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Thursday, 21 June, 2001, 07:49 GMT 08:49 UK
Does Europe need the US?
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President George W Bush has faced angry demonstrators during his first tour of Europe since coming to the White House.
Europeans are angry that the Bush administration has turned its back on the Kyoto treaty on tackling global warming and the Russians are particularly fearful of the contentious US missile defence plans.
Despite a huge volume of transatlantic trade and political co-operation between Europe and America there is also a seemingly immense cultural divide.
On issues from defence and the environment to abortion and the death penalty, it seems there is a growing European rebellion against American values and culture.
Can the gulf between the two western power blocks be bridged or is the transatlantic alliance coming to an end? Is America now out of touch with the rest of the world?
Robin Lustig was joined by Tom Reid from the Washington Post for Talking Point on Air, a radio phone-in programme on BBC World Service and BBC News Online. You can add to the debate by using the form below.
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
It amazes me everyday that people around the globe still buy into the American theme of democracy. Bush has been appointed by the Court. We in America are now represented by a frightened man who wants to conduct his business behind closed doors. It is a sad state of democracy, but it has long been this way. And, look at his father, who continues his reign as the most powerful man in the world. Bush is more the puppet than even Reagan. Please, understand this, and the fact that, yes, we Americans could benefit from a more European point-of-view on the state of the world.
I have only read one comment FROM the USA on this subject, and find it typical. It is all regarding Europe not being a military super-power, claiming that the EU could not exist without the US! Only the USA is INTERESTED in being a military super-power! Despite what the UK government (the US' lapdog, might I add) thinks, the REST of the EU in no way "needs" the USA, nor their interference in European affairs. Two thumbs up to France and Germany for giving the two-fingered salute to George Bush. Not all Americans like this president, nor their government. I am hoping to soon become an EU citizen myself.
L Cacchio, Missouri USA
I think that Europe is plagued with arrogance. Europe needs America but America could easily survive without Europe. I spilled my blood in Europe fighting in a regional conflict. Many of my close friends died on the beaches of France so that you could be free. And yet you are still arrogant and feel higher than Americans. If it were not for America, right now Britain would be a mere Diocese of the Third Reich. And after the war with The Marshal Plan and Truman Doctrine we rebuilt Europe and Americans sent their tax dollars over there to save you from communism.
We rebuilt your economies and our militaries protected you. America has been there every step of the way to hold your hands and tell you its ok. And now when your American made economies start to work you want to leave us in the dust. You could not survive ten weeks without America.
The issue is not whether Europe needs the U.S. or vice-versa. It's plainly obvious we need each other and should demand an even greater relationship from one another for the greater good of everyone. The issue is rather, how does the U.S. develop a greater sense of global responsibility beyond its traditional role as military presence and treaty broker? And how do Europeans develop a greater sense of self-reliance and become a greater force in persuading Americans to be more internationally responsible?
Americans, as a manner of habit, are uncomfortable with government leading an active role in any large-scale project. This is a major flaw and phobia in the American way of thinking. Americans like the idea of government as, at the most, a passive moderator, and not an active provider or regulator. Americans distrust government as being conscious and responsible, but rather usually see government as wasteful and self-serving.
I'm tired of the comments of my fellow disenchanted Americans saying that they disagree with our president's policy, so the EU needs to teach us a lesson. The idea behind our country is that it is governed "by the people", and the only reason that it feels like we don't have control is that lazy, complacent Americans let it get this way. Did you vote? Only 4 out of 10 of us did in the last election. If you want to make change, back it up with your actions. It's very easy to write to a Congress person, it's very easy to get to a voting booth. Don't sit back and expect someone else to "punish" us with sanctions. Let's not let is get that bad. Change is needed now, and all you have to do is vote in your local elections.
The EU needs the US more than the US needs the EU. The business news just mentioned that if California were a nation, it had just passed France as being the fifth most productive "country". The population of California is 36m and France is 58m. Many parts of the EU have repressive tax rates and layers of unneeded of management that stifle business growth. Many EU businesses prefer to be in a lower tax country, such as Ireland. I would be in favour, subject to a mutual vote, of making the UK the 51st state and forget worrying about the rest of Europe.
