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Tuesday, June 21

Franco-German Axis and Washington's emerging US-centric policy

(This essay should be subtitled Pretentious Report Titles are Catching. Don't be afraid.)

Note to reader: Featuring PINR on this blog should not be taken as agreement with all PINR reports or their POV.

The Power and Interest News Report (PINR)* or "Poor Person's Stratfor," as Pundita thinks of them (their reports are free!), has published a report titled, The Coming World Realignment.

I think it's closer to the truth that the report outlines the early steps to create a US foreign policy that while not ignoring NATO puts America first in US foreign policy. This means that US foreign relations policy has finally emerged from the Cold War period and its postoperative stage, which was still hyperfocused on Eastern Europe and in particular Russia.

In short, for American students of foreign policy, this report is the best news you've had so far this century. The report gathers mention of many trends that have been emerging in the post 9/11 era; it gives serious grounds for hope that the US administration and State are now striving to avoid the trap of the Cold War, which hyperfocused attention on the Soviet regions and looked at the rest of the world almost purely in terms of the Cold War.

The 9/11 attack threatened to hyperfocus attention on the Middle East. It is clear from the PINR report that we're seeing hope for a balanced view of the modern world emerging in the White House and the US Department of State.

It's all connected, these days. One can't hyperfocus on any region; one must focus on how all the regions interact in relation to the United States -- and how these interactions affect American defense and trade interests and standing in the world community.

And certainly, one can't hope to hang US strategic interests on global trade or an urge to merge with European Union interests -- or the interests of any regional trading bloc. We've lived and we've learned this lesson the hard way. Now the page is turned; a new chapter is being written in US history.

For their part, the Europeans have also lived and learned. A new chapter is being written in their history also. Pundita does not see the quarrels that have broken out in the wake of the "No!" votes as a crisis for Europe. I see the situation as a sign of emerging recognition in Europe that they tried to tried to base integration around the limitations in NATO.

Yet the concepts for EU integration, as codified in the EU Constitution, were based on a model that has been undergoing rapid revision in America's post-9/11 era. NATO itself is changing rapidly, reflecting the recalibrated, globalized view of American foreign policy.

Pundita readers can gain a clear picture of this aspect of Europe's situation by reading another somewhat pretentiously (and ominously) titled PINR report, 'An Assessment of the Franco-German Axis and the United States.

I should add that you shouldn't let the titles put you off; both reports are short and written in clear, unfusty language (reflecting perhaps, the demands of military and business readers who have no patience with ritual academic Policy Org writing).

The heart of the problem is alluded to in this passage, which will come as news to many American readers:
"...in the winter of 1995-96, Chirac failed to upgrade the Franco-American relationship because even if France accepted her reintegration into N.A.T.O.'s commandment, Washington didn't allow a European to become head of Allied Forces Southern Europe.

N.A.T.O., and not the Western European Union (as Paris hoped in the early '90s), is nowadays at the heart of the European security architecture, as can be read in the E.U. Constitutional Treaty, whereas a common European defense, although existing, only has limited, regional, projection power."
The limitations on Europe in the NATO chain of command point to the problem for Europe:

Without effective firepower behind it, foreign policy is not worth squat. The EU leaders were trying to build up the concept of a continental nation and continent-wide foreign policy around somebody else's military -- while at the same time circumventing the NATO elephant in their living room.

To boil it down, the EU leaders tried to leapfrog too many steps. So now they have to retrace and rethink -- based on the present, not on the world as it existed when the concepts underlying the EU Constitution were hammered out.

Now what, if anything, does all this have to do with the upcoming elections in Germany? Pundita suspects it has a lot to do with luck.

Germany's Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has taken a seeming gamble by calling for early elections, which pit him against Angela Merkel. Merkel is the new darling of the American Right because her views on government hearken to those expressed by Margaret Thatcher.

And Merkel is surely seen by the Bush administration as the best hope for restoring good diplomatic relations between the US and Germany. However, we shouldn't get our hopes up because Schröder is one of those enormously lucky politicians. He is also a very smart tactician who knows how to squeeze every iota of advantage from luck that comes his way.

He's got a lame duck government so it seems he was thinking that by calling early elections, he might maneuver Merkel into the role of Simon Legree; that would make his administration look good by comparison. Admittedly, a big gamble. Then a piece of luck came his way: the storm that's arisen over the "No!" votes!

Do you realize this will be the second time a storm has arisen on the European continent -- at just the moment when Schröder's fortunes are looking bleakest?
He pulled a rabbit out of the hat the last time because of his great handling of the crises that arose from horrifically bad weather in Germany. That allowed him to squeak through.

If he pulls it off again Pundita will nickname him Chancellor Houdini.

Pulling it off might translate to steering EU discussion about the Constitution into productive channels. So the runup to the German elections bears watching from this side of the Pond. For those new to the situation, or just wanting to brush up, start with the pithy Euractiv report, German elections in autumn: good for Lisbon agenda, bad for budget and Turkey?.

Next, I am putting you in the able hands of an American blogger, Marc Schulman at American Future :

"Dear Marc:
After reading your pieces on Merkel -- may I ask whether you will 'specialize' in following that election? If so, I'd like to note it to my readers. I know there are European blogs that talk about the upcoming election but I'd rather have an American perspective for my readers.

"Good Morning, Pundita.
Yes, I do plan on majoring in the German election, as it represents a potential turning point in Transatlantic relations and Franco-German relations (and, therefore, in the EU).

Here are the urls (chronologically) of three recent posts:

The Wall Street Journal notes how much Germany's Angela Merkel and France's Nicolas Sarkozy have in common [Pundita has omitted this post because WSJ is subscription only]:
What To Expect from Merkel (by guest blogger Karen White).
Merkel = Thatcher, by the editor of Germany's Handelsblatt."

Thank you, Marc.

Well, that is quite enough reading material for one day from Pundita!

* From their website: "The Power and Interest News Report (PINR) is an independent organization that utilizes open source intelligence to provide conflict analysis services in the context of international relations. PINR approaches a subject based upon the powers and interests involved, leaving the moral judgments to the reader."
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