12 Stars

The USA strategic pivot to Asia gets accompanied by affirmations of the Transatlantic partnership as well as irritating attempts to broaden the perspective. For instance Transatlantic foundations discover the “Southern Atlantic”. The easing of the transatlantic alliance is apparent but the United States have no plan or vision how to fill a post-pivot power vacuum in Europe.

Quite insightful, I must say, the subtext of what Hillary Clinton recently said at the Brooking institution (“U.S. and Europe: A Revitalized Global Partnership” – 29 Nov 12):

After all, in the democracies of Europe, we find countries with shared strategic and economic interests and with whom we share a long history, deep cultural ties, and cherished values.

Clinton also assumed leadership of the Libyan operation and highlights an improved ammunition balance:

When the Libyan people demanded their freedom and Kaddafi threatened to hunt down the people of Benghazi like rats, we responded. And we all shared the burden. Early on, the United States knocked out Libya’s integrated air defenses and later we provided other crucial assets. Our European and Canadian allies policed the skies, carried out the bulk of air strikes, provided logistical support, and enforced the arms embargo at sea. Think for a moment about the NATO action in Kosovo in the 1990s. In that mission, the United States dropped nearly 90 percent of the precision guided munitions compared to our allies’ 10 percent. In Libya, it was the other way around.

Admitted, the Libyan operation was a masterful neogaullist trap for the United States. It was French Mirage planes which took the headlines of the international press. I remember well how US press inquired the Pentagon whether the U.S. leads the ad hoc coalition and the spokesperson responded: “We are in a leading position.” Then we watched the US struggle to get the ad hoc coalition into NATO structures. Public swearing and talking down on the military capabilities of the European partners followed which proved the strategy effective. The European participants understood that there was no need to hurry, a mission which exceeded its original UN mandate anyway. Fortunately Germany had to keep out.

Now, Libya was not a flawless operation. European air forces were severely stressed, and we are concerned about further defense cuts by our allies that could impede our ability to undertake necessary defense and such operations in the future, but Operation Unified Protector showed that NATO still has a critical role to play in advancing our common security interests, and we’re taking advantage of the lessons we learned to make the alliance more effective.

How strong is the pivot to the Pacific? Quite radical it seems:

And let me clear, our pivot to Asia is not a pivot away from Europe. On the contrary, we want Europe to engage more in Asia along with us, to see the region not only as a market, but as a focus of common strategic engagement.

As Eurozone nations face the Euro crisis, you may be aware how the 2008 financial crisis, a domino fallout of US regulatory failure, triggered the sovereign debt crisis. Do the United States intend to take joint responsibility? Rather the spirit of 1929: Hells no!

Now, we recognize that this is fundamentally a European problem that requires European solutions. America can’t and shouldn’t try to dictate any answer or approach.

A neogaullist may embrace US disengagement because he aims for that. But for those of us who embrace the Atlantic influence it raises certain alarm bells for the future of the North Atlantic cooperation, in particular as no other European power is prepared to fill their role, with the EU level governance deliberately ignored and undermined.

That’s why we are discussing possible negotiations with the European Union for a comprehensive agreement that would increase trade and spur growth on both sides of the Atlantic. We have more work to do, including addressing longstanding barriers to trade and market access, but if we work at it and if we get this right, an agreement that opens markets and liberalizes trade would shore up our global competitiveness for the next century, creating jobs and generating hundreds of billions of dollars for our economies.

The crack is within the plan. The 133 process, the trade funnel, is not very well suited for US-EU relations. The European Commission usually responds with a transatlantic appeasement policy, to gather institutional acceptance, and thus the Commission undermines its credibility and support among European member states and policy makers alike. The ACTA agreement or the one-sided TEC deliberations are only small pieces in that puzzle, joint trade policies which carry too little weight on the European side and US negotiators take out the knifes to fight for fascinating issues such as poultry imports and gene-modified crops. I would appreciate some guidance of Mrs Clinton what they want the E.U. to become and what interface they need. Seems to me their strategic pivot to Asia (and consequent European disengagement) is rather ad hoc, and thus future relations become far less predictable than they used to be.

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