Europe and America: a reply to John Williams

French and American soldiers raise the Stars and Stripes in Afghanistan (picture US Air Force)
John Williams’s thesis of an irreconcilable conflict of interest between the USA and Europe is powerfully stated. His conclusion that Europe needs a security tax to confront US pressure is intellectually persuasive. The trouble is that it is politically unthinkable. A tax earmarked for the financing of security even for a nation so national security conscious as France is surely inconceivable.

John Williams’s analysis is very much of the half empty glass school. It is equally possible, from the same data to argue that the glass can be half filled. Admittedly the world has come a long way, and all downhill from the concepts of a transatlantic partnership of equals preached and sometimes practised by Churchill and Roosevelt, by Macmillan and Kennedy and even (though with more schmaltz than substance) by Thatcher and Reagan. Perhaps even better examples of how the US and Europe could work in partnership were provided by the Father of Europe himself, Jean Monnet during and after the war, and by the greatest of US Secretaries of State, General Marshall with his plan for US aid to finance European recovery “the most unselfish act in history”.

It has been a sad story of decline since then; compare and contrast Adenauer and Schroder, Schuman and Chirac, De Gasperi and Berlusconi; or for that matter Ernest Bevin and Jack Straw. But the underlying need for a constructive relationship between and a democratic America (a relationship which requires Britain to be firmly rooted in Europe if it is to work) remains, if the world is not to drift into the kind of permanent armed hostility between power blocs so graphically portrayed in George Orwell’s 1984.

Where John Williams is 100% right is in his assertion that only a federally united and democratically controlled Europe will be able to provide a self confident partner rather than a resentful client for the USA. It is unfortunately likely that over the next few years US policies will become increasingly unattractive to us Europeans. Congressional pressures will do nothing to abate the President’s determination to add to global pollution in order to repay his industrial backers and to step up America’s defences at whatever cost to the chances of achieving a reduction of armaments or tension in the rest of the world. And in matters of trade the Americans will continue to exploit their powerful position in the World Trade Organisation to foist their unwanted exports of hormone treated beef, genetically modified crops and Hollywood soap operas on the rest of the world.

All of which requires Europe to be strong and united, far stronger and far more united than can possibly be achieved by the Three Pillar philosophy enshrined in the Maastricht Treaty, which in matters of defence and security deliberately excludes the near-federalist techniques of the Treaty of Rome which have proved so spectacularly successful in the field of trade and economics. Foreign Affairs and Security (and also immigration policy) have been reserved for intergovernmental action; it has been equally spectacularly unsuccessful.

The European Rapid Reaction Force shows how much, and how little can be achieved by intergovernmental action. The idea is a good one and those who want Britain to stay out of it because they see it as a threat to Atlantic solidarity are even sillier than the run of the mill Eurosceptics; of course if Britain stayed out it would become something of a rival for NATO (and would that be quite the disaster it is usually portrayed?), but if Britain stays in it will remain for long an integral part of NATO. For long, but hopefully not for ever. For a democratic, decentralised, federally united Europe will in the end have to have its own defence capacity, including the all-important intelligence capacity. And that will have to be centrally financed. So perhaps I end up not so far from John Williams after all.

This article was contributed by Sir Anthony Meyer, Chairman of Federal Union. The opinions expressed at those of the author and not necessarily those of Federal Union.

Read the article by John Williams here.

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