I think that the European Union needs the Americans as well as the Americans need the European Union to exist.
Pieter Klerk, Portland, Oregon, United States
As an American who voted for Al Gore, I am ashamed that we are now represented by such an idiot who stated that he didn't believe in global warming (now his own committee tells him differently.) Yes, Europe can go it alone and should begin to exert its own will and America needs to learn a hard lesson that it has become an outsider in the "Family of Nations". We are so far behind on so many issues be it abortion, death penalty, environment, learning to work with rather than demanding always to be the leader. Only the Europeans can gain backbone and stand together against the stubborn and arrogant attitude of this administration.
Andrew (x Brit), Greenville SC, USA
"Is America out of touch with the world?" What world - there's something beyond our borders?
Americans seem sick and tired of interfering in Europe and I'm sick and tired of it too. The US Government seems to think it has the right to act as the global police officer whilst Europe daren't wipe its own behind without permission from the US. Sure we need the US as an ally, and the US needs Europe as an ally whether it believes that or not, but can't we just leave it at that?
So yes we could survive without each other, even do well for ourselves in the process. But would it be preferable or even advisable? I think not.
Europe does not need America. They may have needed help in the past but now they are in a position to stand up on their own feet. But I do believe that if Europe and America stand by each other in international disruptions then they have more chances of stopping a war.
Deryck Bernard, Georgetown, Guyana
The only thing America is good for is the 'industry' Bush always refers to (frequently when defending his decision not to sign the Kyoto agreement)- this means the few elite people who make a profit from such industry.
Bush's stance stems from nationalist paranoia, born of a lack of knowledge of, and any real interest in, matters outside of the USA. Whether the world likes it or not, the USA is the most powerful country, in economic and military terms and it must therefore take on the position of leader in those fields, together with that of counsellor, peace maker etc. However, to do this satisfactorily that country needs an electoral system which ensures that its elected leaders get their positions not through simply the power of money and favour, but through a knowledge and sympathetic appreciation of things sometimes far removed from American domestic considerations.
Shane, Saint Paul, USA (Australian)
"Europe" will never be a military superpower. Most European nations spend less than 2% of their GDP on defence, and that number is shrinking. The United States is twenty or more years ahead of Europe in military research. The armies of Europe are incapable of even defending themselves. If the EU had tried to intervene in Kosovo without U.S. help, the war would have ended with Serbian troops marching through Paris.
James BlueWolf, Lakeport, USA
I agree with Andy, Isle of Man. There seems to be a mix-up between anti-Bush and anti-US. Dubya and his corporate friends are perceived by all right-thinking people, both in the US and in the rest of the planet, as being anti-world. As he and his friends kneel and pray at the altar of the Great God Dollar, they don't seem to care in the slightest about anything other than the accumulation of their own wealth. Please don't confuse Dubya and his all-consuming greed with the feelings of the vast majority of decent Americans. They feel equally horrified at his contempt for anything decent.
The dream of "Europe Nation" will not work - too many deep-seated traditions, separate cultures, languages, and political differences. In fact I see the USA has naturally formed the "Euro/Asia Nation" as the immigrants and colonies from their mother countries learned to live and work together with the goal of forming a large free market economy which is rooted in English culture. So does Europe need USA?
Or does USA need UK, France, China, etc, etc? Yes.
Patrick Cooper-McCann, Hazel Park, MI, USA
If Europe needs greed, corruption, global warming, and hatred; then Europe needs the US. Frankly though, it looks to me as if you have quite enough of your own.
Riz Rahim, USA
I dream of the day when America can bring our troops and politics back home. Leave European politics to the Europeans...
Today, Europe needs the US more than the US needs us. However, tomorrow, soon, we will need each other, if only to counter-balance China's huge powerhouse. Meanwhile, Europe needs to build itself as a political and military power, and not just an economic one. It also needs to quickly proceed with EU enlargement to fortify its eastern borders. A reasonable dose of EU-US (constructive) criticisms will do no harm and help both sides find the optimum.
