New York, N.Y.
ELIZABETH D. SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Welcome to our — can you hear me? Is the mike working? Can you hear me yet? I’m Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall. I’m a senior fellow for alliance relations at the Council. And I want to welcome here at Harold Pratt House in New York our New York membership, and also our national members who have dialed in for this meeting with Timothy Garton Ash today, to participate from both around the country and around the world.
This is an auspicious day for a discussion with Timothy Garton Ash about his new book, “America, Europe, and the Surprising Future of the West.” It is the 15th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, a day that in many ways sounded the death knell of the Cold War and the bipolar world that we all grew up in, and the beginning of a new world whose order has yet to take a stable shape. We are fortunate to talk with Timothy Garton Ash, professor of European studies at Oxford, director of the European Studies Center at St. Anthony’s College Oxford, and senior fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution. And here I’d just like to say, as someone educated in part at Oxford and now hanging my hat at Stanford as well, this seems to me to be the perfect bi-continental relationship.
Over the past 25 years, Timothy has in his numerous books and articles written what might be described as the first draft of history, or what he likes to call “a history of the present,” charting the transformation of Europe. His current book is, in a sense, a departure, for in addition to its vivid descriptions of both Europe and America and how each sees the other, it is also an exercise in transatlantic policy entrepreneurship in trying to give voice, and through that voice momentum, to an argument that the peoples of the United States and Europe must find a way to work together to face the challenges of the 21st century.
Before I begin our conversation, let me briefly describe how we will proceed. The meeting is on the record. Please turn off your cell phones and any other gadgets that may ring or beep during the session. The format will be that I will talk with Timothy for approximately 20 minutes, and then we will open up discussion to the audience. So let’s begin.
Timothy, though your book was timed for publication just after the American presidential election, you were inspired to write it long beforehand. Why did you write this book at this moment in history?
TIMOTHY GARTON ASH: Well, let me start by saying it’s a huge pleasure to be back in this seat here. But— and this is in a way the start of an answer to your question— I was last here four years ago, in Autumn 2000. One or two things have happened since. [Laughter.] And one of the things that has happened is that the 11th of September 2001 attacks, the American 9/11, which was obviously a crisis for the West, very quickly became a crisis of the West, and a crisis of the West which was clearly different in quality from all the other crises of the West that we had throughout the story of the Cold War. And my first motive in writing the book was to answer the classic historian question, which is what is structural and what is contingent about this crisis of the West.
Obviously, there was a great deal that was contingent. I mean, I think the personalities and thoughts of leadership on both sides of the Atlantic were very important. But it seems to me there were a couple of major structural elements. One is, if you look at the crisis of the West and the tensions between Europe and America, quite simply— and it’s actually— it’s a crisis that goes back, that has its beginnings in that moment of triumph that we’re marking today, in the very moment of the triumph of the West, in what I call the European 09/11— that is to say, written European style with the date before the month— the 9th of November 1989, lie the seeds of our problem, because we are no longer held together by the clear common enemy in the heart of Europe, the Red Army. And that was not just the glue of the transatlantic relationship; it was the cement of the transatlantic relationship. A former British foreign secretary sighed to me the other day, “If only we had [former Soviet ruler Leonid] Brezhnev back, that would pull us together.” [Laughter.]
The other thing that I think is a structural change is that Europe is no longer the central theater of world politics arguably for the first time in at least 400 years. I mean, this is a huge change, that Europe is no longer the central theater of world politics, and in particular that it seems increasingly— marginal may be too strong a word— but less and less central to Washington’s concerns. And that’s a major factor, I think, in the relationship. So those seem to be two structural causes of the crisis of the West.
The other point I would make is— and this is one major point of the book— but what is not structural is what so many people believe, the view summed up in Robert Kagan’s quip, “Americans are from Mars, Europeans are from Venus,” which we’ve heard so many times; that our values, our social and economic systems, our approaches to foreign policy are simply divergent. That is, in my view, simply empirically false.
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: We will continue along those lines. Enough history. Everyone’s waiting to hear about what President Bush’s re-election means. You wrote two weeks ago on Sunday in The Washington Post that if President Bush is re-elected, and I’ll quote, “many Europeans will try to make the European Union [EU] a rival superpower to the United States.” Unquote. You indicated they would do so in order to counterbalance irresponsible, unchecked American power. So here we are. Bush has won. It might be better, as you say at a certain point in the book, if we didn’t start from here, but here is where we are. So how does the outcome of this election affect what you call the argument of the decade in Europe, the argument between the Euro-Gaullists and the Euro-Atlanticists, that you say will determine the future of the West?
ASH: Right. We used to say when I was young that— it was a joke about someone asking directions at a fork in the road from the Irishman at the crossroads—
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Uh-huh. [Laughter.]
MR. ASH: --and his answer was, “If I were you, I wouldn’t start from here.” [Laughter.] We no longer say the Irishman at the crossroads because it’s all very politically correct, but the joke still stands and I certainly wouldn’t start from here.
