Thursday, March 01, 2007



We were there for America

Mar 1st 2007

But how long will America be there for Europe?

Get article background

“WIN some, lose some”, says a top Lithuanian politician of the looming disasters in Iraq and Afghanistan. “We were there for America. America will be there for us”.

That sort of breezy Atlanticism is almost extinct in western Europe. And even among the east Europeans, it conceals a sinking feeling that they are going to suffer big collateral damage from America's misguided strategies in the ill-named “war on terror”.

For a start, the crude division of Europe into “old” (anti-American) and “new” (Atlanticist) has hardly helped the still-shaky cause of reuniting the continent.

The disproportionate presence of largely token ex-communist forces in the “coalition of the willing” has helped confirm the cynical chancelleries of old Europe in their view that the new democracies are gullible American patsies.

The implication of Romania, Poland and perhaps some other countries in the renditions scandal has blemished what should have been the new democracies’ strongest card: their commitment to human rights. How could those who had suffered in communist prisons collaborate now in the torture of other prisoners? The allegation may be outrageously unfair. But it has stuck in the minds of many.

The damage goes on. America’s role as guarantor of Europe’s security has been weakened. In western Europe, revulsion at the bloody and incompetent occupation of Iraq, coupled with a mixture of astonishing amnesia and lazy prejudice, has wiped away a shared history that stretches from the Normandy beaches to the end of the Berlin Wall.

In western Europe, revulsion at the bloody and incompetent occupation of Iraq has wiped away a shared history that stretches from the Normandy beaches to the end of the Berlin Wall

Even in the new democracies, America’s standing has fallen. The cost and hassle of getting an American visa grates maddeningly. Polish and Estonian boys who fight side-by-side with Americans in Iraq are liable to be treated as potential terrorists and illegal immigrants when they want to visit. The administration has moved shamefully slowly on this injustice, and on military assistance to its eager allies.

Yet, if the Atlantic bonds do weaken, the ex-captive nations will suffer the most. It was America that got them into NATO, and it is America that looks out for them now, much more so than nearer but less friendly countries such as Germany. Any suggestion that the east Europeans can rely on the European Union to stick up for them against Russian bullying is, on current form, laughable.

New radar gear and rocket interceptors planned for the Czech Republic and (probably) Poland will probably not do much to change this, You do not strengthen an alliance by pressing on your allies weapons that their public does not want. Helmut Schmidt, Germany's chancellor 20 years ago, thought that having Cruise and Pershing missiles in western Europe would make America’s nuclear guarantee more credible. Instead, it cast America as the warmonger in the minds of the muddle-headed, and stoked peacenikery throughout Europe.

Barring an unlikely success in Afghanistan or Iraq, the strains on the Atlantic alliance will grow in the years ahead. The rivets have long been popping. Now great girders, such as Italy, are twisting and buckling. It was public anti-Americanism that brought down Romano Prodi’s government last week. Old Kremlin hands who remember how hard they once tried to destroy NATO must have trouble believing that the job is being done so well for them now by the alliance’s own leaders.


Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

.What do you mean "bloody and incompetent occupation"??? By aligning the two adjectives you are implying that America is the perpetrator of the bloodshed, is that right? You call yourself atlanticist spreading lies like this?
2. How do you know what public wants in Poland as regards the anti-missile installations? I suspect youn claim they're against, because you f*^#@!ing think so? No reliable data exist, not least because the real information on pros and cons is not available - only scaremongering of Russian inspiration.
3.You are shamelessly contradicting yourself within one text only to stick a needle: first you try to say that America is not a R.E.A.L ally to the Eastern Europeans because...its unwilling to grant them a non-visa status, than, in defiance of reason, you claim that deployment of the defensive installations that would stretch the efficient umbrella over Poland against rougue missiles is not going to strengthen the alliance!
4. Helmut Schmidt by agreeing to the deployment of Cruises had his eyes fixed on Soviet SS-20's sprinkled all over POland and only a complete blockhead would contest the sensibility of that decissions and calling for the example of the demonstrations against it which were - as we now know - largely KGB/Stasi inspired - is worthy of a litlle busy Kremlin helper.

Edward Lucas said...