Regardless of whether the EU needs the US or not, this is our planet, everyone's planet. The US, by not agreeing to the Kyoto treaty affects all of us. Sure other countries may have not agreed to it, but the US emits the largest amount of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere. This arrogance of the US thinking that it knows what's best for the rest of the world has to stop. Additionally, the president considering missile defence a higher priority than our planet, further demonstrates US aggression and its destructive ways.
Firstly, I don't consider myself European, and I don't want anyone to say I am otherwise. I consider myself British, and I think we, the British would do much better as the 51st American State, than as part of a failing Europe with a failing currency.
It's time to detach from Europe, and stick with our American friends, who helped us many, many times, and could continue to do so for centuries to come.
Ken W, Tallahassee, Florida, USA
The trouble is that while the present US administration is inward looking, it has key policy decisions that have made the world more unstable - Kyoto, Star Wars, Middle East. They do not wish to take an active positive role in international affairs but make decisions that affects us all negatively.
What is the point of this debate? Europe is already the 51st State of the USA. The USA earned this moral right to the territory on D-Day.
They are just modest about mentioning it. Have a nice day ...
I am not a fan of Dubya, but I find the criticism of him by Brits and Europeans in general more than a bit disingenuous. The ABM treaty is based on the dubious Mutually Assured Destruction (M.A.D.) theories of the 1960's and should be challenged. And as for Kyoto, the Brits and Europe should put their money where their mouth is and ratify the doggoned thing, if they really believe it isn't seriously flawed. I'm sick and tired of the America bashing. Get a life out there, people! All your anti-America drivel sounds like the rantings of a spoiled child who says, "I hate you" to daddy whenever you don't get your way.
Arkady, Tokyo, Japan
Regarding the issue of the importing of American culture, I think it is an issue of choice. American films and music, even including the fast-food culture, thrive or fail by the number of people willing to spend money on them.
Europe and the United States are of the same blood. Our relationship is so close that we should all be able to disagree, and then work toward togetherness. We all love our culture and our children. The distinction which sets us apart, will also bind us together. Let's remember our common past, sacrifices and move forward together. Yes, we do need each other. Respect for each other must always be paramount. I, as an American love my country. I also respect Europe.
I'm in complete shock after reading the messages left by Europeans about their feelings on the USA. I now regret that even one American died protecting Europe from Nazism or Communism. We should have left you to your own devices.
Eugene Foster, Chesterfield, VA, USA
I would love to see the US withdraw its troops from Europe and be done with Nato. The Cold War is over. Aside from importing oil, we should lower our world-wide profile and concentrate on internal policies.
Esperanto died a death. Mandarin Chinese is now the MOST spoken language in the world (due to China's huge population). But English/ American is still the most WIDELY spoken. How can Europe effectively unite when no common language exists? When the UN peacekeeping dirty work needs doing and the dust has settled from other nations backing out for whatever lame reason, who's left standing there? The allies of the USA and UK. 1939 to 1945 may be a while ago, but not too far removed for some of us to remember who our real friends are. English speaking nations should stick together.
Arvind Rao, New York, USA
The United States and the EU have more in common, than they do differences. It is important that they stay close and try to bring the rest of the world into harmony.
Nick from Boston refers to Europe "bringing the US into line". Bringing us in line with what, European values? Hello, we're not European! We need each other from a trade perspective, nothing more. If you want fireworks try to pressure us as Austria was recently pressured for Haider. Remember, there are two sides to every story.
Reidun Heiene, Oslo, Norway
We should not be talking about a divorce just now, even though that attracts a lot of interest in the media. Europe can be patient for four years with an American President that most of us (here too) don't want.
In today's world cutting ties is simply not possible. Europe needs the USA's military might. The USA needs the diplomatic clout of its European allies. As for the supposed culture gap, the overall recent trend is that it is closing, not growing wider. Europe's economy is becoming more like America's free market system, and European style government programs have taken root in the US. If Europeans are truly dismayed over recent US actions, then the answer is to continue to engage them in dialogue. Cut ties with the US, and all your fears of us becoming a "rogue superpower" will come true.
