Power, Purpose, and Principle: The Triangle of Transatlantic Relations
Twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the impact of that historic turning point continues to reshape the world and our thinking about it. We have been struggling to understand the transformation of power and influence in a global framework in which old and new players are shaping the challenges and choices of the twenty-first century. While the main players remain nation-states, a complex web of strategic alliances, global corporations, international organizations, and non-governmental groups increasingly impacts the framework in which states interact. The concept of globalization has been the most frequent label used to define the transformations of the last two decades. While this is often translated into increasing economic interdependence and its attendant vulnerabilities, globalization also means the impact of increasing aspirations and expectations among billions of people who are aware of the asymmetries in the world they inhabit. Furthermore, it means that the challenges we all face erode national boundaries, making it is more and more difficult for a country to control forces spilling over into their territories, be it terrorism, crime, climate change, pandemics, or economic panics.
The horrors of 9/11 brought home other kinds of globalization as well as the clash of visions about the future. The end of the Cold War brought with it the hot conflicts of ethnic, racial, and religious divides which had been lying underneath the tundra of the Cold War. Climate change became another key concept in the struggle to define globalized threats, along with the nightmare of a proliferation of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists.
The end of the Cold War did not make the world safer. It made it more complicated; it challenged us to develop new ways of responding to the challenges. All the tools we had developed in the last half century were fashioned to cope with the world that emerged out of WWII. These tools had served their purposes but are now seen as a reflection of power and influence in the past, less pertinent to the changing circumstances of the present. The thousands of nuclear weapons we had accumulated, the outdated structure of the United Nations Security Council, as well as the distribution of representation and influence in the international organizations-all of these tools are facing the need for either retooling or reinvention to face today's realities. As has been said about defense postures, the generals and their armies are always prepared to fight within the parameters of the last war. Today we have Cold War institutions with which we are trying to solve post-Cold War challenges; they will need to be adjusted accordingly.
If the post-Cold War world is no longer defined by bipolar confrontation, how should it be defined: multipolar? Non-polar? Or has the very concept of poles become outdated? It is clear that we are seeing a transforming equation of power, wealth, and influence emerging with new roles being claimed by China, India, and Brazil, among others, who are challenging the previous parameters of world politics in the last century.
Throughout the transformation of the last two decades, the transatlantic alliance at first appeared as the greatest winner of the end of the Cold War: NATO increased its membership and extended its reach beyond the border of Europe to Afghanistan; the European Union enlarged its ranks and its reach as the world's largest economic market with its own currency; after centuries of war, Europe had taken an historically unique step in the direction of transcending national sovereignty and creating a new form of international integration the likes of which had never before existed.
Taken as a whole, the transatlantic community has become an even more powerful space, not only based on the combination of economic, technological, and military capabilities, but also based on shared interests, goals, and values. The multi-level relationships across the Atlantic are matched nowhere else in the world, marked by millions of jobs generated by and dependent on them to generate billions of trade and investment. It is also defined by two of the most successful cooperative initiatives of nation-states in world history: NATO and the European Union, under whose roofs live close to a billion people.
Within the transatlantic community, there are both centrifugal and centripetal forces at work, within Europe as well as across the Atlantic, all involved in trying to find the best path forward into the twentyfirst century. Accurate road maps were and are hard to find.
In examining the choices ahead for Europe and the United States over the next ten years, three factors will be of central importance in shaping the world to come: the increasing interdependence in transatlantic relations, the sliding scale of consensus and competition, and the sharing of burdens and power across the Atlantic. How to envision this evolving world and the role of the United States, Europe, and Germany in it is the subject of this essay.
The United States: New Challenges in a New Century
Otto von Bismarck once said that God protects children, drunkards, and the United States of America. At the time he made that observation, the United States had not yet arrived as a major global power, having just survived a brutal civil war and major economic challenges. But the following century told a different story about the United States, and that story became known-at least to many American historians-as the American century. By the end of the twentieth century, the United States was to become the most powerful nation on the globe. Some explained the development with arguments about the exceptional nature of the United States-its powerful economy, its unique geography, its vast military strength, and its vibrant democracy. During most of the twentieth century, 5 percent of the world's population generated a quarter of the global gross domestic product (GDP). The country became a leader in research and development and innovation. And with close to eight-hundred military bases in forty countries, it could project power all over the globe.