Can I just go back for just one moment to say that the truth is, if you look at the realities, this is not a story of a great divide between Europe with one set of values and attitudes, and America with another set of values and attitudes. It’s a story of two divided continents. America, as we have just seen in this election, is deeply divided, blue and red, on quite profound questions of values and leader foreign policy. Europe is divided in what I call the great argument of the decade between Euro-Atlanticists, whose most eloquent spokesman is [British Prime Minister] Tony Blair, who believe we need a strong united Europe as a partner to the United States; and Euro-Gaullists, whose most eloquent spokesman is [French President] Jacques Chirac, who believe that we need a strong united Europe as a rival superpower to the United States— the polite word is multipolarity. This is the great argument that divides the whole of Europe, all our European countries. It’s not New Europe and Old Europe; it’s the Euro-Atlanticists versus the Euro-Gaullists in every country.
Now my argument in that editorial, in that op-ed piece, was that the United States has a very big dog in this fight, that it matters enormously for the United States’ ability to tackle all the global challenges of our time, from the war on terrorism through the modernization of the Near East, to handling the rise of China— a huge issue between us, to the north-south divide, to climate change. In each of these areas, it matters enormously to have the European Union as a partner and not a rival. My argument was that a Bush re-election would, in my view, reinforce the Euro-Gaullist tendency in Europe.
Well, it’s just a few days after the election, but we’re already in my view seeing signs of that happening. If you look at Chirac’s reaction to the election, it was exactly that. It was precisely that: Faced with a unilateralist United States, we must reinforce and strengthen the European Union. And if you look at the public opinion in Europe, you also see that reaction very strongly. And so my great fear is— my fear is that unless major efforts are made on both sides— and Tony Blair is coming to Washington on Thursday to try and stop it— unless major efforts are made on both sides, you will get a downward spiral in which Europe will be defined in Euro-Gaullist mode— not cooperate in Iraq, do its own thing in Iran, lift the EU arms embargo on China without conditionality, which I think would be a really grotesque thing to do, but we could do it— and the second Bush administration, like the first, would say, “Well, OK, if that’s how you’re going to be, we’re not going to play ball with the whole of the European Union; we’re not going to seek the whole of the European Union as our partner; we’re going to choose to cherry-pick, to choose individual partners among the powers of Europe,” or what the ancient Romans called divide et impera, divide and rule. And that in turn will infuriate Europeans, who will become more Euro-Gaullist, and so you will get that downward spiral. And I have grave, grave concern that that may yet happen.
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Well, that’s a very pessimistic view. Let’s see if you can help us to think about this in a way that the pessimists might not anticipate. You left us dangling at the end of the first question with the issue of what are the topics on our agenda that bring us together, what are the reasons that should motivate us to want to work together and find a way to avoid this downward spiral or the reinforcement of each others’ worst tendencies which seems to be under way?
ASH: Yeah. Yeah. My motto is “pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will.” And I think after last Tuesday, one needs a bit more of the latter. [Laughter.] But you’re absolutely right. I think what we have to do, I think it’s [a] moment like the late 1940s, and we need our “Mr. X” article [“The Sources of Soviet Conduct,” published in 1947 in Foreign Affairs], which describes to us in clear and definite terms the world we’re in. And I think if you look coolly and analytically at the world we’re in— and I try to do this in the book— you discover, as I said a moment ago, that what we really face is at least five major challenges, what I call the new Red Armies.
These are— I just list them: the combination of terrorisms— and the plural is important— terrorisms: weapons of mass destruction, nuclear proliferation, and rogue and failed states— that’s one; the huge challenge of the modernization, liberalization, democratization of the wider Middle East; the rise of China; climate change; and the North-South divide. And my contention is twofold. First, that if you look at these— what I call in my book the new Red Armies— I challenge anyone in this room to point to a single one of these areas in which there are major differences of fundamental, long-term interest between Europe and the United States— differences of perceptions, of attitudes, of approaches, but not of interests. And secondly, I challenge anyone to show me how any of these five great challenges can be effectively addressed without cooperation between Europe and the United States. I mean, we could talk about that in detail in question and answer, but that is my basic position.
In other words, if we move, if I might put it this way, from the faith-based community of thinking about international politics, on both sides of the Atlantic, to a reality-based community— if we move from faith-based intelligence, as someone rather nicely put it, to reality, and returned to our common intellectual tradition of empiricism, a cool analysis tells us that we do have an overwhelming common interest.
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: I will assume that in this room and around the country there are members of the Council on both sides of the aisle, because the Council is a bipartisan institution, and we will hope that some of them have influence with the new administration. So what guidance would you offer to the new administration for next steps to be taken, both with respect to the European Union and also with the key individual European countries that you think we need to get off to a different start with?