David, Chicago, USA
European intervention in the Balkans only succeeded because of US air power. Many Americans complain about having to act as the world's policeman but I wonder if the "pax Americana" came to an end whether Americans would suffer the same crisis of identity that the British suffered when we had to give up our Empire?
I think Europe has two options. Co-operation with the US or confrontation. Unfortunately I think there are forces at work within the EU determined to turn it into a super-power with the sole intention of confronting the US.
The danger of such a strategy cannot be over estimated.
Could someone please point out that more than one country has actually ratified the Kyoto Accords? I know there is one, but it is neither France, Germany, the UK, Spain, Portugal or Japan. Maybe the EU will be so kind as to ratify it first. The EU and USA need each other, economically and militarily. And there aren't exactly hordes of Americans deciding to emigrate to the EU. Quite the opposite.
Rob Holman, London, England
Of course Europe needs the USA! Indeed the only thing that individual countries of the EU can agree on is their envious loathing of everything and anything American. We are the cement that binds together this contrivance. The EU only offers antithesis. They are against this and contra that. But when will the EU propose anything as a practical alternative other than the tired blandishments of discredited socialism and feel good "green" touchy feely stuff that has no practical benefit to anyone? If the EU is so keen on the Kyoto Treaty, then why is Romania the only European country to ratify it? You hate us but still sit about whining and moaning, waiting for the USA to led. Grow up!
Bush needs to think
before he acts.
His actions are those of a spoiled child.
We see the EU as a great market place for US products and we seem to be in love with anything made in the EU. I think the UK stands to profit greatly as the business link between the two. I'd buy some stock in that.
David Mellor, Washington DC
Since Bush took over, it's as if we've transported ourselves back in time about 50 years. His policies are worrying and his abilities as a world leader are extremely questionable. Bring back Clinton I say, at least he was harmless!
Europe is fuzzily defined and national pride will ultimately doom it to failure. The USA is beset with social problems and likely to destroy itself from within. I can't see that either can solve the other's problems. We can only, as we have been doing for so long, trade together for mutual benefit. We must accept, I think, that the future belongs to China.
Alex James, London, England
I'm from the Czech republic and I want my country to become a member of the EU. But I suppose that Europe isn't unfortunately able to solve its own problems without US help - for example recent war in Yugoslavian Kosovo. I think that European politicians have the ability to make things more complicated than necessary. I can't understand why most of European politicians don't agree with US plan to build new "SDI". The only thing that we (Europeans) can do in the relationship to the USA is to criticise. I think that Europe can't refuse USA as its partner, because Europe needs USA more than we're able to realise (unfortunately).
Nick, Boston, USA
With all this 'America' bashing, it would be interesting to look into the future, of a world where the United States and Europe were not allies. Please remember, the US has many natural resources at its disposal, and also has a very modern industrial /technological infrastructure. Compare that to Europe, an over crowded landmass with limited natural resources. If we are not allies, what side do you think could handle a direct conflict with a growing communist powerhouse similar to the USSR?
Jim, New Orleans, USA
As an American I sincerely apologise for George Bush and his ignorance. The European Union keeping him from destroying the world is our only hope.
America is merely suffering from the hangover of the last 50 years. It is still clearly the only real superpower, a status which has been awarded over its huge economic and military growth since the 1950's. As such it has had the freedom to do as it chooses with this power. Just as critics were saying that the Labour party had become arrogant with its majority, so the US became arrogant with its power. The shift of power however, is changing. The EU's economy is at the same level as the US, and with the introduction of a European army, reliance on American military might will also reduce. Still, America has always been a friend to Europe, this at least should not change.
Jerry Bailey, Fort Worth, Texas
In America there an awful lot of people that are in favour of the death penalty, but against abortion. In Europe there are a lot of people that are pro abortion, but against the death penalty. I fail to see what the problem is. In America there a lot of people that want a first class military without getting involved in world affairs. In Europe there a lot of people that want to be involved in world affairs without the military muscle to back it up. In America we have some of the most stringent environmental laws in the world, but a lot folks would like to get rid of them. In Europe you have a country that likes to nuke tropical islands while still pretending to be environmentally conscious, and lets not forget the country that still hunts whales. What a merry bunch of ninnies!!!!
