Filed under: Europe: TIES THAT BIND, Hard Choices, Hillary Clinton
This chapter tells about NATO our long standing alliance with western European nations and Canada. She credits it with containing the Soviet Union and when the wall fell NATO was able to expand to include many of the nations of Eastern Europe as well in the alliance.
At present there are 29 member nations in North America and Europe. After 9/11 NATO joined us in the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan and Iraq. The treaty states that an attack on one member nation is an attack on all members. This alliance has stood fast from the Cold War to the present day. It is one of the most successful alliances in history.
Our Relationship with Great Britain and France has been long and preceeded the NATO Alliance, they are well aware that more than sixty thousand American Soldiers lie buried in France alone whose lives were lost defending western European liberty and freedom.
The Germans are indebted to us for the Marshall Plan wherein we rebuilt Germany and other countries after the devastation of World War II. Germany eventually became the economic power house it is today.
The European Union is an Economic Alliance that includes 28 member states and more than 500 million people with a common currency and a trade policy of a single market governed by a central governing council based in Brussels Belgium. It was formed over a number of years and treaties and in 2002 a single currency, the Euro, was adopted. Today the European Union has a 16.5 trillion dollar economy.
The Union has held together despite economic stresses and strains. Germany has a favorable balance of trade and a strong saving propensity so it is the dominant economic power over other countries like Greece, Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Italy who are weaker economically and have to borrow to support their populations. Whether this will cause a modification in the principles of the Union or possibly a break up has yet to be seen. A principle problem is the single currency. Thus economically weaker countries are not in a position to devalue their currency to encourage exports and tourism to solve their problems when they are in financial trouble.
It is interesting that Hillary uses the term “Ties That Bind” rather than ties that unite because we are the principle actor when military problems arise such in the Balkans or Iraq and Afghanistan and many countries feel they do not have to participate or contribute very little. From 1950 to 2000 over ten million Americans were stationed in Germany alone. However France did take a leading role in the Libyan conflict.
There is an uneasy peace between Kosovo and Serbia, but there are still many areas of disagreement over such matters as borders, customs and freedom of movement. Serbia has yet to consent to Kosovo as an independent nation as it was a part of Serbia until 1999.
Neither state is a part of the European Union or a member of NATO.
The “troubles” in Northern Ireland mostly disappeared and the parties are moving towards greater cooperation. Part of this is due to the diplomatic efforts of President William Clinton and his representative George Mitchell, Special Envoy for Northern Ireland.
Turkey has been a member of NATO since 1952 and is led by Prime Minister Recep Erdogan and his Islamist Party. Turkey is an economic powerhouse which bridges Europe and Asia. It is a laboratory to see whether democracy and secular values can exist alongside an Islamic state.
After WWI Mustafa Kemal Ataturk established the modern Turkey state as a secular one. Since then the Turkish military has been the guarantor of Ataturk’s vision of a secular Turkey.
Recently Turkey’s endeavors to become part of the European Union were voted down by the EU. The Erdogan government has been charged with human rights violations of critical journalists and political opponents. However the the leaders of the Greek Orthodox Church viewed Erdogan favorably even though the government has yet to return seized church property. Erdogan’s critics see him as creating a theocracy incrementally.
Turkey has long standing animosities with its neighbors Greece and Armenia and internally it has suppressed the Kurdish population.
Turkey is also a leading nation in the Mid-East and it will always play a major role there.
The question remains whether it becomes an Islamist state or a secular state with Islamic leaders.
Hillary has given a general overview of recent relations with Europe and the current status of our relationship which is strong. However critics of the Obama foreign policy argue that his pivot to Asia was at the expense of Europe. European relations were badly damaged by the Bush Administration which often did not consult with European leaders on political moves and viewed cooperative alliances on problems as unnecessary. Rumsfeld called Europe “old Europe” as if their thinking on World affairs was out of date and not needed by the United States. The Obama Administration has made a strong effort to correct this situation by including European leaders in major decisions on foreign policy.
Europe as a whole has never fully recovered from the recent recession which has put great stress on the European Union and the Euro as a single currency. Whether it survives is a matter of conjecture.
The pivot to Asia was widely misinterpreted as a pivot away from Europe when it was really meant to be a pivot away from the Mid-East. However as current events in 2014 have shown this is not so easily accomplished. The word pivot is too flippant a term as if we were playing basketball on the World court when we are not.
Also Hillary and the Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, are of the opinion that the United States should take action in situations where humanitarian values demand it not just when our own self interest is at stake.