The U.S. had also tipped the balance in ending both world wars of the last century. The United States came out of World War II as the leader of the Western Alliance and the driver of those institutions and alliances which would steer us through the Cold War and create a vast web of working relations with former enemies like Germany and Japan. U.S. policy was designed to support the emergence of a sustainable Western Europe on the front line of the Cold War. Toward that end, the U.S. was the founding leader of NATO and guaranteed the security of Western Europe for half a century. That brought with it enormous costs but also benefits, the latter becoming visible in the unification of Germany in 1990 and the gradual emergence of what President George H.W. Bush called a "Europe whole and free" during the following two decades. In the last half century, Europe and the U.S. accounted for 40 percent of world trade, 60 percent of global GDP, and 80 percent of the research and development products, with an exponential growth in transatlantic trade, services, and investment. There is no greater trade relationship in the world, an equation which generates close to four trillion dollars in annual sales and also over fourteen million jobs on either side of the Atlantic.
Yet the end of the Cold war was also a challenge to redefine how the U.S. and Europe would view the web of interdependence which had shaped the transatlantic relationship in terms of power, principles, and purposes.
By the time the Berlin Wall fell, followed by the implosion of the Soviet Union afterward, the accumulated economic, political, technological, and of course military power wielded by the U.S. appeared to be unparalleled in world history. Some described the period following the end of the Cold War as a period of an American empire, making comparisons between the United States with the vast reach of the Roman Empire some two thousand years earlier. But the fact is that neither the Romans nor the Americans ever experienced a real uni-polar moment. There were other parts of the world that were able to survive without Roman interference and could watch the Roman Empire decline as they flourished. The Roman Empire, in today's terms, was more of a regional force in its pinnacle of power.
While the United States was to become a truly global power, it was unable to win, control, or solve conflicts in Korea or Vietnam, to stop genocide in Rwanda, or to bridge the conflicts in the Middle East. After decades with the U.S. and the Soviet Union facing each other with thousands of nuclear weapons at the ready while engaging in many proxy wars around the world, the end of the Soviet Empire was heralded as a victory for the west and the end of history. But the 1990s reminded us again of history's remarkable resilience, as ethnic conflicts raged in the Balkans, Chechnya, and Africa. Ultimately, with all its global force projection, the U.S. was not able to prevent a terrorist attack on New York's World Trade Center in 1993 and another more catastrophic attack in 2001. An array of powerful resources did not translate into control over the course of world politics. It was a world as it always was-marked by a diffusion of power.
THE USE OF AMERICAN POWER AND PURPOSE
With all the power available to it, the U.S. has always faced serious constraints on its choices and decisions. Today, the web of globalization makes for more interdependence with regard to trade, energy supply, counterterrorism, climate change, large scale migration, and the spread of disease. That complex equation of interdependence involves tradeoffs, compromises, and sometimes setbacks. It does not lend itself to a command and control approach.
Despite its unique collection of power resources and projection, there are constraints on the degree to which the United States can control and influence the behavior of governments because power in today's world is more multi-dimensional but also more diffuse than ever before. The option of military intervention is fraught with dangers as we have seen in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The dictatorial suppression of civil rights in many countries is a reality that the United States cannot alter, be it in China, Burma, Egypt, or Iran, among many others. At the same time, the need to engage those same governments in dealing with threats and dangers is part of that reality.
There are also domestic constraints on what the U.S. is willing to do with its power, be they economic or indeed political, especially when the country does not have a domestic policy consensus. We saw that demonstrated during the Vietnam War and we see it again today in the debates over Afghanistan.
The debate about how to use American influence and power is as old as the country itself. The U.S. debated the issue even when it had very little power to project. There were those who felt that America's global role was to lead with the power of its example, while others argued that it is the example of its power which leads other countries to follow. In fact, both approaches were and are needed at different times and under different circumstances.
Some argue that it is a debate between those who promote what is called soft power-the power to persuade-while others believe that America must always have the ability to exercise hard power-the power to demonstrate political will and the ability to back it up with the threat or the actual use of force.
Again, this is not a new debate at all. There have always been those who advocate that the United States is best advised to focus on what other nations do in their foreign relations rather than what is going on inside countries. Others believe it should be the principle of the U.S. to seek to influence the development of states in the direction of the principles of democracy and stability.
During recent years, proponents of both sides have seen the weaknesses of their arguments demonstrated. The Clinton administration demonstrated that persuasion was not going to work in stopping the genocidal violence in the Balkans. Hard power was required. The Bush administration demonstrated the limits of the use of military power to control states behavior in the cases of Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the failure to prevent others from pursuing their own hard power in the form of nuclear capabilities.