ASH: Let me say at once that like most Europeans, like the majority of Europeans, I did hope for a Kerry victory, not because I’m a Democrat or a Republican, but because I thought it was a better chance for a new beginning across the Atlantic. But my view has always been that Europe and America have to work together, whatever the administration in Washington. The interests at stake are just much too large.
My advice would be twofold. Firstly, in order to set a new [inaudible], I would very demonstratively say: We, the United States, wish to work with the European Union as a union. We support European integration. You don’t need to kiss and make up with Jacques Chirac or [German Chancellor] Gerhard Schroeder. You kiss, if you so desire, but at least embrace Jose Manuel Barroso, the new president— and by the way, Atlanticist president— of the Commission, of the European Commission, and Javier Solana, his Atlanticist foreign minister, and the assembled heads of state and government of the European Union. This is a very important statement.
One thing I— one story I tell in the book is that in May 2001 I had the interesting experience of being invited to come over to the White House to tell President Bush about Europe before his first trip to Europe, along with a couple of colleagues. And I will never forget— I mean, I tell the story in the book— one question he asked quite early on in this meeting— he said, “Tell me, do we want the European Union to succeed?” And my British colleague and I said rather emphatically that we did want the European Union to succeed, and we hope the United States would, too. And then he said that was just a provocation. Well, some provocation!
The truth is, in my view, that this has been the first American administration since 1945 which has not been of the clear and considered view that European integration is in the American national interest. Indeed, I think there have been many people in this administration who have considered that it is not in the American national interest and that it’s better to divide and rule, to play with individual countries. I think that is simply an analytical mistake, and I think it would be a very important sign if, in the second term, the Bush administration said, “Yes, we definitely are. We want a strong and united Europe, and we want to work with Europe as a whole.”
The other thing I would do is to broaden the agenda. If you want European help in Iraq and Europeans to get tougher on Iran— and those are two quite reasonable demands— do not just come and ask for European help in Iraq and for Europeans to get tougher on Iran, because that invites the answer no. We do in fact have a whole quite broad agenda— Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Darfur, the Doha round [of World Trade Organization talks], climate change and what do we do about that, China— I mentioned this crucial issue of the arms embargo and the danger of China playing the Europe card against the United States. Come to Europe and say, “We want to discuss with the European Union a common strategic agenda on all these points, and we’re going to give you a bit on climate change, and we’re going to do one or two things that you’d like us to do, but please help us in Iraq and Iran.” I think you would have a much better chance in that way. I think that’s strategically right. If I may say so, it’s also tactically quite wise.
Some of you will know Robert Cooper, the British diplomat who now actually drafted the European Security Strategy for Javier Solana. And Robert quoted somewhere Jean Monnet [one of the earliest proponents of European integration] as saying, “If you have a problem you can’t solve, enlarge the context.” I thought this was such a clever remark that I e-mailed Robert, and I said to him, “Wonderful remark. Could you tell me where Monnet said it?” And Robert e-mailed back and he said, “I’m terribly embarrassed, but actually someone told me that someone told him that Monnet had told him this remark.” But he said, “I’m morally certain [laughter] that Jean Monnet said this.” I like that very much. But whether it’s Monnet or Robert Cooper or, as someone told me yesterday, Madison, it’s a rather wise piece of advice.
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: So creating the context for advancing our interests would also require improved relationships bilaterally, and that was the second part of the question. Where should we go in Europe? With whom do we need to deal—
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: —as a priority, in terms of rebuilding the bilateral relationships that are so strained?
ASH: OK. I mean, I— first go to Brussels and say we’re dealing with the European Union, OK? Then the reality is, on any single issue, that you’re going to have to deal with a number of the major powers in Europe. That is to say, the Big Six. It’s not just France, Germany, and Britain now; it’s also Italy, Spain, and Poland. And I think the model we should be looking at is the Contact Group model. That is to say that you accept that the European Union also accepts that on any given issue you cannot make effective policy with 25 states. It’s obvious you can’t do it. On any given issue, there are going to be four or five or six who you need. So at the moment, it’s France, Germany and Britain on Iran. On Ukraine, it would include Poland. On the Maghreb, it would include Spain. If you like coalitions of the willing, but legitimated by and authorized by the European Union as a whole, I think that’s a way to go. I see [Council on Foreign Relations President] Richard Haass at the back there, who is of course, I quote in the book as the author of this notion of disaggregation. And that seems to me, as it were, disaggregation with a human face. I mean, it’s the acceptable face of disaggregation if you do it that way.
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Our last question to you before we go to the audience is, is there one country in Europe you’re worried about where the relationship has produced an outcome that you fear can’t be reversed?
