President George W. Bush will soon travel to Europe, and President Jacques Chirac will visit Washington. EU “Foreign Minister” Javier Solana has already been there, and returned bullish on future transatlantic cooperation. Atmospherically, at least, relations have, indeed, improved since the US presidential election, and both sides have expressed good will. Yet there is little ground for genuine optimism.
Bush’s declared intention to “better explain the reasons for his decisions” to America’s Allies simply will not do. Europeans don’t want explanations; they want to be consulted – to have input into American decision-making and see their concerns reflected in US foreign policy. None of this is likely to happen.
On the contrary, the US is continuing to thwart European efforts gradually to establish a rule-based international order. There are no signs that the Bush administration is relenting on, for example, the UN, the Kyoto Protocol, the International Criminal Court, the ban on land mines, or the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.
In Iraq, Europeans fully share the American objectives of preserving the country’s unity and achieving at least some modicum of democracy. At the same time, they believe that it is up to the US to remove the chaos it created, so they are reluctant to contribute to the task in a substantive way. European attitudes may seem shortsighted to Americans, but it would need a lot of cajoling to change them.