In today's globalized world, the composition of international power has shifted more in the direction of economic levers, with the increasing interdependencies of nations forcing countries to find ways to engage in securing economic security and stability within their own borders as well as across them. States can link their economic power to foreign policy goals both as deterrents and as incentives, be they sanctions or trade agreements. Still, economic efforts alone have also proven inefficient, illustrated by Iran as it continues to flaunt years of sanctions in its efforts to achieve nuclear power or by the dictators in Burma or in North Korea. Finding the right balance of hard and soft power remains the challenge of diplomacy.
President Barack Obama has now entered this continuing debate. How will he forge the balance with partners and competitors? Today we are seeing both change and continuity in an American debate about the priorities we need to set in the twenty-first century. When President Obama took office most of the world's reaction was positive. Of course, simply not being George W. Bush was enough for many people to greet the new president with enthusiasm. But the continuing challenges of preventing nuclear proliferation and terrorist attacks, climate change, energy security, and global economic recession all still confronted the new occupant of the White House.
INTERDEPENDENCIES IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY
The increasing degree of interdependence among states has made consensus at once more difficult and at the same time more necessary. In this framework, the role of the United States has not been diminished. It remains a pivotal power for every nation on the globe. But it's also clear that the new equations of power require the engagement of ever more players. One illustration of both is the enhanced importance of the G20 meetings, which now appear to have assumed greater influence than the G8 meetings among primarily western states. On the other hand, increasing number of actors can also constrain efficiency. Nevertheless, there is an increasing need to recognize the levels of mutual interdependence or mutual indispensability on the global stage. President Obama has indicated that he understands this complexity. The question remains: what tools are needed to deal with it?
ADDRESSING GLOBAL THREATS
An important dimension of the debate about the direction of its foreign policy has to do with the degree to which one nation can in fact shape the domestic direction of another. It is one thing to argue that military force should be applied to stop murder, slaughter, invasions, or aggression. It is another to seek to change the behavior of a country, especially if that behavior either threatens others or threatens its own population.
By what authority does one intervene in a country like Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, the Congo, Zimbabwe, Burma, or North Korea when we know the governments in power are subjecting the population to misery, poverty, and torture? What are the rules of engagement and who sets them? If the principle of national sovereignty is violated in terms of protecting its own citizens, who bears the responsibility to protect them?
The decision by the United States to lead an international force to remove Saddam Hussein from Iraq in 1991 was supported by a larger alliance of nations who saw both the need and the self interest in stopping unilateral aggression as shared value and goal. In 1999, air attacks on Serbia were carried out within the framework of NATO but without a United Nation Security Council mandate, which could not be reached by consensus. The decision by the U.S. to attack Afghanistan in 2001 was based on the country's use as a platform from which al Qaeda was able to attack the United States. That decision was supported within the framework of the NATO alliance through Article 5 as well as within most of the international community. Two years later, the U.S. decision to attack Iraq was based on assumptions concerning alleged efforts in Baghdad to acquire weapons of mass destruction, an assumption that turned out to be wrong, but the decision was also the source of major conflict between the United States and many countries in Europe who did not support it.
In the absence of global government we have to rely on building a consensus-some would call it a "coalition of the willing"-to respond to perceived threats. But as we have seen, there is not always agreement on the nature of the threat and there may be different sets of partners engaged each time. Some have argued that there ought to be a new alliance, a worldwide League of Democracies, perhaps, willing to respond to such challenges. Others see in that initiative a weakening of existing institutions and platforms such as the United Nations. Yet it is clear that forging a consensus in the UN is anything but easy and often results in less-than-effective actions. The argument over the decision to invade Iraq in 2003 brought all these weaknesses to light and we have yet to figure out what lessons need to be learned from that experience, both for those who were against as well as those who supported it.
A NON-TRADITIONAL SUPERPOWER
In all of these frameworks however, the United States is still cast in the role of being a global leader, or put another way, a global balancer. To lead, however, is not to dominate or dictate. It means primarily the ability to lead the way toward solving problems. U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has said about American leadership, "Success will be less a matter of imposing one's will and more a function of shaping behavior-of our friends, our adversaries, and, most importantly, the people in between."1 The people in between are those to whom President Obama spoke in Cairo, in Ghana, in his (religious holiday) messages to the Iranians, and most recently to audiences in Asia. He has not used phrases such as "axis of evil" to describe countries as much as he has been speaking about the responsibilities of governments to their own peoples, wanting to give encouragement to those who can strengthen that trend. In this, Obama echoes one of the last speeches of President Kennedy in 1963 when he spoke of having a common human destiny, "with all of us breathing the same air, and seeking similar goals."2
But as in the past, President Obama's success will also be determined by the degree to which those engaged in problem-solving believe that progress is being made under the leadership of the United States. As the last half century of the transatlantic alliance has demonstrated, one can argue that selfinterest is always more enlightened when the interests of others are also considered. In a world in which power is becoming more diffuse or splintered, it is that much more important that everyone feels a sense of being empowered to solve problems. But this argument will not always persuade the dictators who see the preservation of their own power as the first priority, be it in Zimbabwe, Burma, or the many other sites of injustice and cruelty around the globe. President Obama's recent Nobel Prize acceptance speech in Oslo referred to the principle of nonviolence but also to the need for force to secure the freedom and liberty of the oppressed.