ASH: I’m fascinated by the way America in the last few years has acquired the old British habit of some— laughing at France the whole time. I mean, it’s almost as if France, which is of course Britain’s traditional “other,” has now become America’s. I believe someone held up a placard at one of Kerry’s rallies saying “Vote for John Kerry for a stronger France.” [Laughter.] But I would say that we have all concentrated much too much on France. The key is Germany. Germany remains the central power of Europe, the pivotal power of Europe. If there is a chance, and my basic argument is that there is a very good chance, of enabling the Euro-Atlanticists to win this great argument in Europe so that you don’t just have a few countries in Europe— the Brits always, the Poles, the Italians, so long as [Italian Prime Minister Silvio] Berlusconi is there— you have the whole of Europe as your partner. The key to winning that argument is to try to woo Germany back to its classical position as a Euro-Atlanticist power with a special relationship with France. So I’d start with Germany.
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Thank you. All right. We’re going to turn to audience questions now. We have a microphone, which will come to you. So wait for it to arrive and speak directly into it. And please stand and state your name and your affiliation. The Council has asked me to urge you not to speechify, keeping your questions concise and only asking one so that others may have an opportunity to ask questions as well. Here comes the microphone.
QUESTIONER: My name is Nicola Khuri. I’m from Rockefeller University. If I may quote— you quoted [inaudible]; I’ll quote a lot of Middle Easterners who said the British for 200 years tell everybody what to do but not what they’re supposed to do. So these issues. Isn’t it true that the central country now for the future of Europe is the U.K., not Germany? And this division you have in your country and the refusal of the U.K. so far to be really integrated in Europe, to join the euro, is to many people the crucial step in the future. And one of the problems with that is the so-called special relationship with us, with the U.S., which has become really an anachronism, and all it does is anger the French and anger the Germans and the Europeans, and does not help the project that I’m sure we all want. In some way, I’m paying you a compliment. I personally want to ask you whether wouldn’t a Europe with England or the U.K. really integrated in it be a much better Europe for the U.S. and for Europe and for the world? And why is that not happening faster?
ASH: Yes. [Laughter.] But you may want me to say a few more words than that. And actually, I have— a quarter of the book is about the dilemmas of what I call Janus Britain; Britain is Janus. One face looks to America and the English-speaking world; the other face looks to Europe. And the British left urges us to choose Europe and cut off the right face, and the British right urges us to choose America and cut off the left face, and both couldn’t be more wrong. We are— I don’t believe we are the pivotal country in Europe. That would be to indulge the old British habit of overestimating ourselves. I think Germany is. But clearly, what you say is right; it is very important that we should understand who we are. I find it so frustrating to live in a country which simply cannot make up its mind. For the whole of my adult life, we have been living under [former U.S. Secretary of State] Dean Acheson’s curse, “Great Britain has lost an empire and not yet found a role.” Forty-two years later, it’s still true. This country doesn’t know what story it wants to tell.
Now, the tragedy of Tony Blair is that he saw exactly that. And he is, in my view, the first British prime minister who saw clearly that the only role for Janus Britain is to be fully engaged in the European Union and to try and bring Europe to the United States as its Atlanticists, as its partner. The tragedy of Tony Blair is that his tactics have destroyed his strategy. The tactical choice to go with George W. Bush in what was essentially a unilateral war, not just without U.N. authority, but without widespread multilateral support, has actually so far undermined his credibility both at home and in Europe that I find it difficult— and I say this with deep regret— difficult to see how he’s going to do it. But I’m quite sure that that’s what we have to do, and that is in a sense— this book has already come out in Britain, and in a sense, that’s what this book was arguing for in Britain.
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Another question? Herbert Schlosser.
QUESTIONER: Herbert Schlosser. I am a senior adviser in communications investment banking at CitiGroup. You speak of united Europe, and how united is united Europe? To be specific about one or two other questions. If [former U.S. vice president and Democratic presidential candidate Al] Gore had won the election four years ago, or if Kerry had won now, the underlying problems in Europe would still remain— the problems they have with their minorities, which continue to grow; lack of competitiveness in many areas; and their own blue and red states, the differences between Eastern Europe and the West. So, apart from the unifying force of America because they’re mad at us and don’t like us, what are some of the underlying problems in Europe itself, wholly apart from us, that may delay or make much tougher the kind of unification that you talk about, which would permit Europe to talk to America with a stronger voice.
ASH: Right. Well, the first point, actually it isn’t blue and red states. That is, you know, Spain was New Europe, wasn’t it? [Laughter.] And then one day later, it was Old Europe, because they had an election, you know. So, the truth is that the great divide that I talk about runs through all our countries, you know. Believe me, there are plenty of Euro-Gaullists in Britain and quite a few in Poland. But it’s a bad mistake for the United States to believe that Poland is just going to be, you know, your uncritical ally for the next 20 years. Don’t believe it. And there are quite a few Euro-Atlanticists in France. So that’s not the position.
