Friday, July 20, 2001

In 1946, in the wake of two world wars that left the continent devastated, Winston Churchill famously declared, "We must build a kind of United States of Europe." But for a continent of 500 million people and several dozen nation-states with singular histories, cultures, and identities, how complete and how inclusive can unification be? With the end of the cold war, what is the motivation for continuing on the path toward union? If we are on the threshold of an actual "United States of Europe," what role will, and should, the United States of America have in this new Europe?

Recorded on Friday, July 20, 2001

Peter Robinson: Today on Uncommon Knowledge, just how far are the Europeans willing to go?

Announcer: Funding for this program is provided by The John M. Olin Foundation and the Starr Foundation.


Peter Robinson: Welcome to Uncommon Knowledge, I'm Peter Robinson. Our show today, the United States and the future of Europe. In 1946, after two world wars left the continent devastated, Winston Churchill famously remarked, and I quote, "We must build a kind of United States of Europe." Easier said than done, and a single phrase suggests why, "As American as apple pie." We all know just what that means. But now try adapting that phrase. As European as what? Strudel? That's German. Cannoli? Italian. Éclair? French. The point of course is that Europe is made up of individual nations each with its singular identity, history and culture. Nations that don't lend themselves easily to federation or unification. So, just how is the European project coming along, and how should the United States view it? To what extent, to name just one question, is the drive for a united Europe based upon resentment of the United States?

With us today, two guests. Timothy Garton Ash is a historian and journalist, and the author most recently of A History of the Present. Garton Ash is an enthusiast for Europe. John O'Sullivan is Editor in Chief of United Press International and a former speechwriter for Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Like his old boss, O'Sullivan views a united Europe with reservations.

Peter Robinson: Let's look at the two large European institutions, so to speak, in principle. The European Union and NATO. First, the European Union. Now Timothy, in your writings, you identify a couple of generations and motives for European Union distinct to each generation. First generation, Churchill, Adenauer, de Gaulle, who wanted union on the continent, and particularly in those days, between France and Britain, for the "Real Politique" reason of avoiding another war. Second generation, Cole, Mitterand, and you refer to them as idealists. Their motive is not just preventing another war but they have the notion that in one way or another, a European Union would usher in a better, nobler, Europe. Now our friend the historian, Robert Conquest, would point to a third generation, today's generation, and a third motive, which is quite extensively says Bob Conquest, resentment of and envy of the United States. Three motives, how many of them actually come into play today, and how many of them are sensible?

Timothy Garton Ash: I think that there's one very important motive that you missed out.

Peter Robinson: Go ahead.

Timothy Garton Ash: Namely that we had a clear common enemy, the Soviet Union and the communist block. And I think that was one of the main reasons why Western Europe is as united as it is. Nothing pulls you together like a clear common enemy.

Peter Robinson: And you're speaking now of the European Union for the as well as NATO?

Timothy Garton Ash: Very much so.

Peter Robinson: All right.

Timothy Garton Ash: Very much so from the 1950's through to the end of the Cold War. And one of the reasons that the European Union is in crisis now is precisely that we no longer have that clear common enemy that's pulling us together, you know, come back Uncle Joe. You're quite right, there are some people particularly not a million miles from Paris who would like to see Europe as Charles de Gaulle saw it, as a rival super power to the United States. But I am absolutely clear in my mind that that's not a majority view in Europe at the moment. It's not a major motive for pushing forward European integration.

John O'Sullivan: I--I agree with a great deal of what Tim said. The first point I would say though is, that the threat from the Soviet Union prolonged the stay of the American forces in the--the United States in Europe. America became a European power and that, as well as the common enemy element, made it possible for Europe to co--cooperate in all sorts of ways. I mean, countries which might have been….

Peter Robinson: Not just the Soviet Enemy, but the American presence.

John O'Sullivan: The American presence, which in my view…

Peter Robinson: Not just a--I mean, not a spur but obviously an essential component of NATO, but a spur to the European Union as well?

John O'Sullivan: It was the foundation of it. It created the circumstances in which countries, which might otherwise have been fearful of each other, simply didn't have to worry because in any club of which the Americans were a part, no other member was going to be able to throw its weight around in a serious way. And that's the foundation for the EU. And--and I think that--that's the danger now is, that some people, and you--you've identified them I think very accurately, I think they should be my--my view is, given the name Euro-Nationalists. Because what they're doing in Europe is attempting to create in Europe a nation, in the same way that the French or the British are a nation. They may be a minority at the moment; I do think they're a powerful influential and growing minority. And I do think they include influential German politicians like Karl Lamers. They include the Swedish Prime Minister. One can't simply say--and they include virtually all the bureaucrats in the European Union who can't be underestimated.