Like all his predecessors in the White House, President Obama has the opportunity to engage U.S. power to address the multitude of challenges the United States must confront. Given that there are so many challenges, the key question to be answered is how can the United States use its finite resources most effectively? Fareed Zakaria recently laid out a rationale for American leadership. He suggests that the United States could play the role of an honest broker-a role he sees Germany having briefly played in the late nineteenth century-by "forging relations with each of the major countries, ties that were closer than the ones [the major] countries had with one another."3 He says that this is the role the U.S. should be playing-not as a traditional superpower, but as one which practices consultation, cooperation, and compromise. But if and when that strategy fails, the use of force will still remains a necessary tool.
However, the capacity of American power and diplomacy will depend not only on how we use them but on the policies and goals we are pursuing. The Bush years were marked by policies that lacked both diplomacy and the ability to compromise. He was often a prisoner of his own ideological making, constrained by his policies instead of having the willingness to make changes when needed. Obama assumed office with the opportunity to change right away the tone as well as the goals of foreign policy; his approach has been to expand the framework in which problems are encased to involve more stakeholders in finding solutions. We will be watching to see how his success can be measured. After one year in office, there are some that are critical of the president, accusing him of being all talk but not getting many results-whether extending a hand to Iran for dialogue, resetting the dialogue button with Moscow, or persuading the Palestinians and the Israelis to bridge their conflicts. Others felt, less than a year in the White House, that he deserved the Nobel Peace Prize for helping to reset the agenda of global cooperation and dialogue. Between those two positions we will find the President struggling with the decisions amidst a very noisy American debate at home and a new equation of power and influence abroad. The President's decision to increase the military presence in Afghanistan during the next two years is a vivid demonstration of the complexity of those decisions involving American power and purpose.
LEADERSHIP AT HOME
On the domestic front, President Obama faces the double challenge of maintaining confidence in his leadership to guide the country through the worst economic recession in seven decades. His presidency- and the prospects of a second term in 2012-will now hinge on the support he will need in Congress and throughout the country to engineer both legislative reforms in health care and climate policy and in dealing with the enormous expansion of the role of government in confronting the twin problems of generating economic growth and jobs to go along with it.
In the foreign policy arena, several benchmarks of the President's next three years will be set by the ability to stabilize Afghanistan to enable an eventual withdrawal of the U.S. presence there, the shift of responsibility for stability in Iraq to Iraqis, and the capability of showing some measure of progress in containing Iranian aspirations for nuclear power in order to head off a perceived need to take military action. All of these plus many more challenges will need to be managed in ways that emphasize the leadership of the United States in partnership with others in the pursuit of common purposes.
Wielding such leadership is directly connected to maintaining the power of legitimacy. Generating support for policies-at home and abroad-is not just a good idea; it is a requirement, especially when the use of force is involved. Generating international public support for American foreign policy is critical in a world in which nations have their own interpretation of events and actions. The battle of ideas remains at the core of a successful foreign policy. As demonstrated by his speech in Cairo, what Obama has done is to refocus the world on principles America represents. How successful he will be in places around the world which appear to have intractable and hopeless problems will depend on his ability to lead the country in the direction of joining forces to solve those problems, but he will need other leaders of other countries and organizations to succeed.
In the twenty-first century, the United States is not going to have the same set of conditions which it enjoyed in the previous century. It will find it more challenging to mobilize its resources in a world in which it's economic, military, technological, and therefore political weight will be increasingly matched by others. Certainly China has the potential of becoming a chief competitor to the U.S. Yet the constraints which China faces are also significant as far as solving a large mix of social, environmental, and economic problems-apart from the challenge the government faces in trying to maintain its highly centralized political control of the state.
For the U.S., thinking about the future means thinking about managing leaders in partnerships which will be forged by and with those leaders interested in a combination of both shared interests and values. The strongest platform for such partnerships remains across the Atlantic.
