Committee on International Relations
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515-0128
Opening statement of Chairman Bereuter
The Future of Transatlantic Relations
During the Iraqi debate, transatlantic doomsayers were, I believe, at their worse declaring transatlantic relations "dead", in "dismal shape", or in the words of one, "lying in rubble".
I do not share these dire conclusions. When it comes to core values and common goals, Europe and the United States have not parted ways. The Atlantic alliance is not at an end and European and American security remains indivisible. While the approaches and strategies needed to accomplish our common or individual national agendas have been the subject of much discussion and varying degrees of disagreement, I certainly do not believe that Americans and Europeans are in effect from two different and distinct planets.
A recent policy statement which was issued by the Board of Directors of Notre Europe, a European affairs think tank, perhaps stated it best by saying: "the partnership between the United States and Europe not only remains relevant, but is more necessary than ever in a world as uncertain as ours is today...the common values and interests that unite Europe and the United States are infinitely deeper than the differences and rivalries that separate them..."
Understanding the importance of the transatlantic relationship, however, does not mean such a relationship is without problems. In December of 2001, long before Iraq, at an address at the National Defense University, I expressed my concern over the widening perception gap between the United States and our European partners, and about our increasingly divergent views about issues and about Americas actions and values. I felt on an increasing number of issues, it seemed that in certain areas the European notions of what are legitimate U.S. national interests, and our actions to defend them, were fundamentally different than the views of the majority of Americans.
The debate over Iraq in the U.N. Security Council two years later seemed to at least substantiate these observations but it certainly did not convince me that the death knell for the partnership had sounded.
Recently in a speech to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, I observed that the Iraq dispute, in my view, was not a total transatlantic dispute. Nevertheless, the harsh rhetoric which we heard on both sides of the Atlantic did, in varying degrees, damage the overall relationship between America and some European nations. The American public felt deep disappointment, frustration and anger with several European nations, including France and Germany, which many felt took the most irresponsible position of all regarding any conceivable military role in Iraq. The debate also did some, but hopefully not too deep, damage to the U.N. Security Council, NATO and the European Union, especially its Common Foreign and Security pillar - institutions which both sides regard as important.
As Secretary Powell has said with respect to transatlantic relations, "we and Europe have probably been in marriage counseling for over 50 years." Whether the difficulties we had with the few European nations will simply be a "one-time", "one-issue" disagreement or something which will result in longer-term and stronger anti-American attitudes in Europe is yet to be determined. But do we face an irreconcilable crisis in transatlantic relations? Are we about to divorce? I think not. And, our partners in the transatlantic marriage seem to be providing other forms of evidence that the marriage is well worth saving.
Have we entered a "defining moment" in the history of American relations with Europe as a recent publication by CSIS asks? I believe so. When I was elected as President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly six months ago, I identified transatlantic relations as one of my priorities and acknowledged that the strains in transatlantic relations and the significant and growing differences in attitude and perception between the U.S. and many of our allies, if left unaddressed, would erode the solidarity and cohesion of the Alliance.
For this Member, the first step is to reach a common understanding of what constitutes the greatest threat to our security and recognize the threats posed by proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, terrorist states, and the nexus of these three. No nation alone can adequately address these threats to our security. Quite simply we need an international framework to address these interrelated threats. In this effort, Europe and North America must be partners or counterparts, not rivals, not counter [balancing] weights.
For over 55 years the U.S. - European alliance has been tested on numerous occasions and has survived. This ability to survive has been a testament to the serious values we share, the enduring importance of the partnership, and the commitment of those who have managed the relationship through all these times.
The question before us is how do we move beyond this Iraq dispute, find ways to strengthen the partnership and work cooperatively on those common issues which bind us on both sides of the Atlantic. As President Bush said just last week in Evian, we can do it. I believe it is imperative that we do.
I look forward to the statements of our witnesses.
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