Peter Robinson: Can I just….

Timothy Garton Ash: And I think, if I may just come in now.

Peter Robinson: Yes, of course.

Timothy Garton Ash: I think--I think they're a powerful influential and shrinking minority. I think that history is clearly on the side of the--the larger Europeans not the little Europeans. And one reason they're a shrinking minority, well two, let me give you two. One is Germany. Germany is a Faustian nation torn between the goalist and the advantasist option. In my view, the advantasist option is clearly winning in Germany. That's a very major factor. Second reason is all the countries coming in from Eastern Europe. President Bush was in Warsaw earlier this year. He received a rapturous welcome because Poland is probably the most pro-American country in Europe. So you have a series--I--I've always argued that Poland is to the west of Germany in spirit.

Peter Robinson: Right.

Timothy Garton Ash: And you have a series of very pro-American countries who are coming into the European Union.

Peter Robinson: Let me ask this. How will Europeans benefit from the further strengthening of the EU?

Peter Robinson: Late 19th Century, turn of the 20th Century, much of Europe already had free trade, free movement of peoples. One didn't even need a passport to travel among many of the European countries at the turn of the 20th, end of the 19th, turn of the 20th Century. It had, in effect, very substantially a common currency in the gold standard. Isn't--but it also had independent, sovereign nations, whose sense of identity was based on an organic development through the centuries. Why not say, we want to get back to that kind of Europe without this super-structure in Brussels?

John O'Sullivan: Well as I--as I understand it, that is exactly…

Peter Robinson: That's Timothy's view?

John O'Sullivan: …what Timothy has said over the--in recent years and--and what I would say as well. In other words, what you do have in Europe at the moment is nation states, prosperity, free trade, strong defense alliance with the United States, which is--is really--we don't have to worry about defense while that exists. And you have this network of interlocking European institutions, of a legal kind of an economic kind, which mean that you don't really need to transfer that much more power from individual countries to the center. And indeed you could argue, I would argue, you can transfer some power back. That--none of that--none of that means that the European Union would disappear, but it simply would not develop along the Euro-Nationalist lines, which I think are a threat, which Timothy disagrees with--doesn't think are a threat. Is that fair?

Timothy Garton Ash: I--I--I think they would be a threat if they had a chance of winning. But to answer your question, I mean the only trouble with the Europe you evoked of the wonderful free trading free Europe of 1900 is that fourteen years later, we were all at war with each other. And--I mean I do think the thought of fundamental point of European cooperation is still that countries that have fought each other on and off for centuries should make (?) rather than world war. And don't just forget that in the last ten years we've again had wars in Europe. And so the key project for the European Union is enlargement. We don't need closer--we don't need a federal union of the existing fifteen members states. What we do need is a European Union of thirty member states, which creates--I--what I would call a non-hegemonic order for the whole of Europe.

Peter Robinson: Who's the hegemon who's being excluded? The French, the Germans…

John O'Sullivan: Franco-German…

Timothy Garton Ash: Well, well, I mean we've had a series of hegemons through history.

Peter Robinson: Right.

Timothy Garton Ash: We had, you know, the Spanish. We had the Napoleonic order. We had the Germans trying. We had the Russians.

Peter Robinson: But the point is now…

Timothy Garton Ash: And now, for the first time, you have the chance of a non-hegemonic order for the whole of Europe.

[Talking at the same time]

Peter Robinson: What could possibly make you think so because there's no evidence of that at all. You both agreed that it's the American presence that has made the European Union possible.

John O'Sullivan: That was going to be my point.

Peter Robinson: Without the American hegemon, what could you do?

John O'Sullivan: Surely--surely the American hegemon is a vital factor here. And surely the important thing here is to have NATO remaining. I would argue the sole serious defense movement, which includes the Europeans. In other words, if there is a threat at the moment, and I--let me say I completely agree on enlargement, but if there is a threat, it is that we're going to create a European armed force which excludes the Americans and which, while it will do nothing serious for twenty years, nonetheless as an institutional basis for a separate European defense identity, could be a threat in the long run.

Timothy Garton Ash: I would slightly disagree in using the word hegemon about the United States and Europe. I mean if it is a hegemon, it is the mildest and most benign hegemon in history.

