A concrete strategy for mending fences

A concrete strategy for mending fences

Opinion piece (International Herald Tribune)
Charles Grant , Philip H. Gordon was a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution
17 February 2005

For the past several years, the conventional wisdom has been that the United States and Europe have grown apart, that the end of the cold war and 9/11 have produced a strategic divergence that is impossible to overcome. Tensions over Iraq, Iran, Israel, the environment and other issues purportedly demonstrated that Americans and Europeans were going their separate ways.

On Thursday in Washington and London, a document is being published that refutes this claim. The "Compact between the United States and Europe," signed by 55 prominent foreign policy and national security experts from both sides of the Atlantic and drafted in the form of a diplomatic agreement between the two sides, offers specific policy recommendations for dealing with most of the key strategic challenges of the day.

The Compact does not demonstrate that trans-Atlantic differences do not exist, nor that agreement is easy; it does, however, show that agreement on a comprehensive trans-Atlantic strategy is possible, even on the hardest issues we face. Those who signed the Compact believe that trans-Atlantic partnership must endure, not because of what it has achieved in the past, but because our common future depends on it.

The divide between Europe and the United States did not arise because of poor atmospherics or miscommunication. It arose because each side took actions the other strongly opposed, or declined to join in actions the other strongly favored. Moreover, these disputes have become self-perpetuating: American policies spark hostility among Europeans and vice versa. That hostility, in turn, convinces leaders on both sides that they have no choice but to go it alone. This vicious cycle benefits no one and must end.

As President George W. Bush sets off on his first trip to Europe since his reelection, both sides are proclaiming a desire for better relations. That is to be welcomed. But words alone will not restore a productive partnership. Each side will have to take steps that address the legitimate concerns of the other.

Every signatory of the Compact did not agree with every specific proposal. They all, however, agreed that the benefits of the overall agreement far outweigh whatever specific compromises they have made. These are some of the specific proposals in the Compact:

Iraq: The United States shall start a strategic dialogue with European allies on Iraq's future through a new contact group. The EU will commit itself to train 5,000 senior civil servants and 25,000 Iraqi security and police forces per year. The EU will grant $1 billion in reconstruction funds and write off 50 percent of Iraqi debt.

Iran: The United States and the EU insist that Iran permanently and verifiably end its fuel cycle program. The United States declares its support for the EU's nuclear dialogue with Iran. EU countries declare their readiness to impose meaningful penalties on Iran if it refuses to end its nuclear fuel recycling programs or withdraws from the Nonproliferation Treaty.

China: The EU declares that if it lifts its arms embargo against China, it will replace it with a reinforced code of conduct on arms sales. The EU will invite the United States, Japan and others to provide a specific list of weapons and technologies that they consider would negatively affect security and stability in the region. The United States reiterates its opposition to a lifting of the arms embargo but refrains from taking action so long as these measures are not violated. The EU expects China to ratify the UN convention on civil and political rights.

The International Criminal Court: The United States reaffirms its concerns about the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court but will not impose punitive measures on nations that support it. The United States shall not oppose a resolution by the Security Council referring the situation in Darfur, Sudan, to the ICC.

The Geneva Conventions: The United States and EU countries will apply the Geneva Conventions to all battlefield combatants they capture in the war against terrorism.

Middle East: The United States and EU members affirm that encouraging the peaceful development of democratic societies that respect human rights in the broader Middle East is a central strategic aim of their foreign policies. They will establish an Independent Foundation for Democracy in the Middle East and jointly contribute $100 million a year over the next five years to its activities.

In recent weeks, optimism has grown that the U.S.-European partnership can find new vitality. But renewal requires more than hope; it requires action. The Compact shows that a way forward exists. With bold steps, we believe the partnership can survive and thrive in a way that benefits Americans and Europeans alike.