Europe's Next Steps
The EU success story is truly unique, particularly when one remembers the centuries of bloodshed that had previously plagued Europe. In little more than half a century the Europe which had been devastated by war had reassembled itself around the goal of a united Europe. Beginning in 1957, the evolution of that unification process has been gaining momentum each decade with increasing membership, and an intensified effort to speak with a unified voice. Much has been accomplished in the creation of a set of European institutions and processes of governance, the creation of a common currency within the world's largest internal market, and increased capabilities of the European Union to forge common ground among the membership and to speak with a common voice to the rest of the world. The recently approved Treaty of Lisbon represents the next phase in the evolution of Europe, offering an enhanced opportunity to strengthen the efficiency and coherence of this union of twenty-seven states.
EUROPE: AN INCOMPLETE PROJECT
And yet for all its accomplishments, Europe itself is still a work in progress. As the battle over the Lisbon Treaty made clear, the European Union is still made up of member states working toward some new forms of shared sovereignty while wanting to maintain a balance of authority between them and the Union. While the EU's reach into the domestic decisionmaking of the member states is growing, there are still important differences in approaches to foreign policy interests and priorities. Even though the treaty has created the basis for a Common Security and Defense Policy, implementing it will take more evolution. Despite with the introduction of a High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the primary authority in this area remains with the member states. There are too many cracks over issues such as further expansion of EU membership, the use of military force to confront threats, and the availability of resources for a defense force.
The economic recession has also tested the resolve of a common European response as governments struggle to deal with debt and unemployment without falling victim to the pull of protectionist temptations.
The future of Europe is of enormous importance to the U.S., and President Obama has made that clear with multiple visits since he was elected. But that importance is no longer reflected in its front-line status in the Cold War, but rather in its ability to be partner in dealing with challenges within and well beyond European borders.
CHALLENGES ON THE EUROPEAN AGENDA
That also means that Europe must deal with its own remaining areas of instability, such as in the Balkans, Cyprus, or within the many countries aspiring to membership in the EU. It has yet to answer the question: where is the border of Europe and how should it be defined?
Additionally, no less than the United States, Europe must be able to come to grips with its own capacities to coordinate its energy policies as well as its economic policies; this will help it act more as a global player, attending to the needs of those around the world seeking economic and political equity and able to exert pressure on those who seek to use energy supplies for political ends.
Europe faces some serious domestic problems in the near future, some of which are more acute than others. There are economic and social challenges ahead which will come with enormous pressure on the future of member states with expensive social welfare and health care systems. Europe's demographic future is facing the double challenge of a declining working population amidst an aging public and a long-term problem of labor shortages. There are serious immigration challenges, particularly with regard to expanding Muslim communities across Europe, and the struggle to find the right equation between religious freedom and cultural heterogeneity.
These are all significant challenges, but based on the track record of the last half century, we should not underestimate the possibilities for finding solutions. At the same time, those solutions will be influenced and shaped by the larger set of challenges emerging well beyond Europe, in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. This is an age in which the agendas of the world's major countries may not be driven by the thirst for conquering countries but increasingly by the threats of nuclear proliferation, the expanding need for energy supplies, an endangered climate, the pathology of terrorism, and by the increasing demands of billions of people who want an equitable share of the world's resources.
Within the framework of transatlantic relations, there is a unique and deep foundation on which to build partnerships for these twenty-first century challenges we all face. The history of those relations over the last half century includes many successes, one of the major pinnacles being German unification in 1990. Yet it is the unification of Germany that also signaled the evolution of a Europe which would develop new capabilities as well as choices for itself as well as in its relationship with the United States.
Germany: A Leader in Partnership
During the past few decades, the Federal Republic of Germany has evolved as the world's leading export nation, a powerful economy, and a leading actor on many international stages, be they in Europe or across a range of international institutions and initiatives. Germany has also been both the lead supporter of the EU's development during the past half century and has been a major beneficiary of that success. West Germany has also been a linchpin supporter for NATO during the Cold War as a primary basing theater and it remains a cornerstone of the alliance today.
For the duration of the Cold War, there was a stable bargain across the Atlantic. The presence of the largest concentration of American forces in the world spread primarily throughout Germany guaranteed German and West European security in the face of Soviet forces on the other side of the Wall and the opportunity to grow into one of the most politically vibrant and economically wealthy regions in the world.
In return, Germany became a key partner across a wide spectrum of transatlantic initiatives. Eventually that collaboration led to the unification of Germany, clearly the biggest success story of German- American relations.
Germany has been sensitive to the roles it can play as well as those in which it must continue to be aware of the legacy of its past. But it has been able to secure in most instances recognition of legitimacy as a partner and in many cases as a leader.