John O'Sullivan: But the very fact of its presence does rule out any other hegemon. And wi--you--it seems to me that what you want, this non-hegemonic Europe including about thirty states with a great deal of decentralization, something like a Swiss confederation rather than the dreams of a--of a--the more formal federalists. That is seems to me, very desirable, is only possible if there is a permanent American presence in Europe because that banishes all fears of hege--of other hegemons. And what might--what might drive the Americans back, or persuade them that they can leave, or force them out, is the feeling that the Europeans are now looking after their own defense.

Timothy Garton Ash: That I do disagree with John because I think that something that might drive the Americans out is the sense that the Europeans aren't doing enough for their own defense.

John O'Sullivan: But what--what is the worst…

Peter Robinson: Next topic, the importance of NATO and the rationale for the continued American presence in Europe.

Peter Robinson: Irving Kristal argues that it may have made sense for Americans in Kansas and Iowa and Ohio to be taxed to keep tens of thousands of troops in Europe after the Second World War when there was a direct threat to Europe and Europe itself was still recovering economically from the effects of the Second World War. The Soviet Union is gone and Europe is rich, having tens of thousands of troops there like the Roman Legions will only, and quite understandably, irritate this--the sense of resentment, the suspicion that America is in some way an imperial power. We ought to bring them home and let the Europeans grow up and look after their own interests. John?

John O'Sullivan: We did that of course in--until the Americans became formally and fully involved in Europe in the late 40's. And the result was that the Europeans quarreled. I think that the Europeans cannot in a sense be trusted to look after their own interests in this way. And--and I think that while the Americans are there, and the American interest in this is clear. It is a stable, peaceful, free trading Europe, which would col--collaborate with them in trade and be a partner with them in--in world politics. I happen to think that's easier if you have the alliance as America surrounded by a series of lesser powers than if you have an equal status for Europe and America. But that's a different argument.

Peter Robinson: Well that you--you've just made two things that I would have thought you would find provocative. Statement number one, I think I can quote you exactly John, "The Europeans cannot be trusted to look after their own interests," closed quote.

Timothy Garton Ash: Many Europeans would entirely agree, notably the Germans who were the first people to say that the Germans quite--can't quite be trusted. Helmut Kohl said it all the time. No, I--I--I don't there's--there's a problem there, but there is obviously the problem that, in the classic formula, NATO was founded to keep the Americans in, the Russians out, and the Germans down. Now, we don't need to keep the Russians out in my view. We don't need to keep the Germans down. So, just keeping the Americans in, which I agree with John is an important interest. But I would say that the prize for the United States is worth quite a few taxpayers' dollars. The prize is ultimately a stable, prosperous, democratic Eurasia, that is to say. In classic geopolitics is a heartland of world politics, which is friendly to the United States and shares its core values. Quite a prize.

John O'Sullivan: That is a very big prize and that brings us into whether or not we think Russia is going to part of this world, and I think that--myself, that it is going to be. It's not going to be yet, and for it to become part of--let's say, become a member of NATO, it's going to have to rid itself of the false consciousness of being an imperial power of its own. The key thing is that--I--I--I sort of agree that it would be nice to have this large confederal Europe. That such a Europe, particularly one that was decentralized, would not be able to form a rival to the United States. But what I fear is that there are substantial elements in European politics, I think that they're growing rather than shrinking as you do, which would like this power, which would not incidentally, be expanded to include, not only Russia, but it would not be expanded to include a lot of the East European countries. I think some of them want this power to be a rival to the United States. And we see this all the…

Peter Robinson: Let's explore this issue of enlargement a little more. Just how big should NATO and the EU get?

Timothy Garton Ash: There are two different points, and I mean one is the imperative of enlargement for both EU and NATO. I mean, this is the big project for the next decade for both organizations.

Peter Robinson: How far east would you go?

Timothy Garton Ash: And I am very much with John there. I would never say never. I feel very strongly that actually both should, in principle, be open to a democratic Russia.

Peter Robinson: Right.

Timothy Garton Ash: Europe--Europe doesn't end in the east, it merely fades away. It fades away into Asia or across Russia, across the vast expanse of Russia, and across the vast expanse of Turkey. We've already said, for heaven sake, I mean that Turkey is accepted as a candidate for EU membership. It is already a member of NATO. Are we saying that Russia is less European than Turkey? Now, of course, to have a Russia in the EU and NATO would be a big problem, but I think it's a problem we should want to have. The second part is John's one about, I mean which is a real one because the question is, how do you get a sense of belonging, of purpose, to this vast organization of five hundred million people in thirty states. Some sort of sense of collective identity without being against someone. I mean, that's how you get identities. It's by having a common enemy. Britain was defined against the French. You were defined--the United States was defined against us. I--I hope we served you well.

