The Future of Transatlantic Power – An Interview with Daniel Hamilton

Conducted by Liv Dowling

Dr. Daniel Hamilton is the Richard von Weizsäcker Professor and Director of the Center for Transatlantic Relations at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), Johns Hopkins University. He also serves as Executive Director of the American Consortium for EU Studies and the coordinator of the “Enabling Technologies Coalition” initiated by Microsoft. In addition, Hamilton has held a variety of senior positions in the U.S. Department of State, including Deputy Assistant Secretary for European Affairs.

Crises and Challenges

The Politic: The EU recently put together a bailout plan for the Greek government that included $40 billion in aid. With possible rescue lines being considered for Portugal, Ireland, and Spain, the European Commission is focusing on how to ensure that these situations do not happen again. Olli Rehn, the European commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs, has suggested the creation of a new monetary fund, imposing sanctions or withholding subsidies on rule-breaking member states. Do you agree with such efforts at economic discipline and regulation?

DH: This crisis has made it clear that the eurozone has yet to develop appropriate mechanisms to deal with member states that are in this type of situation. If you compare it to the United States, California has been in some deficit trouble itself, and yet it cannot default. There are mechanisms within the United States as a country that would start to work with California to get it out of its situation. The eurozone doesn’t have that because it is not a country, and when it was created, these types of emergency mechanisms were not put in place. So the countries that are in the eurozone now are trying to come to grips with that. A bailout is one of those steps, but they all have to address what mechanisms they need to develop so this sort of thing doesn’t happen again.

I think the idea of having a European Monetary Fund is an interesting concept. The Europeans are concerned that if the International Monetary Fund (IMF) gets involved, it will set a precedent. The IMF is supposed to deal more with developing countries, and now they are coming to the developed part of the world. The message this sends, over time, is not one of confidence, and of course that is what the European monetary zone wants to project: stability and confidence. The Europeans could arrange their own fund to help themselves with these issues—this the kind of mechanism that I am talking about.

With the growing need for reform, how do you see the balance between the strong EU economies like France and Germany and the more economically vulnerable countries playing out? Does European unity depend on whether these larger economic states are willing to buy into the EU economic model? Or will public opinion in these countries turn against the EU?

There is certainly a temptation or possibility that public opinion in a country like Germany could turn against deeper European integration. But, since World War II, the way Germany has come back into the community of nations is that firm commitment to deeper European integration and a willingness to exchange a bit of its sovereignty for greater solidarity within Europe. The current financial crisis is a test to the European ideals, and it has been quite hard, as Germany itself is struggling with the economic crisis. The Germans are certainly weighing those trade-offs, but in the end I believe they will commit to European integration.

The Politic: In December 2009 you testified before Congress on the implications of the Lisbon Treaty on the EU. Meanwhile, non-proliferation policy has recently been in the news with the US-Russian nuclear arms reduction treaty. Some in the Eastern portion of the EU, particularly the Czech Republic and Poland, worry about what these developments mean for national security, citing Russian aggression and neo-imperialism. How is the EU prepared to deal with such concerns from its Eastern members?

DH: It is understandable that the countries in the former Soviet empire, if you will, given the history have some kind of concerns about Russian attentions. These are not merely unfounded notions. I think if you look at some of the activities Russia has engaged in, what you might call intimidation tactics on some smaller countries, there is some reason to be concerned: issues with energy supply, Russian planes flying over NATO-member territories, incidents with cyber-security, and of course the war with Georgia. Though Georgia is not in the EU or NATO, war on the European continent is something that people thought would disappear.

On the other hand, I think there is an opportunity to say to the Russians that it is very important to be firm partners. The NATO debate, leading up to the NATO summit in Lisbon this fall, will revolve around the issue of how we reassure the new NATO members, who are also EU members, of our commitment to them at the same time that we reach out to Russia and try to build a relationship that moves beyond the Cold War. I think that most of the Eastern European countries welcome the issue of nuclear non-proliferation — they simply want to know that the U.S. is consulting with them. The history, of course, tells [Eastern European nations] that big powers go over the heads of little powers, and I think the U.S. and the Obama Administration needs to be careful about not conveying that impression [in its dealings with Russia].

