Jörg Calließ (Hrsg.), Die Erneuerung der Transatlantischen Gemeinschaft. Die EU und die USA in der Verantwortung für Stabilität, Sicherheit und Frieden in der Welt, Rehburg-Loccum 2001
In Search of a New Atlantic Bargain:
Some Thoughts on Security Cooperation in the Transatlantic Partnership
Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität Frankfurt
Institut für Vergleichende Politikwissenschaft und Internationale Beziehungen
Robert-Mayer-Str. 5, Fach 102
60054 Frankfurt am Main
Phone ++49 - 69 - 798 284 88
Fax ++49 - 69 - 798 284 60
Introduction: Crisis, What Crisis?
In the ongoing debate on the current state and the future of transatlantic relations, two extreme positions can be discerned. According to the first, the transatlantic partnership is in severe danger of falling apart, due to growing tensions mainly between the U.S. and the EU. Proponents of this view point to economic competition, the diminishing of the need for security cooperation after the Cold War, and an increasing cultural rift on questions such as the death penalty. The contrasting position is that the transatlantic partnership is basically as stable and healthy as ever, with occasional conflicts of interest being nothing to worry about. Ever since the creation of NATO, there has been talk about crisis in the transatlantic relations, so that the current warnings are just another wave of unfounded alarmism.1
This essay is based on the premise of a position that lies between those two. The fact that transatlantic cooperation in security affairs as well as on other issues did not quickly break down after the common perception of the Soviet threat was gone, signifies that the transatlantic partnership has always been much more than a mere military alliance against a common opponent. From my point of view, the expectation of a break-up of this partnership is grossly exaggerated. At the same time, I do see a growing number of conflicts of interest especially between the U.S. and members of the EU, as witnessed in the differences over the U.S. plans to strive for a National Missile Defense or over the European plan to create an EU rapid reaction force, to name just two examples. In this paper, I will focus on security cooperation. I will argue that most of these tensions are caused by the fact that what could be called the established "transatlantic bargain" is being questioned on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean while a new one has yet to be formulated. This paper seeks to outline some thoughts on what is being and what should be discussed in the process of reformulating this transatlantic bargain. My arguments are based on the normative position that the transatlantic partnership is as needed as ever, in order to advance common interests as well as constructively work out differences.
The Transatlantic Bargain
The term "bargain" does of course not sufficiently grasp all aspects of the transatlantic partnership, since this partnership is also based on a certain sense of belonging together (cf. Risse-Kappen 1996; Hampton 1998). This aspect of transatlantic identity runs deeper than the mere willingness to make a deal as implied by the word "bargain". The sense of a common identity does not guarantee by itself that cooperation advances smoothly, however. In addition, while a common identity fosters cooperative behavior (i.e. shaping political practice), it is also shaped by political practice and has to be reproduced by it. What is more important in the context of this paper, there is no contradiction between an overlap of interests and a common identity as two sources of cooperation. To contrast interests and ideas does not strike me as a very fruitful way of thinking in International Relations. Ideas help to form interests, interests give rise to ideas, and in most instances it will be difficult to actually disentangle those two. When I speak of the transatlantic bargain, I refer to common interests as much as to a shared idea of what the transatlantic partnership is and should be about and what roles the respective partners should play in it.
The briefest version of the transatlantic bargain that has guided North Americans and Europeans over the course of several decades is provieded by Charles Kupchan: "Europe pursues integration while the U.S. keeps the peace" (Kupchan 2000: 16). While this is an oversimplification, it expresses well that there has been a division of labor between the U.S. and its European allies, at least in relative terms. The U.S. has made heavy contributions to European security, and the Europeans have readily accepted the leading role of the United States on matters of European security. Ernst-Otto Czempiel, using his taxonomy of the three issue-areas of international politics (security, welfare, system of rule), argues that the Europeans have managed to obtain an equal standing in the two latter issue-areas but not yet in the first one (Czempiel 2000a: 573-74; cf. also Czempiel 2000b: 901-03).