Peter Robinson: It seems to have worked out so far.

Timothy Garton Ash: And so there is a temptation, and the problem for Europe is that there's no clear common enemy. Islam won't do the trick. China won't do the trick. You know, rogue states won't do the--so there is a temptation to say, ah, the big bad wolf, the Texan wolf. You know, George W. in a Texan cowboy hat. I agree there is that temptation. There is the difficulty of defining a positive identity for Europe. But I don't believe the goalist option will fly.

John O'Sullivan: Let me raise the question of enlargement though. The EU, twelve years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, has not admitted a single country to it. It has…

Peter Robinson: Whereas NATO has already admitted Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary…

John O'Sullivan: And it will probably admit, in a year's time, another three or four including I suspect at least one Baltic state and maybe more that that.

Peter Robinson: Right.

John O'Sullivan: This--this fact has embarrassed the EU into saying it will expedite the negotiations. But it's still only talking about 2004, 2005, and frankly, they're not going to admit the Turks in my judgment, even though they're--they're talking to them. I--I would be--I have to say that enlargement is something to which there are obviously very strong subterranean obstacles in the European bureaucracy and in the European political mind set. And if--because it gets in the way of a kind of--developing a European nationalism in opposition to the United States.

Timothy Garton Ash: Yeah, but I actually am now more optimistic. I believe that we've crossed some sort of psychological rubrican, and if you go to Brussels now, or even to Paris, everyone accepts that the big project for the EU is enlargement. And when you hear French Ministers, for heaven's sake, French Ministers talking about how a EU of twenty-five member states is gonna work, you know, something has changed. And I think when the enlargement comes, you will be surprised--may I just finish on that--I think you will find that it won't just be three or four countries, I think you'll find it will be ten countries.

John O'Sullivan: Well let me say that I hope that is the case. But let me also say that this, if it happens, will have happened because the U.S. led a push, persuaded NATO to admit to East European countries and to extend the zone of stability and prosperity. And that has embarrassed the EU into doing something, which it has plainly been reluctant to do.

Peter Robinson: Onto the question of Britain's place in the European Union.

Peter Robinson: I quote Margaret, the baroness, Thatcher, quote, "In this 21st Century, the dominant power is America, the global language is English, the pervasive economic model is Anglo-Saxon Capitalism, so why imprison ourselves in a bureaucratic Europe? Britain's integration within a European super-state is unacceptable to me because it means the loss of our freedom, of our independence and ultimately of our very identity," closed quote. And that was just a year ago that she gave that speech. Timothy?

Timothy Garton Ash: That European super-state is not gonna happen. So, that is not how the question is posed in real terms. Second of all, we are the Janus of the western world.

Peter Robinson: We being now…

Timothy Garton Ash: We the British--we the British, and we are a country who…

Peter Robinson: Your own identity. You have become a European yourself by the way, because you said we to mean the--Europe. Go ahead.

Timothy Garton Ash: Absolutely. I am an English European, but I'm also someone who spends a good part of each year in Stanford, California…

Peter Robinson: Right.

Timothy Garton Ash: …and feels complete and write regularly in the New York review of books in the New York Times and feel completely at home in this culture. And in that sense, I'm absolutely typical.

John O'Sullivan: As you would be in Australia or Canada or New Zealand.

Timothy Garton Ash: Absolutely so. In other words, we are Janus between Europe on the one hand and the world of the English speaking peoples, what Churchill called the English-speaking peoples on the other hand. And our choice, in my view, has to be not to choose. Half our trade is with Europe, half our investment in the United States. So it is in our vital national interest that these two should be as close together as possible.

John O'Sullivan: For that to happen, and of course, that is the best of all possible worlds, the--Europe has to develop along certain lines rather than others. And that of course, is what a lot of the political battles are about. Do you join the Euro? What kind of economic control is exercised from London over the--the UK economy, what kind from Brussels? Are the Irish going to be allowed to continue cutting taxes, or will they be compelled by the European commission to raise them because of its concerns over their financial stability? I mean, these are the kind of questions. To what degree will European law override domestic law in all of the existing countries? Lady Thatcher, in my view, is very reasonably concerned that the--centralizing, bureaucratizing, powers of Brussels are going to increase and lay the dead hand of bureaucracy on the British economy, and I agree with that. I think she's got good cause. These are battles which are being fought today. It's important they be won. If they are won, Tim has a very strong case. We can have--we can face both ways. But we can't face both ways if the centralizers win the arguments.