The German-American relationship throughout all this time is truly a unique one. In one century two countries went from the blackest depths of hostility and war in the first half of that century to the pinnacle of international partnership in the second half and into the beginning of another.
The path has not been free of clashes. We saw that in the argument over Iraq and some might be inclined to mark that clash as a sign that Germany and the United States were beginning to part ways in both their policies and their perspectives.
But clashes were and are nothing new in German- American relations as it had been through others in the Cold War period. Policies and people struggling with the choices and decisions often saw different routes even if the goals were shared.
Pick your year, pick your chancellor, and pick your president:
- August 1961, when the Berlin Wall went up. President Kennedy and Adenauer argued about what to do about it but Kennedy became a hero in Germany a short time later with his famous "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech.
- In 1973, the Yom Kippur War in the Middle East caused President Richard Nixon and Chancellor Willy Brandt to trade barbs over Germany's refusal to allow Bremerhaven to be used to transport arms to the Middle East; Henry Kissinger declares 1973 to be the Year of Europe.
- In 1982 the heated debate over the double track decision resulted in Helmut Schmidt losing his job as Chancellor but Helmut Kohl kept U.S.-German relations on track.
- 1990 and the unification of Germany.
- And within the space of two years 2001-2003 Chancellor Schröder's declaration of unlimited solidarity for the U.S. after the 9/11 attacks became replaced by what Condoleezza Rice called a "poisoned relationship" following the invasion of Iraq.
All along the way, we have seen divisions both across the Atlantic as well as within each country when it came to dealing with all these issues and making choices about how to respond.
It is clear that the ways in which Germany and the U.S. need each other in today's world is different than it was twenty years ago in a changed world shaped by complex constraints and related choices. The fact that we have come to a new equation of interests, needs, and perspectives on the many concerns we face today is based on the opportunity we shared in forging both German unification and also on the ways in which we have shared the opportunities and challenges in helping to forge an enlarged and strengthened Europe. Germany's need for the United States remains a multi-dimensional one, reflected in a vast web of security, economic, and political relationships.
Similarly, the U.S. has a set of connections with Germany that is unique among its European neighbors, be it measured in economic interests, the presence of the U.S. military for decades, and a vast array of contacts at all levels of government. The German- American equation is one that reflects as much the domestic political debate about each other as it does the discussion and the dialogue between the two societies. Coming to grips with why these two countries need each other-and explaining it in public-is the responsibility of the respective political leaderships.
It used to be said that pre-1990 Germany was an object of American foreign policy, as a front line state in the Cold War with the largest concentration of American troops in Europe. Since 1990, Germany has been evolving in a direction of being a partner of American foreign policy. The difference is that Germany has become more a leader in partnership with the United States in dealing with a broad agenda of challenges, be they in Europe or well beyond. Leaders can disagree over both the means of solving problems as well as on the problems themselves.
Germany has choices today that it did not have during the Cold War. While Germany has chosen to remain the third strongest source of support for ISAF today in Afghanistan, which is its first military engagement outside of Europe since 1945, the choice to say no to participation in the 2003 Iraq war was seen as the prerogative of a sovereign country. In the wake of the bond between West Germany and the U.S. throughout the Cold War, the clash of that choice with the Bush administration's decision was portrayed as a dramatic break in relations between Berlin and Washington. Yet, almost seven years later, there remains a vast web of connections between Germany and the United States, given the shared stake in a broad range of issues and interests. Some of that web goes back decades, made up of basing rights, sharing of intelligence, support for multilateral institutions, and shared trade and investment advantages which provide a platform on which policy differences can be managed.
Germany's relations with the United States in the coming years will be driven by a similar mix of factors shaping the larger framework of EU-U.S. relations. Relations with Russia in a post Soviet era will not be shaped by the same agenda as during the Cold War. Part of that has to do with different webs of interdependence when it comes to energy policies or trade relations. But part of it has to do with the changed nature of threats since the end of the Soviet Union.
Germany today is able to make choices that do not follow the same script of two decades ago. While the main tools of Germany's reintegration into Europe following World War II were the European Community and NATO, the post Cold War Germany today is more inclined to pursue its own interests, be they economic or political. A recent example of that is the German Constitutional Court's decision on the Lisbon Treaty, suggesting that it may not be in line with the German Constitution.
The track record is again a good one. But we do not want to take it for granted. There were always points along the way in which there was need for compromise and sometimes for arguing things out loud. Half the way toward solving a problem together is agreeing on what the problem is. The other half is sorting out what to do about it. As long as we believe that we have an interest in both ends of that process, there will be a basis of a strong bond. When we lose that basis, when the conflicts become hostage to personal or domestic politics, the challenge of keeping a balance becomes harder
The last twenty years throughout Europe saw the borders of the East-West division of the Cold War become bridges among the old and new members of both the EU and NATO. And all of that was in no small measure a product of a strong transatlantic relationship, defined by intensive economic ties, shared challenges like climate change and terrorist threats, and a commitment to a set of institutions that reflect shared principles and purposes.