This is the first time that I have been called a "busy little Kremlin helper"!

On the factual points you make: the Iraq war has been disastrous so far. I hope that the "surge" works. But it is clear that the Coalition sent too few troops, paid too little attention to security, had the wrong counter-insurgency strategy, did too little reconstruction, underestimated Iran's involvement, misread the domestic politics, and more besides. I think that counts as incompetent. And it is certainly bloody. The Economist (and I) supported the war, chiefly because we believed the WMD story, and secondly because we thought getting rid of the dictatorship would improve the region's politics. It is hard to argue now that we were right.

On missile defence: the polls I have seen show that public opinion is sceptical or hostile. I thought you were the one attacking me for ignoring public opinion in Estonia, but now you are dismissing public opinion in Poland....

Since Sikorski's departure, Poland is not going to gain much in negotiations on the issue, I fear.

I think American soft power is weakened by the harsh visa restrictions. Protecting Poland from rogue-state missiles is a hard-power extension, but does not compensate for the damage done to the Atlantic ties by the visas.

My recollection of the 1980s (which I spent in the UK and Germany) is rather different from yours. Nato's doctrine of "flexible response" to the Soviet nuclear threat was believed to lack credibility because it required a rapid escalation to the use of America's strategic arsenal to counter a Warsaw pact attack. Cruise missiles were meant to plug that "credibility gap", but succeeded in stoking anti-Americanism. I agree that the Kremlin was partly orchestrating the "peace movement" but that was not the whole story.


Unknown said...

1. I have not called you that directly - I only said that what you wrote is worthy of...- but I guess it rang a bell..
2. I'm speechless:
a.)I am not contesting 'incompetent';the problem is that you put it in the same sentence and with the same logical subject as "bloody" -the result: you are implying direct American responsibility for bloodshed ie that the blood has been shed by American hands!!!...try devote as many lines to account for that...

b.There were no polls reliable enough to formulate such conclusions - how can you expect people to have a serious opinion when they do not know what are the real pros and cons and all they get is threats from Russia and growls from Germany amplified from within by frustrated jerk-offs. Under such circumstances what do you measure with such 'polls', huh? The only thing you measure is efectiveness of propaganda...that is if there have been any polls at all. Can you direct me to any such?
For now, I don't know what polls you have seen and I am prety much fed up with your answers of the kind:"I have seen" "people told me" "I think", "I believe" - if that's all you can give - go peddle your revelations at the barber's

In the light of this; what do you mean I am ignoring public opinion in POland? It is you conjuring things up from thin air!

For your information: Radek Sikorski had to go precisely because he was heading straight to scare the Americans off eventually...

As to the Cruises and Schmidt - I am not even going to discuss that - the way you wrench and re-mix facts is too obvious...

Unknown said...

..."credibility gap" was measured in relation to "warsaw pact" assesment of that cerdibility, for god's sake! Not in relation to what the ultra lefties had to say about American reputation! And deployment of Cruises filled that gap pretty well - no one sane denies that! Who are you fooling?
And , yes it was the whole story....

La Russophobe said...


Take a breath, dude. Edward is America's friend, not her enemy. And even if he were her enemy, she's got far bigger fish to worry about. I think you need a vacation.

Unknown said...

to La Rusophobe:
(slowly, in subdued voice): Yes, La Rusophobe, Edward is a friend - your friend, my friend, we all love uncle Edward. We are aaall friends! Uncle Edward and me - we were just teasing each other, but we still love little furry animals! Big fish gone now OK?
...Now, read all the posts above, then say where exactly do your opinions in the relevant subject diverge, ok?

Emil Perhinschi said...

>> “WIN some, lose some”, says a top Lithuanian politician of the looming disasters in Iraq and Afghanistan. “We were there for America. America will be there for us”.

This says it all. "America" has proved that it does not quit on it's allies, no matter how tiny or unworthy are they, and it proved that it does not easily abandon unfinished jobs. There is no better argument for "being there for America". Besides, most top politicians in Eastern and Central Europe remember who was the real looser in the Vietnam War.

Missile shield ? Which one ? That missile shield that failed most of the tests? Get real, it's only a front for sending funds to the local armies and increasing integration: welcome to the United States of the North Atlantic.