Now, you ask a rather big question about the forces, about the degree of possible European unity. Listen, there will be no united states of Europe, with great respect to the American author [T.R. Reid] who’s just written a book called “The United States of Europe.” I’m always amused by the fact that absolutely the best, most vigorous advocates and, indeed, propagandists for the united states of Europe are actually Americans. You know, we don’t believe it, but Americans tell us to believe it. But if you look back 15 years, look back to the fall of the Berlin Wall, contrast Europe then and now, this is an amazing success story. Yes. Twenty-five states, as opposed to 12, all of them liberal democracies, all of them in a single market, many of them with a single currency; a major global player in trade policy and economic policy, preventing General Electric emerging with Honeywell. You know, this is clout, of a kind. It’s certainly a major economic player, and increasingly attempting to achieve common position on diplomatic issues.
You know, let’s talk about Iran. It’s not nothing that a troika of the French, German, and British foreign ministers, you know, out of the Iraq crisis, out of that great divide, are currently the people who are at the cutting edge, negotiating with the Iranian regime.
My point is that the United States has always had a major influence on the process of European unification. We had a negative integrator, which was the Soviet Union, and we had a positive integrator, which was the United States. We no longer have that negative integrator. Euro-Gaullists want the United States to be the negative integrator. That won’t work. I want the United States to be the positive integrator. And so I think it would be enormously helpful if Washington’s position was always this one: in principle, on any given issue, we want to work with the European Union; in practice, if it doesn’t work, then we’ll pick and choose. That seems to me a fine and entirely acceptable position.
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Let me follow on that question, because from the military perspective, that would lead to the EU having a seat at the North Atlantic Council table and to being a party to discussions about the deployment of NATO forces. How do you see that evolving, if you follow your logic out?
ASH: Yeah. Absolutely fine by me. Absolutely fine by me. And then, I think, in your contact group for a particular issue, why not have the French, the Germans, the Brits, the Poles and Solana for the EU? In your rapid reaction force, why not have a combination of NATO, EU, maybe even British and French national forces? You know, I think there’s no objection to, as it were, a la carte pragmatism, as long as you start from the basic strategic position that this is accepted and in some degree legitimated and authorized by the key transatlantic institutions— i.e., EU and NATO.
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: All right. I’m going to turn to a question from one of our national listeners. This is from Geri Joseph at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs in Minneapolis. She says, “Tony Blair apparently believes that U.S. efforts to make real progress on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will help regain support from European allies, such as France and Germany. Do you think that is the key to improving transatlantic relationships, to try to find a resolution of the Arab-Israeli dispute?”
ASH: It’s a key. But I think there’s been a very unhealthy conversation over the last two years, in which the United States has said, Iraq, Iraq, Iraq; and Europe has said, Israel, Palestine, Israel, Palestine, Israel, Palestine. And that is, for obvious reasons, not a healthy conversation.
It would certainly— it is a very, very major issue for European public opinion, not— and I feel it important to state this very clearly— not because anti-Semitism is on the rise again in Europe. There is some evidence that anti-Semitism is on the rise again in Europe, particularly among the immigrant— notably Arabic and Islamic— communities. But that is a different morphology, it’s a different etiology from the very strong European support for a Palestinian state and for the Palestinian cause. So it would have a major impact if the Bush administration was seen to be moving on that issue, and that’s one reason Blair is coming to push this. And of course the departure of Arafat would be a great opportunity for that. But I would rather that the United States spoke a bit more, particularly now, in this moment of opportunity, about the importance of Israel-Palestine, and we did a bit more to help in Iraq.
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Would anyone like to follow up on this particular issue, on the Israeli-Palestinian question, as it relates to transatlantic relations? No further questions on that. On to more audience inquiries.
QUESTIONER: [Inaudible] Rothschilds. Without in any way disagreeing with the outline of scenarios that you’ve outlined and so forth, I wonder if you’d expand a little bit— looking a little further in the future, and taking into account the sort of dramatically evolving demographics, both in the United States with the impact of many immigrant populations, but particularly perhaps the Hispanic population, and in Europe the various kinds of Muslim populations and other immigrants that they have and will need for their demographic reasons. How does that change or evolve or affect the kind of more classic American-European analysis that you’ve used? Even the words Atlanticists and Gaullists perhaps don’t capture this evolving world. I would welcome your comments.
ASH: Yes, well, clearly the United States will take in more immigrants and gain economic dynamism from that, but the European Union will take in more countries. The European Union is getting bigger; the United States is not. You know, so far as I know, Mexico and Canada have no plans to join the United States in the immediate future, whereas, you know, there are a dozen countries next to the European Union who do have such plans and who, by the way, if the decision on Turkey goes the right way in December, will in time— 10 to 15 years ahead— become members of the European Union. In that way, we will have a much larger Muslim population, that is perfectly correct, just as you will have a larger Hispanic population. Both communities will have less historical— traditional cultural ties with each other, that is correct.