United States-European Union Relations

The Politic: You recently stated in a March Global Europe article that the United States is slowly shifting its position with regards to EU-NATO relations. You quoted Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, who stated that the United States does not “see the EU as a competitor of NATO, but we see a strong Europe as an essential partner with NATO and with the United States.” Why do you believe it is essential for the U.S. and Europe to pursue security cooperation outside of NATO?

DH: NATO is very important, as it is our main transatlantic link in terms of security, but NATO cannot do everything. There are dimensions of security today that go beyond the traditional notions that NATO has been structured around. For instance, in the Balkans, NATO had to engage militarily, but real peace in the Balkans and putting that region in a direction toward stability came after NATO did its job. The U.S. and the European Union then started to work together with these countries to create the conditions for the Balkans’ integration into the European mainstream. Accomplishing this requires other tools. NATO does not do the rule of law. NATO does not do good governance. It does not do human rights issues. There is a whole array of mechanisms that are more in the hands of the European Union that the U.S. should utilize to stabilize these areas.

If you look further away at Afghanistan, NATO is there with forces obviously, but NATO cannot solve the problems of Afghanistan on its own. Issues of stability and economic development require other instruments like police training and development aid, for instance. These types of resources are more in the hands of the European Union, or the United Nations. NATO needs to learn how to work with others, if you will, because the nature of security today is not just about the military. Regarding civilian crisis management, for instance, the European Union can deploy thousands of people: judges, agricultural experts, police trainers—all sorts of people on quick notice—a capacity that the United States does not have at all. The U.S. does not yet have the ability to deploy civilians rapidly. The State Department is trying to build up that capacity, but it will take some time. So in the EU we have a necessary partner that is ready to work with us.

The Politic: You recently commented in Europe’s World that the Obama Administration’s openness to increased cooperation with Europe is not as Euro-centric as many Europeans would like it to be. You concluded that the U.S. is currently open to increased coordination with Europe, and that the ball is now in Europe’s court to respond. What do you see as some of the major long-term challenges to U.S.-EU relations?

DH: If you look at the world we are facing today and the world we faced in the twentieth century, they are very different. The central challenge of American foreign policy in the twentieth century was how to stabilize Europe. Europe was in the cockpit of unprecedented disaster and human tragedy for much of the twentieth century—two world wars, the Cold War, and at the very end of the century another Balkan war. Each of those brought tremendous tragedy to the Continent, but also drew in Americans—including American troops—to try and pacify the Continent.

Today, wider Europe is still a turbulent area. But Western Europe, comprising most of the EU and NATO, is an area of relative stability. So, transatlantic relations are no longer about what we do about Europe, but rather about what we are prepared to do with each other in terms of issues that affect both of us, and for which neither of us will be sufficiently capable to deal with alone—violence and turbulence in the Middle East, climate change, civilian crisis management, development assistance. So the question is whether America has the patience to deal with an EU that is not quite the coherent partner that it potentially could be. And will the Europeans have the will to become the kind of partner that will work with the U.S. on a whole range of global issues?

I would argue that if the bond between the U.S. and Europe remains strong, rising powers will have greater incentive to join the rules-based international order that has brought historic levels of prosperity to many parts of the world. If those ties across the Atlantic are weak, then the incentive for rising powers is to challenge that order, which would create even more instability. I think the relationship across the Atlantic is indispensible. But in the world we have today, it is insufficient on its own to deal with the challenges we face.

The Politic: The United States and the EU have both been victims of terrorism and attempted terrorist plots in recent years. You recently wrote in Global Europe that the Christmas Day terrorist plot underscored some key weaknesses in counter-terrorism coordination and cooperation between the EU and U.S. Could you expound on some of the needed areas of improvement?

DH: Since September 11th, the United States has pursued this issue with an anti-terrorism mindset, using military force to approach it. The Europeans, who have lived with terrorism, they would say, for a long time, approach this more as a law enforcement issue. I do not think either of these outlooks is quite right. What we are finding, with the Christmas Day incident serving as a good example, is that American security is really linked across the Atlantic. Almost every terrorist incident that has affected the United States has had some link to Europe.

