairly
restricts imports of hormone-treated beef. The WTO ruled
against the EU; the EU ignored the ruling; the US imposed
sanctions. The EU claims the US subsidizes the exports of
its multinationals, through the creation of so-called "foreign
sales corporations" paper companies that US exporters
have been allowed to set up abroad for the purpose of claiming
breaks their US tax bills. The WTO ruled in favor of the
EU; the US ignored the ruling; the EU imposed sanctions.
Now the US is claiming that the EU subsidizes Airbus Industrie,
Boeing’s chief European rival. Recently, the United States
proposed to the World Trade Organization that governments
change the way they subsidize farmers. Under the plan, the
current domestic subsidies system would be revised to eliminate
those agricultural subsidies not directly linked to price
and volume of output. There also would be a ceiling on the
level of domestic subsidies based on a percentage of the
country’s total agricultural production. The Europeans strongly
object to this proposal. The EU pays farmers not to farm.
On the other hand, the Europeans claim that the US also
subsidizes its farmers through the annual disbursement of
these economic rivalries are the political disputes. The
United States is supporting Kosovo’s right to secede from
Serbia. The Europeans oppose it. There is little enthusiasm
for a Greater Albania a state that would do for global
criminal enterprise what Khomeini’s revolution did for the
revival of Islam. Yet the Americans continue to push for
it. The Europeans suspect that the US objective is to create
problems for them down the road. According
to The Guardian "independence [is] fast
becoming a reality on the ground because almost half the
Kosovan Serbs had left the province and the Kosovo Albanians
were setting up their own judicial and political system."
The paper quotes a senior US official explaining: "Kosovo
will not be pushed back into Serbia." The same official
goes on to argue that while UN Security Council Resolution
1244 "explicitly recognizes the territorial integrity
of Yugoslavia… it does not mean Kosovo cannot be independent."
The level of dishonesty on the part of the United States
is breathtaking. The secession of Kosovo is being justified
on Realpolitik grounds: the Albanians want no part
of Serbia, so it is pointless to insist that they stay.
Yet this tough-minded realism does not apply to the Bosnian
Serbs who want no part of the bogus state of Bosnia, preferring
to belong to Yugoslavia. Nor does it apply to the Kosovo
Serbs in the northern part of the province. They also would
prefer to belong to Yugoslavia.
outrageous of all, the Security Council Resolution states
unambiguously that Kosovo is part of Yugoslavia. But to
US officials a decision that every country in the world
has given its assent to is merely a scrap of paper, to be
ignored whenever convenient by a piece of lawyerly legerdemain.
This is the kind of dishonesty that drives Europeans and
just about everyone else up the wall. It is of a piece with
Vice President Al Gore’s claim that building a national
missile defense system would not violate the 1972 ABM Treaty.
The idea is absurd. On both Kosovo and on the ABM Treaty,
the Europeans are in agreement with the Russians and in
strong opposition to the United States.
the Europeans and the Russians agree on many other issues
as well. They are both opposed to any further expansion
of NATO. They are both much more sympathetic to the Palestinian
cause than the United States. The Russians and the Europeans
(with the exception of Britain) have for years urged that
the sanctions on Iraq be eased. The Russians recently ended
the embargo on air flights to Baghdad. The Europeans are
likely to follow suit before long. The Russians announced
recently that they did not consider the UN air embargo to
be justified under the UN resolutions. Soon after, a Russian
plane, carrying humanitarian supplies and a delegation of
oil officials and politicians, landed in Baghdad. The Russians
are almost certainly correct in their interpretation of
the Security Council Resolutions. They did not bar commercial
airline flights. The ban was merely something the United
States insisted on. As a result, Iraq has been without regular
airline service for a decade. The Russian airline Aeroflot
is also planning to reopen offices in Baghdad in anticipation
of resuming flights. The French also made a flight to Iraq
recently. Aboard were about 60 French doctors, artists and
sports personalities. The United States demands that these
flights to Iraq cease. But its influence over the Europeans
diminishes daily. During the Cold War, there was the standard
threat to pull out of NATO and let the Europeans face the
Russians on their own "agonizing reappraisal"
in John Foster Dulles’s famous words. But what can Washington
threaten now? To pull out of the Balkans? That would be
a dream come true for most Europeans.
Iraq handsomely repaid European generosity the other day.
Saddam Hussein threatened to withdraw his oil exports from
the world markets unless Iraq’s customers paid him in euros
instead of dollars. He called the dollar "enemy currency."
The dollar is, of course, the traditional currency of the
oil trade. Iraq then asked the United Nations to create
a euro-denominated account to handle the deposits. He is
sticking with the euro even though interest rates on euro-denominated
accounts are lower than those on dollar accounts. The UN
oil-for-food deal lets Iraq sell oil over a six-month period
on a renewal basis to buy food, medicine and other humanitarian
goods. Iraq did back down slightly a few days later by promising
to continue to accept payment in dollars for the time being.
But this is likely to be a temporary respite. For the Europeans
Saddam Hussein’s gesture was a timely boost for the euro.