So that is, I think, a factor, but I don’t think that needs to be a source of absolutely fundamental divergence. The new states that come into the European Union tend quite often to be more pro-American, actually, than the core states of “old Europe.” So in a sense, you get an injection of Westernism coming from the East into the European Union. That’s one dynamic. The other dynamic is if, as I hope, we succeed in redefining a Euro-Atlantic project, including a project for the wider Middle East, then countries which come into the European Union, countries rather than individuals, will actually come in having to sign on not only to the acquis communautaire, but to a certain basic strategic agenda of the European Union.
QUESTIONER: Susan Purcell, Council of the Americas. You said something— you said that the United States really should adopt a more realistic or a more reality-based foreign policy, and then you also said that you would like the United States basically in foreign policy issues to work through the European Union. But it seems to me the reality is that the European Union, up to this point at least, does have common economic policies, but it clearly does not have common foreign policies. And so from this, I draw the conclusion that what you say makes sense on economic issues primarily, but that on foreign policy issues, if we’re going to have a realistic policy, the United States should work with what makes sense in terms of what’s on the ground in Europe. And as long as Europe continues to have basically independent foreign policies and there’s also NATO, which is something else, why not pick and choose depending on what we’re trying to achieve?
ASH: That’s a very reasonable answer for the next 10 days or 10 weeks or even 10 months. I don’t think it’s the best answer for the next 10 years. That is to say— and by the way, you give a partial description of the reality. There are many issues on which the European Union does actually have common positions. Climate change would be an example. The International Criminal Court would be an example; to some extent, even an issue like Iran; [and] many issues in non-problematic areas of the world, where increasingly you do have common European positions.
But my basic point is this. You, the United States, it seems to me, face a choice. Either you can continue, as you suggest, and just take the allies as you find them from issue to issue, contributing to keeping Europe disunited in foreign policy by doing that, or you say we have a strategic long-term interest as the United States in having the European Union— the other largest bloc of the rich and free with a combined GDP [gross domestic product] equivalent to ours— as a strategic partner, not least in a world in which we have the rise of China. Because if you can play divide and rule in Europe, so can China. And we’re seeing it already with the Chirac visit to China. We’re already seeing China beginning to play the European card.
And one of my nightmares is a world in which, as it were, the classic Machiavellian great power politics of Europe are reproduced on a global scale. [Inaudible] has already written about an imagined China-Europe axis, a world in which China is playing Europe off against the United States. If you want to avoid that, then I think you have a strategic interest in trying to build this European partner; while, as I say, in practice, if you can’t get the whole of Europe to come along, then of course you have to take those who will.
QUESTIONER: Gene Sekulow, Berger Partners. It’s been suggested that from the European point of view, it really wouldn’t have made any difference whether Gore was elected, whether Kerry would have been elected. [Inaudible] good excuse not to do what they didn’t want to do in the first place. What is your view on that?
ASH: With respect, I think that’s very substantially wrong. I think that the poisoning of the transatlantic relationship, I hardly need to remind you, was already quite strongly apparent in the first nine months of 2001 before 9/11. And this was because of the strong reaction against perceived unilateralism of the Bush administration on Kyoto [Protocol to the Untied Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change], on the International Criminal Court, on weapons proliferation, on a whole number of issues. Now Al Gore would not have done that. That’s quite clear.
Then people said Kerry and Bush, the difference is of style but not of substance. In this relationship, style is substance. Half the objections the Europeans have had to the conduct of the Bush administration have been about the how, not about the what [that] the administration has done. Multilateralism is a statement about the how, not about the what you do. And so I believe a Kerry administration with its programmatic multilateralism— or, I still hope a second Bush administration, which is more pragmatic and with its hard-nosed multilateralism of its own, can significantly change the atmosphere in the transatlantic relationship.
By the way, I would say self-critically of Europeans, it took us far, far too long to wake up to 9/11. The only European leader who got 9/11 at once was Tony Blair. Right? Basically we’ve been living in a different world— a world in which we didn’t feel we were in a war on terror, and the amazing thing is that when two and a half years after 9/11 al Qaeda bombed Madrid, that didn’t wake Europe up either. You know, it wasn’t our 9/11; it was Spain’s 9/11, but [not] our 9/11. But I think you will find that the European policymakers have now woken up to the reality of the threats of terrorism and nuclear proliferation and so on, so that I think you do have a partner to deal with.
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: David Hamburg.
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Wait, David, for the microphone.
QUESTIONER: David Hamburg, Cornell Medical Center. We’ve been hearing in this country in recent weeks a lot of— the term values. I say term because it’s hardly a concept, and we seem to have very little clarity about what these essential values are. But I should think embedded in your writings and your excellent presentation today is a belief that there are in fact core, basic, fundamental values shared by Europeans and Americans for the most part, and that is crucial to the linkage between Europe and America. I’d like to hear you comment on that, please.