Yes my European friends, go ahead and encourage the EU and the rest of the world to leave the USA behind. Perhaps 50 years from now when China is a superpower and Indonesia is at the very least a threat to
Australia the EU will come to Australia's aid when its economic and political sovereignty is endangered. Yes cousins, you can be sure the Belgians, Greeks and Danes will sail to Australia's (you can use a variety of scenarios as an example) aid in a time of crisis...
I am ashamed of those Americans who write that we acted in WW2 only to help the Europeans. Nonsense! It was in our own interest to stop a fiend like Hitler, and to stop the Japanese aggression. The main problem between us today is Mr. Bush and his cohorts, who got into office in a most peculiar way. There will be a lot of pressure from Americans themselves about his policies, and with both the Europeans and Americans disturbed about everything the administration here has in mind, everything should come out for the better. Keep up the criticism -- we need your help.
Don Drakulich , USA
Europe should consider the fact that the US is pulling away from its European roots at an ever-increasing rate. Hispanic and Asian emigration into the US will soon make the people of European extraction a minority group. Bush is right in not pandering to Europe and increasing overtures toward Mexico and Latin America. This group is currently the US largest trading partner and its importance will continue to increase.
The question implies Europe is a power on equal footing with the US. Neither economically, not militarily, is this the case. The UK would more likely petition to become the 51st state than leave NATO, and we all know France is too scared of Germany to trade NATO protection for the EU. As far as the US being out of touch with the rest of the world, this is simply not the case. Europeans are just out of touch with reality.
I am an American student currently studying in Japan. The general European consensus seems to be that all Americans are narrow-minded and unconcerned with the rest of the world. If Bush were to represent all of America, this would certainly be true. However, when judging the American people, it is necessary to remember that half the population did not even vote for Bush. Furthermore, numerous contacts with home have made it abundantly clear that the American youth detests Bush and his policies.
This entire debate seems driven by an ill-justified sense of hysteria on both sides. Obviously, Europe is hyper-aware of the US's economic and military influence in the world. At the same time, some Europeans seem utterly ignorant of the unprecedented political, social, and cultural influence that Europe wields throughout the world. If European press and public opinion realized how influential Europe has become, they might not be driven by insecurity to lash out at America in bitter, mean-spirited tones. Americans who have sacrificed much for Europe might not feel ungratefully maligned. And the whole vicious cycle of transatlantic name-calling might be avoided.
T J Won, Seoul, South Korea
The citizens of the European countries need to understand the impact of the division developing within the US. The election says it all. Half the US people agree with the same European values and they want strong ties with Europe.
The EU is becoming ever more powerful with its euro army and economic stability, the US is now close to recession I believe that President Bush is worried the EU will be the next US.
As the USA seems always to come to the aid of Europe, World War I, World War II, Cold War, Balkans, it is difficult to imagine Europe without US support. Perhaps we should ask when has Europe ever helped the USA (or the UK for that matter)
Europe needs the United States for its own political stability. Without the United States the Europeans would soon be fighting wars among themselves as they have done for thousands of years. Our troops stationed there for over 50 years have presided over the longest peacetime is the history of Europe. This is not a coincidence.
The US can make it "alone" without Europe, of course with some sacrifice. However Europe needs the US for its long-term political stability and financial survival.
My ancestors (Hopkins) came over on the Mayflower to escape to freedom. Millions of Europeans followed. You, Europeans, built the United States. We are your friends and distant relatives, appreciate what your ancestors created. History shows they have saved you from yourselves time after time.
Having lived in the US and parts of Europe, there is no doubt in my mind that most Americans do not know what is going on in the world around them. That is why it is difficult to understand why Europe does not agree in many sensitive issues including global warming, abortion and arms. Much as Europe needs America, America itself cannot depend on itself for everything. That is why it is necessary that George Bush does not take a hard line in those issues that of interest to the rest of the world.
