posted on May, 10 2005 @ 08:01 AM
(I haven't really read this part, I was just kind of shocked by what I saw on the first page.....)
Still jostling after all these years
May 9th 2005
From The Economist Global Agenda
The leaders of the powers that fought the second world war met on Monday to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the defeat of Hitler and the start of
a new world order. But they are far from united on what the global system should look like now
They don't always face the same way
Get article background
IT WAS perhaps the oddest coalition in history. In 1945, America, Britain, France, the Soviet Union, China and dozens of other countries stood
shoulder to shoulder to defeat Nazi Germany and Japan. Americans referred fondly to Josef Stalin, Russia’s murderous dictator, as “Uncle Joe”.
French girls swooned when American soldiers entered their towns. And meanwhile, these unusual allies negotiated how to replace the blood-stained
interwar system of international relations, eventually agreeing to a new order under the United Nations. On Monday May 9th in Moscow, the leaders of
the wartime powers met to remember that historic unity in the face of evil.
The moment of unity, of course, was brief. The allies soon split into rival camps, one led by Stalin’s Soviet Union, the other by capitalist,
democratic America—with communist China maintaining a prickly relationship with both. The world suffered nearly half a century of fear of nuclear
annihilation. That fear receded with the end of the cold war in 1989-1991. But George Bush, Jacques Chirac, Vladimir Putin, Hu Jintao and other
leaders are meeting in Moscow with a long list of differences about how the world should be organised now.
The end of the cold war left America the world’s only superpower, and America’s official national-security doctrine is that this should remain the
case. But it was a decade before the superpower found a new organising principle for its policy: the September 11th 2001 attacks put America on a more
or less permanent war footing against terrorism, mainly its radical Islamist variety. America will lead, with “coalitions of the willing” where
possible, but the grimness of the terrorist threat, combined with fears that weapons of mass destruction are falling into the wrong hands, means that
alliances like NATO and international bodies like the UN will not hinder its freedom of action.
Meanwhile, the Europeans have drawn some very different lessons in the 60 years since 1945. After the war, France and Germany buried their enmity in a
project that became today’s 25-member European Union. Today, most Europeans think that international rules, like the EU’s and the UN’s, should
constrain states’ abilities to do dangerous things. And they see more dangers out there than just terrorists and nuclear proliferation—to them,
climate change threatens the world every bit as much or more, hence their zeal for the emissions-limiting Kyoto treaty, which America rejects.
Means and ends
The nature of the transatlantic rift is often misrepresented. By and large, America and Europe want the same things: expanding trade and prosperity,
nuclear non-proliferation, a solution for Israel and Palestine, an end to terrorism and so forth. But it is their chosen means that differ. America,
as the sole economic and military superpower, is far readier to pull out the big stick when speaking softly does not work, supported by defence
spending of more than twice the combined amount for the 25 EU members. Many Europeans believe that overweening power clouds America’s thinking: when
you have a big hammer, everything starts to look like a nail. Europeans like to say that they are much more adept at getting what they want by
speaking softly—but perhaps this is only because they lack America’s clout.
Different approaches are not always mutually exclusive. On Iran, for instance, the European and American stances are converging. Britain, Germany and
France have been trying to get the Islamic republic to forswear uranium enrichment (which could lead to the building of a nuclear bomb) in exchange
for mostly-economic incentives. America has mainly made tough-sounding noises and refused to rule out a military strike. But Mr Bush recently extended
his support to the European incentives-based approach. With Iran having since said that it will break its voluntary suspension of enrichment because
Europe did not brandish enough carrots, the frustrated Europeans may now support America in hauling Iran before the UN Security Council.
In another recent instance of co-operation, France and America stood side by side to pressure Syria out of Lebanon after the assassination of a former
Lebanese prime minister in February. The EU and America also spoke with one mind after Ukraine’s disputed election last year. And they recently
found a way through an impasse over the International Criminal Court: though America does not recognise the court, it agreed to let suspected
perpetrators of atrocities in Sudan’s Darfur region be put in the dock, so long as American nationals are kept out of the court’s jurisdiction.
Of dragons and bears
So America and Europe are mending their relationship over some of the most divisive issues. However, they are still not sure to handle their approach
to the other big victors of 1945, Russia and China. America is warily trying to manage Russia’s decline and China’s rise. Meanwhile, while some
Europeans may believe they have buried power politics, others—notably France’s right-wing Gaullists—are quite comfortable with power and want to
see a world in which a strong Europe, a rising China, a proud Russia and others counter-balance the American hegemon.
France has led the drive to lift the EU’s arms embargo on China, imposed after the 1989 crackdown on student protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen
Square. One motive is purely commercial—France (and Britain and others) want to sell weapons. But for the Euro-Gaullists, who include many outside
France, geopolitical calculations may have played a part too. It is America that deters a Chinese attack on Taiwan. Hence America’s threats of swift
and serious commercial retaliation if the embargo is lifted. Fortunately for the Europeans, China’s passing of a parliamentary resolution upholding
its right to invade Taiwan allowed them to postpone lifting the embargo while saving face. But the issue will not disappear.
Finally, Europe and America have not figured out what to do with the prickly and increasingly authoritarian host of this week’s commemoration. As
Russia celebrates the victory over fascism—in which more Russians died than citizens of all the other allied countries combined—a host of European
politicians and others have signed an open letter bemoaning Russia’s recent slide away from democracy. Mr Putin has weakened local authority by
insisting on appointing all regional governors himself; he has hobbled the independent press; and he has scared investors by sanctioning the arrest
and trial of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, an oil tycoon who had political ambitions. Estonia and Lithuania, two countries that formerly suffered under the
Soviet yoke, are boycotting the Moscow ceremonies.
Mr Putin recently described the collapse of the Soviet Union as the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century. In sharp contrast, Mr Bush
said at the weekend, while visiting the Latvian capital, Riga, that history would remember communism’s hold on central and eastern Europe as a
“wrong”. Mr Putin’s comeback was to tell an American TV interviewer that democracy cannot be exported but must be home-grown—a thinly veiled
criticism of the American president’s push for greater democracy in the Middle East and elsewhere.
Mr Bush expressed his concern over Russian democracy to Mr Putin in a recent meeting described as “frank”—often diplomatic code for
“heated”. Europe, meanwhile, has tried to balance encouragement of democracy with old-fashioned pursuit of its own goals—for example, supporting
Russian membership of the World Trade Organisation in exchange for Russia’s ratification of the Kyoto treaty. Europe—particularly Germany—is
heavily dependent on imported Russian oil and gas. Europe and America do agree with Mr Putin on one big thing: weakened though it may be, Russia must
be taken seriously. But neither seems sure quite how this should be done.
Copyright © 2005 The Economist Newspaper and The Economist Group. All rights reserved.