ASH: When I hear the word values, I reach for my revolver [laughter] to paraphrase [inaudible]. I mean, this is one of the most— sort of [inaudible] intellectual discussions there is around. And I actually look into it in some detail in the book, and I say, you know, there is actually a lot of empirical work on what values particular societies hold.
There’s been something called the World Values Survey, which has been going for 30 years. And it’s produced, mapped— I have at the back of the book the wonderful “values map” charting countries along two different axes of values. Very, very interesting to look at. And what it finds is not here, America, with American values; there, Europe, with European values, two discrete blocs; but a number of clusters of countries, which are, roughly speaking, Protestant Europe, Catholic Europe, ex-communist Europe, and the English-speaking world. And these are clusters. So Britain is closer to America on the values question than it is, say, to Greece or to Sweden, but actually France is also closer to America, to the United States, than it is— and indeed, obviously, to Canada— than it is to Sweden.
So the real picture— and I believe this is [inaudible] the real picture of our values, insofar as we can discover these elusive things, is of a continuum, a scatter of values. And of course the United States itself, when you disaggregate, is significantly divided on values issues— a continuum of values.
So I don’t myself believe that it’s true to say that America and Europe will always be pulled together because we have shared values. Right. That’s the received wisdom, the pious wisdom of the transatlantic relationship. Sure, we have some shared basic values. There are also significant differences between and among us. But what I think is true is that you cannot possibly build a serious European political identity on a claim about the difference— the fundamental difference— between European values and American values, or vice versa.
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: We have a lot of questions on this side of the room. Let’s start over here.
QUESTIONER: [Inaudible] You’ve referred twice today to the shared objective that we have in what we call the greater Mideast project or initiative. Here, that’s a very undefined term. If you take it from the speech of [former New York City Mayor] Rudy Giuliani at the Republican Convention, it’s a very active intervention in Middle East governments like Egypt and Saudi Arabia to bring about what he called accountability. What is it from the EU point of view? It’s also a NATO objective. What do you— how would it be defined there?
ASH: I watch with some amusement the evolution of the adjective from “greater Middle East” to “broader Middle East” to “wider Middle East” and then back to “greater Middle East.” I have— and perhaps this is just being an English European— I have a slight preference for the slightly more modest “wider” over “greater,” which sounds a little bit bombastic. But I think that— you know, who’s going to [inaudible] wider Middle East? I think that literally from where we sit in Europe, the key is really the 22 members of the Arab League; that is to say, from Morocco ‘round to the central Middle East, plus, of course, Israel, Turkey, and the Islamic Republic of Iran. So that I don’t myself buy into the expansive definition that takes you through Central Asia into Afghanistan. And within that area, you know, I do think that it’s important to distinguish between the problem of Islam and democracy and the specific problem of Arab states and democracy.
There’s a very interesting study which shows that if you look at Muslim countries and see how many of them are democracies, they’re not doing that much worse than other countries of comparable poverty. In other words, is the problem being Islamic or whether it’s being poor? They’re not doing much worse than other countries of comparable poverty. There are countries which have a majority Islam population which are increasingly democratic; Turkey is a good example, Indonesia. OK. So, I think there is a specific problem with the Arab world and democracy. No member of the Arab League, of the 22 members of the Arab League; it stands out on the map of freedom as the black bloc where no member is a democracy— not even an electoral democracy, let alone a liberal democracy.
And that, I think, is the huge challenge which we both face. And that’s a project for 20 years, and it’s a project in which Europe has an enormous amount to contribute, for example, by saying yes to Turkey as a member of the European Union, a decision to be made in mid-December; for example, by making a trans-Mediterranean free-trade area, [a] major potential contribution to the possibility of economic growth in the Arab world; for example, by taking their students and some of their people into our universities and our schools and then sending them back as the seedlings of an elite, as we did with Central and Eastern Europe in the ‘60s and ‘70s and ‘80s; for example, with encouraging independent media and cultural diplomacy in the form of— in the rhetoric of Washington, these all sound rather soft things. But in my view, they will be at least as crucial— at least as crucial— to the gradual emancipation of the Arab world as anything done with hard power.
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Over here in the corner against the wall.
QUESTIONER: You mentioned the need to broaden the transatlantic dialogue to include sort of new powers within Europe: Spain, Poland, a few others. There’s also growing pressure to broaden the global dialogue to include rising, emerging powers, countries like Brazil, India, and China, whether in the U.N. Security Council or in institutions like the G-7 or the G-8. Do you think that a broadening to include these emerging new powers is consistent with a deepening of the transatlantic relationship?
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Before you answer, will you just tell us who you are?
QUESTIONER: Brad Setser, New York University.