MARCUS LLOYD, TALLAHASSEE USA
As an Englishman staying in the US I have realised that yes, Americans are ignorant of what goes on in much of the world, but in a country of this size they have no need to look overseas. There are many problems within the US that needs tending too so it is understandable that at times the rest of the world comes second. Europe is all too ready to criticise the US when they try to control the world, and then attacks them again when they decide not to intervene. Unfortunately Europe and especially the UK are reliant on the US for many things, economically and militarily and so it is something we have to accept for now. A united Europe will strengthen our position but this is a long way off, especially with the British resistance to European induction.
I find it amazing after reading so much negative, narrow-minded dribble from the Europeans in this forum that they believe we Americans are the ignorant lot. So much talk, but no action. The European's desire to become a super-power seems to be based entirely upon jealousy of American influence and power. Stop talking and do something about it. But of course Europe is not really known for action. That is our job. Europeans talk Americans do. That's the difference and that's why Europe will always need the United States.
Naturally Europe needs the economic might of the US to sustain our standard of life. This goes without saying. We need each other.
However, think of it this way. If you were having a party, and the biggest, richest guy in the communal house decided to start setting fire to the furniture - everyone would agree that he should stop. Now imagine the big, rich guy stating 'I'm personally having fun burning this furniture so I refuse to stop. What would you think of this guy?
That's what Europeans think of the American Kyoto policy.
Of course Europe needs the U.S.! The 20th century, with its two world conflicts (three if we take the cold war into account) will most likely be seen by future historians as the era against totalitarianism i.e. communism and fascism. The U.S. played a major part in all these conflicts and tipped the scales in favour of parliamentary democracy paying a heavy price. We must never forget that. On the other hand, the nations of Europe, with centuries of history on their backs, have a long way to go before they agree upon a collective foreign policy.
Norman, SanJose, Costa Rica
Europe and the US do need each other in various ways. However, the US has royally mishandled its role in the last decade. It has put too much energy into carrying out a nonsensical campaign designed by tunnel-visioned American politicians, who unlike European politicians, have had absolutely no diplomatic training whatsoever. Intervention in Europe without fully comprehending European issues, which include east and central Europe as well as the EU, is absolutely absurd on the part of Washington. If Washington reorganizes and educates itself and becomes sensitive to European needs, it would certainly be a valuable ally. Europe is more than just a geopolitical playground; it's home to 700 million people and thousands of years of civilization.
Europe is trying to assemble what America has had for more than two hundred years.
All policies aside, the EU needs to look inward and concentrate on it's own problems. I'd be willing to bet that the new EU melting pot that is in its infancy is going to boil over before it even gets started, while the US continues to do what it has always done. Europeans will soon find that saving the environment, while important to a point, will quickly fade in importance when the unified economy is not providing the commoner population with basic happiness. Remember, fundamentally, the US is just a bunch people that migrated from the rest of the world motivated by a better life.
Bush is not the problem, U.S. arrogance is. A people totally consumed by their life style and the money it takes to fund it.
America is the modern-times Roman Empire, seeing only itself when it comes to human rights, morals, justice and economy.
The time has come for the U.S to stop pushing its nose into every corner of the world, and to put an end to its Coca Colonization of the world.
America is more then a way of life, it's a state of mind. And it's bad.
Lawrie Elder, Dubai
Thank goodness that French president Jacques Chirac had the courage to stand up and say what other European leaders only mumble behind their hands: that President Bush's proposed nuclear missile defence system 'is a fantastic incitement to (nuclear) proliferation.' In other words, Bush is more concerned with stimulating the American economy through a massive escalation of military spending than through any meaningful strategy to stabilize world peace. It is not by chance that General Colin Powell is constantly at his shoulder during this trip. Any way he might dress it up, Bush is selling a return to the arms race on this trip, and most Europeans simply don't want it.
Kambiz Shahri, Zurich, Switzerland
I have to agree that the rash of anti-American sentiment I have seen here and elsewhere is really quite absurd. Certainly America has problems and flawed policies, but so does Europe, and the rest of the world for that matter. If you disagree with American actions or policies, state it, but do not insult the people. I for one, would never dream of making a blanket insult directed at the people of Europe. Additionally, please remember that several hundred thousand Americans have died on European soil in the past hundred years, fighting against European tyrants. America is not perfect, but no one else is either.
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