Still, the fact remains that the transatlantic relationship has been evolving over the last few decades in ways that require both sides of the equation to revise how we need each other. Where there was once more dependence there is now more autonomy. Where there was once more asymmetry there is now more equity. Within the larger global framework of those relations, there is a transformation in the equation of wealth and power and the rise of new and powerful players on the stage. Everyone speaks of China and India, but we are also seeing the increasing importance of countries like Indonesia, Turkey, Brazil, and Iran. We all talk of climate change, but there are other challenges such as the supplies of food and water amidst explosive population growth in some areas of the world matched by a decline in population in others. In the coming decades, the youngest countries in the world will be south of the equator, and with that will come demands for jobs, expanding urbanization, and a lot of room for conflicts over resources. Thirty years ago, a quarter of the world's population lived in Europe, Japan, the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. In another fifteen years, that figure will be closer to 12 percent.
The challenge we face is not to define these developments as a decline in the importance of transatlantic relations but rather to define them as ever-more embedded in an expanding set of influences on our decisions. The mega trends we see coming today are all interconnected: Supporting economic growth while preventing further global warming, developing new sources of energy to improve our common security by making the future full of stakeholders.
What does this suggest for the future of transatlantic relations? It does not mean that the shift to a global agenda diminishes the relationship. Given the vast web of interdependencies which marks it, they are indispensable to both sides of the Atlantic, whether the measurement be economic, or in terms of shared challenges to both interests and values. Yet that same interdependence brings with it clashes over means to meet challenges and even sometimes over the goals themselves. Much of this is driven by the complexity of our respective domestic political debates, which are impacted by the vast degree of interdependence shared across the Atlantic. Examples are many: the responses to the financial crisis last year brought to the surface different emphases on how to deal with inflation, regulatory regimes, and the temptations of protectionist measures. In the wake of the Copenhagen Climate conference, there is transatlantic frustration over how to reach an accord on climate policy. Despite the commitment President Obama has made to climate change and energy efficiency, there is disappointment in Europe that the process in Washington is not proceeding with the same targets. Additional tensions have riddled the effort to deal with the difficult choices and trade offs in Afghanistan and Pakistan, whose instability represent threats not only in the region but to transatlantic security as well. Washington has been disappointed with the limitations of European allies to engage their resources in these two nations so much at risk.
Another sore spot in the transatlantic relationship remains an effective strategy to deal with Russia. Here we see the competing concerns and interests across the Atlantic, as well as within the European Union, preventing a coherent response to Russian efforts to assert its interests and demonstrate its use of power to pursue them. While Obama's efforts to seek out a new dialogue with Moscow were welcomed in Europe at the beginning, there remain doubts about the outcome, perhaps demonstrated by the concerns over the decision by President Obama to change course with regard to missile defense. As the old saying goes, where you stand is where you sit and the view of many eastern Europeans differs from those who sit not as closely to Russia. What Washington saw as a better way to contain Iran was seen by others in Europe as a worse way to contain Russian ambitions.
And then there is disagreement over the future of Turkey as seen from Washington and parts of Europe. We see a clash of interests over both means and ends for Turkey's membership in the European Union.
As has been made clear by the first decade of the twenty-first century, the agenda for both sides of the Atlantic has evolved to a global level, and we are finding that our capacity to respond is in some ways hindered by the more slowly evolving institutions and mechanisms that served us so well in the decades earlier.
Yet there is important continuity as well. Our security remains collective, our economic interests intricately intertwined, our commitment to the vast network of Euro-Atlantic institutions intact. There is also a shared sense of purpose to extend the achievements of the European Union as one of the greatest accomplishments in world history in securing democracy and stability across the continent that was so long a theater of war. The evolution of the path has demonstrated how states can share democratic governance, enhance markets, and secure their ability to overcome conflicts; it stands as a model and magnet for many others who stand at the door wishing to become part of that great experiment. If that sounds familiar it may because that this can be found in another narrative- that of the United States as it evolved during the past almost two and a half centuries. The United States also saw itself as a great experiment in democracy, overcoming the past burdens of war and creating a new platform for those who wished to join. While the United States is not entertaining bids from other countries to become states of the union, the European Union is. And in doing so, it is contributing to the stability of Europe in an important way by setting standards for that membership and challenging countries to measure up.