I think the Europeans are now acknowledging the potential of terrorist activities being planned in the United States to affect Europe. There have been recent examples of that as well. What I am arguing is that we need to think more broadly about what I call resilience, that is how our societies can respond to challenges ranging from not only armed attack, but cyber and energy security, bio-security, and terrorism.

If you look at what is happening with the volcanic ash that is spewing over Europe, the ripple effects have deeply impacted the supply chains that are so deeply integrated across the Atlantic. That example just underscores the deep integration that exists across the Atlantic, so we have to think more deeply about how we protect our societies together. This is what I mean when I say we must build a transatlantic resilience.My colleagues and I have proposed a new security guarantee across the Atlantic, which we call the Transatlantic Solidarity Pledge, that states if on either side of the Atlantic there is a man-made or natural disaster, each would come to the other’s assistance. That is rather straight forward, and yet NATO doesn’t stipulate for that, only “armed attacks.” I think if you add a political statement that we would work together in this way, it would drive the respective bureaucracies to figure out mechanisms by which they can work together.

The Future of the European Union

The Politic: Muslim immigration to Europe and anti-Islamic political parties, laws, and hate-crimes have been on the rise in Western European nations. In your testimony to Congress, you stated that the EU and U.S. are united by strong commitments to “democracy, liberty, human rights, nondiscrimination and the rule of law…and an open door to those who choose to abide by these principles and add their strength to ours.” What implications do you think such anti-Islamic trends have on Europe’s security and international perceptions of Europe?

DH: The challenge to some traditional European societies is the need to acknowledge they are becoming immigrant societies. For hundreds of years, Europe was the primary source of sending out immigrants to the rest of the world. Now that Europe is becoming a recipient continent for other parts of the world, this is changing perceptions of identity on the Continent. This is in contrast to the United States, which has always considered itself an immigrant society. These are different traditions that are rooted in centuries of history. How do we define what is European or American? These are tough issues with no clear solution. Banning minarets, for instance, is hard but even in this country people have said our president is un-American because his middle name is Hussein. There are these types of charges in free societies on both sides of the Atlantic.

The Politic: Critics as ideologically diverse as Fareed Zakaria and Bruce Thornton have said that Europe is in a slow and steady decline economically, culturally, and geopolitically. They site such diverse factors as negative population growth, the loss of religious morality, and crippling government bureaucracies leading to less European influence in the world. How do you respond to such critics and how would you characterize European influence in the future?

DH: This all depends on the Europeans. I think some of the charges are just wrong factually and the rest are projections of future trends. It is hard to predict trends as they can always be changed by actions today. I am a bit more cautious in being so wildly categorical about the types of issues Europeans face. If you consider the charge of a wildly out of control bureaucracy, look at the economic crisis. The fact is that European governments managed the crisis much better than the United States in terms of unemployment because they have social stabilizers in place. The human impact of the economic crisis was felt less there than here in the U.S.

The demographic challenge in Europe is a serious one. However, the trends are uneven with this issue too. There are some countries like France that have a positive growth rate for instance. So again, the demographic issue is not a categorical problem. The challenge here is whether Europe can maintain its innovation and productivity economically to deal with this challenge. Sometimes people just are not looking at the full picture. I am not saying Europe will continue to be just as influential as it is now—I have questions about political will, about the capacity of Europeans to really pull together in the ways they need to. But, I am not willing to make some wild projections and I think that is a more realistic assessment of where Europe is than some of the things you hear.

I lived in Berlin in 1989 when the Berlin Wall came down, and I can tell you two months beforehand nobody was saying that the continent of Europe was about to go through a fundamental earthquake. All the projections were about the Cold War continuing. Two generations of American and Europeans built their careers on the hard rock of that Wall, thinking it would never go away. Suddenly, peacefully, unexpectedly, one day it did. So I would be cautious about straight-line projections based on the kind of world we see today. The challenge is will we seize the moment to use this partnership so that it becomes truly global, or will we spend our time on diversions that distract us from the more serious challenges we face.

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