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Mark Brzezinski

Closing the gulf with our allies

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Mark Brzezinski
June 1, 2008

PRESIDENT BUSH travels to Europe this month to participate in the US-European Union Summit and to visit key partners, including France, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom. These summits are likely to produce joint declarations of "bon amie" and official statements that the drift in the trans-Atlantic relationship is diminished.

There has been some progress on shared challenges, but there remains a substantive strategic gap regarding fundamental issues.

That the "trans-Atlantic divide" continues is reflected in a recent speech by CIA Director Michael Hayden, in which he predicted a widening gulf between Europe and the United States on how to deal with security threats, including terrorism. While US and European officials agree on the urgency of the terrorism threat, there is a fundamental difference over how best to confront it. The United States sees the fight against terrorism as a global war. European nations perceive the terrorist threat as a law enforcement problem. "They tend not to view terrorism as we do, as an overwhelming international challenge. Or if they do, we often differ on what would be effective and appropriate . . . to counter it," Hayden said.

Bush's trip to Europe, as well as his trip to Japan in July for the G-8 Summit, could be catalysts for consensus with key allies about the nature of the challenges and dangers we face. But that depends on the president initiating a dialogue on what we can do together concerning these challenges.

Clearly the dialogue must address terrorism: How can the United States and Europe more closely coordinate and support respective counterterrorism strategies? How can we share intelligence more effectively, so conclusions aren't made on sneaking suspicions but instead on a scientific approach? The United States has strong signal intelligence capabilities, and some European countries have good political intelligence: Are we cross-pollenizing effectively? Counterterrorism cooperation - including information sharing, joint training, operations, anticorruption programs, and targeting terrorist financing - allow us to succeed without using repressive tactics, because brutality breeds terror, it does not defeat it.

But the dialogue must also address the energy challenge, conspicuously absent from the US-EU Summit agenda at this point. As energy expert Daniel Yergin asked in the Financial Times, "Oil prices at this level take us into a new world - 'break point' - where the question is not only 'how high can the price go?', but also 'what will be the response?' "

While Europeans pay more (Britain's national average pump price for regular unleaded recently hit $8.61 a gallon), Americans and Europeans are experiencing sticker shock at the pump. Now is the time for greater collaboration and coordination on the renewable research agenda, both at a US-EU level and among companies to speed up development of the next generation of biofuels. We should discuss with the Europeans the possibility of merging our efforts on biofuels or the development of cellulosic ethanol.

Energy creates the potential for competition and conflict, but also for collaboration. After the first oil crisis in the 1970s, the International Energy Agency took steps toward coordinating US-Europe-Japanese energy policies. It's time to build on that foundation. That will require an America open to such collaboration, and a Europe able to speak with one voice on energy. Merging efforts and resources would signal to oil producers that the free ride on exorbitant oil prices is going to come to an end.

In the coming two years, our alliances with Europe and Japan, key anchors for America's engagement with the world, will celebrate anniversaries. NATO will celebrate its 60th anniversary. The US-Japan "Treaty on Mutual Cooperation and Security" will celebrate its 50th year. The signing of NATO's charter unified America and Europe at an uncertain time behind a jointly defined purpose. The US-Japan treaty committed the United States to meet an armed attack against Japan, and provided the basis for a former foe to become America's crucial ally in the Far East.

Today America, Europe, and Japan are not concerned with only regional self-defense, and terrorism and energy security challenge global stability. Greater collaboration and coordination on both will infuse confidence at a critical time.

Mark Brzezinski, an international lawyer at McGuireWoods LLP, served on the National Security Council staff in the Clinton administration.

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