NATO is the core security institution which has been both an expression and stabilization of this unequal (but commonly accepted) state. It must be stressed that NATO, by virtue of being a multilateral institution, provides substantial influence for its European members if compared to bilateral security arrangements of the U.S. with each of its European partners respectively, which would also have been a possible way of institutionalizing security cooperation after World War II. Overall, in a set of bilateral relations it is much easier for the stronger partner to dominate the weaker ones than in a multilateral setting (cf. Ruggie 1993: 8-12). Thus, by making NATO the core of transatlantic security cooperation, the U.S. chose to provide for stable cooperative arrangements without directly translating the asymmetries in material power into political dominance.2 Nevertheless, by its sheer dominance in virtually all areas of military capacity as well as by its control of most key positions within NATO's military structure, the leading role of the United States in the issue-area of security is guaranteed. This leading role was also fully accepted by the European NATO members (, with France to some extent being the exception).
ESDP: Undermining the Transatlantic Partnership?
Since NATO was founded in 1949, security cooperation within it has worked rather well, but it progressed rarely without conflicting interests. One of the key themes of repeated differences has been the question of strenghtening NATO's European pillar. For decades, almost everybody in NATO has been in favor of strengthening the European pillar, but only because quite disparate meanings could be attached to it. By and large, for the U.S. side, it had a lot to do with burden-sharing. The U.S. had helped the European economies to recover, so it expected its European allies to assume a greater share of the costs of the collective self-defense. For the European side, however, strengthening the European pillar first and foremost meant a greater European say on matters of European security. Both sides were often quick to forget that in the end taking up costs and being granted political influence have to go hand in hand.
The recent transatlantic irritations about the project of a European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP) could be interpreted as yet another round of the debate on burden-sharing and European influence. This view is inadequate, however, for it underestimates the profound longer-term trends which are changing some of the foundations of the transatlantic partnership (cf. Gordon 1996). First, as many have noted, the alliance is harder to sustain without the perception of a common threat. Second, due to the growing number of Hispanic and Asian Americans, the share of U.S. citizens with European ancestors has begun to shrink and will continue to do so during the next decades. Third, this demographic change is coupled by an economic reorientation, as non-European markets, notably in Asia and the NAFTA zone, are becoming more important for the United States. The same is true to a considerable extent for Europe, where intra-European trade and -- something which is often underestimated -- economic relations with Asia have also gained in scope and importance. Finally, there is a turn inwards within Europe. Europeans are still glad to enjoy U.S. protection, but this protection is not as indispensable anymore as it used to be. Western Europe's main task has become to accomplish and harmonize the two major goals of deepening and widening the European Union.
These broader changes have to be seen as a background of the current debate about ESDP and the future of the Atlantic Alliance. Seemingly, the question of the European role in security affairs had been settled with two agreements within NATO in 1994 and 1996. In 1994, NATO members agreed on establishing military capabilities that were "separable but not separate" and which NATO could lend for WEU operations.3 This was to be facilitated by use of the concept of Combined Joint Task Forces (CJTF).4 Two years later, NATO's Ministerial Meeting in Berlin marked another important step in formulating the new consensus. It was agreed that the development of a European Security and Defense Identity would take place within NATO. Thus, the WEU would not create its own command structures, but rely on assets and capabilities that NATO would grant for a WEU operation, if necessary. In practice, this meant that the U.S. would have a veto on any substantial WEU military operation while the role of the WEU and thus the EU in European security would remain rather weak.
In fall 1998, however, when the UK began to embrace a European role in security affairs rather than opposing it, this consensus began to crumble. The change in the British position gave new momentum to the project of integrating the WEU in the EU. Only half a year later, the Europeans' experience of being left out of many decisions and flows of communications during the Kosovo War led to an acceleration of this development. Now the Europeans stressed that the establishment of autonomous capacities for action was necessary (Dembinski 2000: 7). Consequently, ESDI was turned into ESDP - from mere identity to actual policy. A central part of this policy is the establishment of an intervention force until 2003. EU members have agreed to dispatch enough units so that 60,000 troops could be engaged in a EU-led operation for up to one year. While the future course of ESDP is of course not determined, it is at least clear that the judgement that the debate over European security in the 1990s has led to a "triumph of atlanticism" (Lansford 1999) was at least premature.