The attraction of the transatlantic community, whether it is marked by alliances such as NATO, by the European Union, or the vast web of our economic and social ties has been demonstrated in our ability to remove barriers to each other while building bridges to others. That will always be a work in progress but we have come a long way in a relatively short period of time.
Forty-seven years from the time he spoke the following words, President John F. Kennedy would be perhaps proud that his encouragement then has been echoed by one of his predecessors in the White House today. In 1962, Kennedy spoke of the spirit of transatlantic interdependence and he described in words that are as relevant today as they were then:
"That spirit of interdependence is today most clearly seen across the Atlantic Ocean. The nations of Western Europe, long divided by feuds far more bitter than any which existed among the 13 colonies, are today joining together, seeking, as our forefathers sought, to find freedom in diversity and in unity, strength.
The United States looks on this vast new enterprise with hope and admiration. We do not regard a strong and united Europe as a rival but as a partner. We believe that a united Europe will be capable of playing a greater role in common defense; of responding more generously to the needs of poorer nations; and of joining with the United States and others in lowering trade barriers, resolving problems of commerce, commodities, and currency, and developing coordinated policies in all economic, political, and diplomatic areas. We see in such a Europe a partner with whom we can work on a basis of full equality in all the great and burdensome tasks of building and defending a community of free nations.
It would be premature at this time to do more than indicate the high regard with which we view the formation of this partnership. The first order of business is for our European friends to go forward in forming the more perfect union which will someday make this partnership possible.
A great new edifice is not built overnight. It was eleven years from the Declaration of Independence to the writing of the Constitution. The construction of workable federal institutions required still another generation. The greatest works of our Nation's founders lay not in documents and declarations, but in creative, determined action. The building of the new house of Europe has followed the same practical, purposeful course. Building the Atlantic partnership now will not be easily or cheaply finished.
But I will say here and now, on this Day of Independence, that the United States will be ready for a Declaration of Interdependence, that we will be prepared to discuss with a united Europe the ways and means of forming a concrete Atlantic partnership, a mutually beneficial partnership between the new union now emerging in Europe and the old American Union founded here 175 years ago.
Acting on our own, by ourselves, we cannot establish justice throughout the world; we cannot insure its domestic tranquility, or provide for its common defense, or promote its general welfare, or secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity. But joined with other free nations, we can do all this and more. We can assist the developing nations to throw off the yoke of poverty. We can balance our worldwide trade and payments at the highest possible level of growth. We can mount a deterrent powerful enough to deter any aggression. And ultimately we can help to achieve a world of law and free choice, banishing the world of war and coercion.
For the Atlantic partnership of which I speak would not look inward only, preoccupied with its own welfare and advancement. It must look outward to cooperate with all nations in meeting their common concern. It would serve as a nucleus for the eventual union of all free men-those who are now free and those who are vowing that some day they will be free."4
The future of the transatlantic relationship will be increasingly shaped by the global challenges emerging during the coming decade. It will be, as Kennedy suggested, of critical importance that the United States and Europe find more effective means and institutions which both can avoid the centrifugal pull of inward looking interests and processes. As the European Union continues on its path toward a more integrated set of policies and processes, it will be necessary for the United States to maintain an intense dialogue with Brussels as well as the members represented there. As the United States continues to forge its decision and policies with a global outlook on its interests and goals, it will be vital for the European Union to be in close coordination with Washington.
That two-way dialogue will be based on both the broad and deep set of linkages reflecting shared interests and goals. We are connected in a network of interdependence not only with each other but within a global framework, in which the principles of mutual security, democratic rights, an open but regulated market, and justice need to be protected and pursued.
The United States must continue to work with the network of it transatlantic partners, be they in Brussels, Berlin, or elsewhere in the European Union to achieve these goals. This will be a challenging task as it has been in the past.
But President Kennedy's call for a declaration of interdependence still suggests today that there are few if any real alternatives to this challenge.
1 Leslie Gelb, Power Rules (New York: Harper Collins, 2009): 115.
2 John F. Kennedy, Commencement Address at American University, Washington, D.C., 10 June 1963, http://www.jfklibrary.org/Historical+Resources/Archives/Reference+Desk/Speeches/JFK/003POF 03AmericanUniversity06101963.htm.
3 Fareed Zakaria, The Post-American World (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2008).
4 John F. Kennedy, Address at Independence Hall, Philadelphia, PA, 4 July 1963, http://www.jfklibrary.org/Historical+Resources/Archives/Reference+Desk/Speeches/JFK/003POF03IndependenceHall07041962.htm .