Timothy Garton Ash: Yeah, and here's our dilemma. That if that argument is to be won in Europe, the argument for a freedom oriented, Anglo-American style, Democratic Europe rather than an Napoleonic centralized, corporatist Europe, then we have to engage in it. It's a gamble. If we--if we get out--if we pull out, the argument may be lost.

Peter Robinson: Last topic. Some advice for President Bush.

Peter Robinson: Timothy, you recently visited the White House. You briefed President Bush on Europe. Protocol regarding Presidents is that one doesn't reveal the conversation one has with the President. So if you were to brief him again today, what would you say?

Timothy Garton Ash: You have an extraordinary chance to move towards the goal that your father proclaimed over Europe, Poland free. And the key towards moving towards that goal is to grow the EU and NATO. That is to say, the key institutions of Europe and the west together.

Peter Robinson: Anything to disagree with there?

John O'Sullivan: What does that mean in practice? In my view, it means the trans-Atlantic free trade area. For example, let--let--whether we get that would be a very good test to whether--if we can continue to face both ways as Tim argues.

Peter Robinson: All right now, let me go down, I'm going to ask you each to make three predictions. Ten years from now, will the European Union or will it not have enlarged from, current membership is seventeen to the thirty that Timothy suggests, a decade from now?

Timothy Garton Ash: Twenty-seven.

Peter Robinson: Twenty-seven. John? Will they have pulled it off?

John O'Sullivan: No, I think it will be twenty-one, twenty-two. And--and I think that, as a result of that, we will have a more bureaucratized and centralized Europe.

Peter Robinson: Will Turkey be in or out a decade from now?

John O'Sullivan: Oh, no chance that Turkey will be in.

Peter Robinson: No chance of Turkey?

Timothy Garton Ash: No chance.

Peter Robinson: Will Ukraine be in or out?

Timothy Garton Ash: I would say it no--it will be out as well.

John O'Sullivan: Not in ten years but in twenty there's a real chance.

Peter Robinson: There's a real chance of Ukraine.

John O'Sullivan: Yes, I think that's fair.

Peter Robinson: Twenty-five years from now. Twenty-five years from now, will there still be tens of thousands of American troops deployed in Europe? John?

John O'Sullivan: Yes.

Peter Robinson: Timothy?

Timothy Garton Ash: I don't think there need to be. A few thousand.

Peter Robinson: A few thousand will do the trick? Makes you nervous?

John O'Sullivan: Yes, it makes me nervous. I think that once you start to bring the legions home, they--they--you know, having a couple of chaps leaning on a rifle somewhere, that's not going to work. You have to have a substantive American presence in Europe or else the real force of NATO will vanish and the Europeans will then develop a serious defense policy and then there will be a serious rivalry with the United States.

Peter Robinson: Last question for Lady Thatcher. Twenty-five years from now, again twenty-five years from now, who will have more power over the everyday lives of British subjects? Legislatures in Westminster, or legislators in Brussels? John?

John O'Sullivan: Well, the way things are going, legislators in Brussels, except they won't be legislators, they'll be bureaucrats. If--but nothing is decided. I mean, this is a battle. It's being fought now.

Peter Robinson: Timothy?

Timothy Garton Ash: I--I think the question is falsely posed, because I actually think twenty years from now, it will be legislators in Edinborough for the Scots, or Cardiff for the Welch, or Belfast for the Irish, or London for the English, who will cover a lot of our domestic affairs, education, health and so on. And then there will be a second layer which will be Westminster, which I think will still be the single most important level. And then indeed I think Brussels, but I also think Washington. I think that the west…

[Talking at the same time]

John O'Sullivan: May I say why I think that is very undemocratic solution rather than a democratic one? Because the electors and the voters will be faced with a absolutely mystifying multiplicity of institutions in which they will never be able to hold governments to account because people will always be saying, no that's not my department, it's his department. And the result will be a growing bureaucratic power and a significant reduction of genuine democratic control.

Peter Robinson: John O'Sullivan, Timothy Garton Ash, I'm sorry we could go on, but we can't. Thank you very much.

Peter Robinson: Both Garton Ash and O'Sullivan agree on this much, the United States and Europe alike will lose out if Europe becomes inward looking and exclusive. Cannoli, strudel, and Éclair in--apple pie out. But that the best course for Europe is a growing and inclusive confederation with some room for apple pie. I'm Peter Robinson, thanks for joining us.