These bold European initiatives have provoked a lot of scepticism in the United States.5 Consequently, they have again given rise to the question of how transatlantic security cooperation could be facilitated in the future. To be sure, a complete lack of European initiative might have led to more U.S. calls for burden-sharing, possibly feeding isolationist sentiments in the United States and thus undermining the stability of transatlantic security cooperation. A substantial build-up of European security structures and capacities for intervention, or even for collective self-defense, however, could be interpreted as an ambush on the hitherto accepted leading role of the U.S. in matters of European security. So, the question arises what kind of security partnership North Americans and Europeans want and what roles each of the partners could and should play in this partnership. In the end, what is at stake is the transatlantic bargain on matters of European security. In the remainder of this paper, I will sketch out a few thoughts in this regard, without claiming to offer any definitive answers.
The EU and ESDP: Adjusting Policy to Ambitions -- or Readjusting the Ambitions
I will make two comments about the European approach toward ESDP.The first points to the need to arrive at more clarity (both among Europeans themselves and vis-à-vis their North American partners), while the second addresses the problem of whether the EU's preoccupation with military means of crisis management is adequate in light of the actual need for preventing and coping with conflicts in Europe. In the end, both comments touch upon the question if EU policies are really commensurate with ambitions and rhetoric, and what kind of adjustment (adjusting policy to ambitions or readjusting ambitions to the prevention and management of concrete conflicts in Europe) should be considered.
Despite their unprecedented unity on ESDP, substantial differences remain among the EU members, such as between France and Britain, but also between the EU's NATO members and the non-alligned states. As often, the EU has made use of a lot of "constructive ambiguity" (Heisbourg 2000: 5) in order to make progress feasible in light of existing differences among its members. There are limits to this ambiguity, however, not only because of the necessities of military planning (cf. Heisbourg 2000). The main reason why the EU should, in my opinion, develop a clearer picture of where ESDP should ultimately lead, lies in the fact that this point has a tremendous impact on transatlantic relations. In the European integration process, there has, recent calls for "finality" notwithstanding, always been a certain openness and ambiguity. Repeatedly, this ambiguity has led to progress in integration that had been deemed impossible before. Europeans should not, however, expect their North American allies to accept this kind of ambiguity to be transferred to transatlantic relations. Spelling out common European preferences -- to the extent they can be found -- on a new U.S.-European balance on matters of European security will not erase or prevent transatlantic differences on these issues. It will be easier to work out these differences constructively, though, than conflicts stemming from insecurities as to what ultimate goals (and thus also, maybe what hidden agenda) the partners pursue.
Even more important is the question if the priorities of ESDP, as currently pursued, are the right ones in light of actual needs for conflict prevention and conflict management. It is certainly true that the public debate is somewhat distorting, as it focuses almost exclusively on the plan of establishing intervention forces of 60,000 troops while neglecting the also ongoing efforts to improve the EU's instruments for non-military crisis management (cf. Dembinski 2000: 1). Nevertheless, it is striking to see that there is little consideration on where and for what purposes these forces might eventually by deployed. What are the concrete crises they could help alleviate? It could be asked if the EU is not putting the acquisition of means before the identification of ends these means might be necessary for. Currently, it appears that the EU starts off from the goal of being able to conduct a wider range of military operations along the Petersberg spectrum.6 From my point of view, the analysis of the actual security problems the Europeans might be facing (or might wish to address) in the forseeable future should be put first, while decisions to establish new military capacities should be made on that basis. One result of such a reorientation could be that much greater emphasis would have to be laid on longer-term conflict prevention (including economic cooperation and assistance). After all, to my mind the ultimate lesson of the Kosovo War is not that Europe needs to be able to conduct such wars without the United States. Instead, a grand assistance program such as the Balkans Stability Pact, if launched a decade earlier, might have done a lot to prevent some of the recent tragedies in that region. Giving priority to long-term crisis prevention could also save the Europeans from the suspicion that the primary goal of ESDP was to gain a power projection capacity that would strengthen Europe's role both in NATO and beyond Transatlantia.
A meaningful power projection capacity would of course require that most EU countries substantially increase and redirect their military spending7, which most of them do not seem to be willing or able to do. Especially U.S. observers are thus sceptical if the EU will really adjust its policy to its ambitions (cf. Gordon 1997/98: 75-76; Kupchan 2000: 26). Calls for a substantial restructuring towards smaller and better-equipped forces are certainly in place, especially with regard to countries like Germany. In light of my arguments above, it seems to me, however, that before adjusting policy to ambitions, the EU countries should first declare what their ambitions are -- and then maybe redirect them towards coping with concrete problems of European security.