ASH: Yes, absolutely, and I’m now going to say something which would get me shot in the [British] Foreign Office or on No. 10 Downing Street, which is I’m strongly in favor of a European Union seat on the U.N. Security Council. And I think if we’re talking seriously about reform, of course it’s utter nonsense that France and Britain should both have seats. I mean, I wouldn’t want to take a bet on the prospects of reforming the U.N. Security Council anytime soon, it has to be said, but that is my position of principle. And if I may just add a footnote, I mentioned Germany. In my view, it’s an— exceedingly a retrograde step that Germany, which has been one of the classic advocates of European integration, of a European voice for decades, now has as just about the only major point on its specific German foreign policy agenda a German seat on the Security Council, which of course is a nonstarter. I mean, it’s a preprogrammed defeat for Germany. So it’s very stupid, but it’s also very unfortunate for anyone who wants to see Europe coming together rather than pulling apart.
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: We’re going to take one last question before we allow Timothy to sum up and leave us with some marching orders. Please. Have you taken your hand down?
QUESTIONER: No. [Inaudible.]
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Wait. Repeat yourself, please. Repeat yourself, please; we can’t hear you.
QUESTIONER: Bettye Musham from Gear Holdings. If the dollar continues to slide and Asia starts buying euro bonds rather than our bonds, which will affect our economy, what is that going to do to the relationship between Europe and the U.S.?
ASH: I always have enormous respect [inaudible] almost to all for economists, of whom we have some very impressive ones both at Oxford and Stanford, partly because I— only half the time do I understand what they’re saying. So I speak with some hesitation on this subject, but I mean it does seem to me self-evident that if that were indeed to be the case, if, for example, it was discussed oil prices were at some point in some places denominated in euros, and if the Far Eastern powers which hold so much of your debt would start pulling a freeze a bit, which I know there are good reasons for them not doing, this would affect the balance of the relationship. It would make Europe’s economic leverage just that bit more important.
So yes, that’s another reason not to underestimate European power by focusing on a one-dimensional definition of power. It seems to me the classic mistake of neoconservative thinking about foreign policy is this one-dimensional definition of power, which equates power solely with military power. Should I make my last plea or—
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Yes. I just want to apologize to all those of you whose questions weren’t either asked or answered, and urge you, if you choose to do so, to purchase a book, which is available outside today. [Laughter.] It makes for a very thought-provoking read and will stimulate further questions. And I discovered at the end of it that Timothy has established a website where you can converse with him online— this is the new world— and you should do so, so that he answers your questions, if they weren’t answered here today. Please, Timothy, the final word.
ASH: FreeWorldWeb.net, FreeWorldWeb.net, the global conversation. It’s, I think, two minutes to 2:00, and I know time-keeping here is absolutely brilliant. So let me say just two things in conclusion.
First of all, the European Union grows like a very slow-growing plant, some might even say a fungus. [Laughter.] And yet it grows. So please don’t underestimate the realities, the growing realities of European power that are there and that are a positive factor— a positive factor, on the whole, for the enlargement of freedom in the world.
And the story of the European Union over the last 15 years, since the fall of the Berlin Wall, is a story of the extraordinary enlargement of freedom. Who would have thought 15 years ago, if we sat in this room, that the Baltic States, which didn’t even exist as states in 1989, would now be members of the European Union and NATO?
And that leads me to my very last point, which is these are not necessarily times in which it’s particularly easy to be optimistic. It was easier 15 years ago as the wall came down. But, you know, 15 years before the wall came down, if you were living in Warsaw or Prague, it looked pretty grim. Brezhnev was still in the Kremlin. These were still unchallenged communist dictatorships. And yet, friends of mine who were dissidents in Poland and Czechoslovakia wrote in their papers, “Our objective is a free, independent, sovereign Poland.” And 15 years later, it came true. So the impossible can happen, even if it looks impossible today. And this book is in some measure a plea to all of us to recall the spirit of 1989 and to have a bit more courage and hope and imagination. Thank you. [Applause.]
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Please join me in thanking Timothy Garton Ash.
(C) COPYRIGHT 2004, FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC., 1000 VERMONT AVE. NW; 5TH FLOOR; WASHINGTON, DC - 20005, USA. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. ANY REPRODUCTION, REDISTRIBUTION OR RETRANSMISSION IS EXPRESSLY PROHIBITED.
UNAUTHORIZED REPRODUCTION, REDISTRIBUTION OR RETRANSMISSION CONSTITUTES A MISAPPROPRIATION UNDER APPLICABLE UNFAIR COMPETITION LAW, AND FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC. RESERVES THE RIGHT TO PURSUE ALL REMEDIES AVAILABLE TO IT IN RESPECT TO SUCH MISAPPROPRIATION.
FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC. IS A PRIVATE FIRM AND IS NOT AFFILIATED WITH THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. NO COPYRIGHT IS CLAIMED AS TO ANY PART OF THE ORIGINAL WORK PREPARED BY A UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT OFFICER OR EMPLOYEE AS PART OF THAT PERSON’S OFFICIAL DUTIES.
FOR INFORMaTION ON SUBSCRIBING TO FNS, PLEASE CALL JACK GRAEME AT 202-347-1400.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.