The U.S. and the Virtues of Multilateralism
One main question for the U.S. with regard to ESDP is how much equality within NATO it could accept. During the Clinton administration, the U.S. gave up its overall opposition to a European role in European defense and security, provided such European efforts remain compatible with and integrated in NATO. At the same time, the U.S. continues to object to everything that could amount to something like a European caucus within NATO. U.S. officials and experts repeatedly call for stronger European efforts in European security, but most of them would not want to face a strong European position in NATO, as it could undermine U.S. dominance in the Western alliance. They fear that this would mean the end of NATO as we know it. In a sense, the U.S. has to some extent preferred bilateralism vis-à-vis each of the European partners within an overall multilateral setting. In addition, the recent move of anouncing the goal to establish the controversial National Missile Defense before discussing it in detail with European partners gives rise to fears that this position might even be coupled by a further increase in unilateralism in U.S. foreign policy.
In my opinion, the U.S. has resisted efforts toward ESDP that would be incompatible with NATO for very good reasons. In the end, nobody would gain if the transatlantic partnership was damaged just for the sake of greater European autonomy in security affairs. Even if it wanted so, Europe could not make up for U.S. political weight, diplomatic skills and military capacities in any larger European crisis. U.S. resistance to an ESDP that seeks to maintain and strengthen the transatlantic partnership by strengthening Europe's role in it, however, are misplaced for two reasons. The first has to do with the longer-term economic, demographic and political transformations within the U.S., Europe, and between them, which were discussed above. Because of these transformations, the allies will need to strive toward a more equal relationship also in the field of security in order to sustain their partnership in the future. Ultimately, this will have to entail both more burden-sharing and a strengthened European position within NATO. Second, NATO's comparatively high degree of multilateralism (the above-mentioned limits to substantial intra-alliance multilateralism notwithstanding) has been a key element of its success during more than 50 years. By contrast, with a more unilateral mode of approaching transatlantic relations, the U.S. may over a longer period of time well foster those tendencies among the Europeans it has so fervently opposed. The U.S. may at current be the indispensable nation, but in most instances it cannot go it alone.
Conclusion: In Search of a New Transatlantic Bargain
In the crucial field of security, transatlantic relations are in transformation. Since the political, economic, and demographic foundations of transatlantic security cooperation are changing, sticking with the status quo might in many instances not be a feasible option. More open and, if necessary, controversial debates on how a new atlantic bargain could look like are needed. It would soon turn out that despite all the differences North Americans and Europeans can still agree on quite a lot as well as benefit from healthy transatlantic relations.
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1 David Haglund cites an unnamed former U.S. Secretary of Defense who said: "When has NATO ever been in array?" (Haglund 1995: 651).
2 Cf. Kubbig/Dembinski/Kelle 2000: 32. On the strong European influence on U.S. foreign policy, cf. also Risse-Kappen 1995, and Haftendorn 1994.
3 Cf. AErklärung der Staats- und Regierungschefs des Nordatlantikpakts, abgegeben zum Abschluss ihrer Tagung am 10. und 11. Januar 1994 in Brüssel@, printed in: Bulletin 3/1994 (17 January 1994), Bonn.
4 In spite of official hails, the CJTF concept has been heavily criticized by military experts to entail a number of severe operational problems (cf. Cooke 1998/99).
5 For a description (and critique) of American anxieties in this respect, cf. Kupchan 2000. It should be noted, though, that Kupchan is not the only U.S. expert who calls for a stronger European role in European defense (cf., for instance Ruggie 1996).
6 In June 1992, the Ministerial Council of the WEU met in Bonn and agreed on the so-called Petersberg Declaration. Its core element is that WEU members declared their readiness to conduct military operations on a wide spectrum, ranging from humanitarian assistance and disaster relief up to full-fledged combat operations.
7 According to IISS figures, in 1999, for instance, U.S. per capita spending on the military was more than three times higher than the EU average (cit. Heisbourg 2000: 13). Also, the U.S. spends comparatively less on personnel, investing more in research&development as well as in high-quality equipment of its military personnel than virtually all EU members.