Is the European Union slowly becoming a socialist monolith? Does it pose a danger to NATO? To discuss these and other issues related to the EU and the future of NATO, Frontpage Symposium is joined by Vladimir Bukovsky, a former Soviet dissident who spent twelve years in Soviet prisons, labor camps and psychiatric hospitals for his fight for freedom, and whose works include To Build a Castle and Judgement in Moscow; Joel Mowbray, a nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security; Charles Kupchan, a professor at Georgetown University and a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He is the author of The End of the American Era: U.S. Foreign Policy and the Geopolitics of the Twenty-first Century; and Radek Sikorski, the Resident Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and the Executive Director of AEI's New Atlantic Initiative.
Frontpage Magazine: Welcome gentlemen to Frontpage Symposium. Vladimir Bukovsky, let me begin with you. You have been arguing that the European Union is becoming a socialist entity. Can you explain your thoughts for us on this please?
Bukovsky: Yes Jamie, this is the case. Just today I have read an interview with the Czech President Vaclav Klaus in the Washington Times where he said: "The biggest challenge for the Czech Republic is to avoid falling into the trap of 'a new form of collectivism.' ...The enemies of free societies today are those who want to burden us down again with layer upon layer of regulations. We had that in communist times. But now if you look at all the new rules and regulations of EU membership, layered bureaucracy is staging a comeback."
What is the EU today? It is an undemocratic superstate (governed by 25 unelected Commissars as opposed to just 15 in the former Soviet Union); which most nations join involuntarily, under tremendous pressure; which is socialist by nature (just read their Social Charter!); which has the same ideological goal of eliminating national states; which already has its own nomenclatura (about 30,000 unaccountable bureaucrats who don't even pay taxes); which has the same type of in-built corruption as the Soviet Union used to have ( last week, according to the same article in the WT, the European Court of Auditors in Luxembourg released a 400-page report that found "systematic problems, over-estimations, faulty transactions, significant errors and other shortcomings" in the EU budget).
EU auditors could vouch for only 10 percent of the $120 billion the bloc spent in 2002. It was the ninth successive year the auditors were unable to certify the budget as a whole). And so on, and on, and on. I can spend hours pointing out those similarities. Admittedly, it is a much milder version of the Soviet Union (as yet), but a version nonetheless. Simply put, this is a Mensheviks' version, not the Bolsheviks' one. This is why two years ago I called it EUSSR, and this quip is becoming very popular in Europe today.
Look at the U.S. on the other hand. The USA was gradually formed as a democratic, free market, non-ideological state, and it was formed from newly settled by immigrants territories which did not have a well-established statehood. By contrast, the EU is formed in one go, and it is formed as undemocratic, socialist, ideological superstate from completely different national states with at least a millennium of recorded history each, with completely different languages, traditions, economies etc. One was a natural historic process, another is an artificial, contrived project of European socialists.
FP: Mr. Kupchan, what do you think of Mr. Bukovsky’s thoughts on the increasingly socialist nature of the EU?
Kupchan: I have greater concerns about U.S. behavior that I do about the EU. The quality of America's public debate is finally returning to normal; for months after September 11, America's political landscape was flattened and its political discourse stunted. Furthermore, the war in Iraq has done much to compromise the world's confidence in American leadership. As a prominent former national security adviser recently put it, never has our power been so high, and our standing in the world so low.
The question of NATO is pertinent here. I believe that America poses a greater problem than the EU. America's priorities are shifting away from Europe to the Middle East and East Asia. The U.S. is ending its days as Europe's protector. That does not augur well for the future of NATO.
The EU may not be as democratic as one would hope and its bureaucracy not as responsive and accountable as it might be. But if Mr. Bukovsky would prefer going back to pre-1945 Europe, I am afraid he needs to think again. The EU has tamed Europe's political landscape. Due to European integration, the continent's great powers are no longer mauling each other and everyone in between. This is a revolutionary change for the good. Mr. Bukovsky would be wise to set aside the ghosts of socialism, and embrace an institution that has been central to bringing peace, prosperity, and democracy to Europe.
Bukovksy: If you wish, I can offer a paradigm more closely resembling the EU project: let us just imagine that your Liberal Left came up with a neat idea of creating one superstate out of the whole American continent, and by hook and crook managed to force upon you its implementation.
Some 20 self-appointed Commissars would be sitting in Mexico City (or Buenos Aeres) and dictating you new rules and regulations deemed necessary for "harmonisation" of life and management in that newly emerging monster. 80,000 pages of regulations a year, to be precise. To begin with, they will instruct you that you cannot measure distance in miles, or weight - in pounds any longer; you must use kilometres and kilograms. (That alone will cause a revolution in the US, I guess). But this is just a trifle. Next, they will begin "harmonizing" taxes, prices, wages, pensions.
They will create a Central Bank for the whole continent, they will introduce a new currency to replace your dollar - Amerikana or something like that, and instruct you to deposit all your gold reserves to that Central Bank. Next, they would create a new All-American Police Agency, with a power of extradition of presumed offenders from one part of that super state to another without any prior court hearings in your place of residence.
So, you can suddenly find yourself in jail in Brazil, or Columbia facing a Brazilian or Columbian judge for something which is not even a crime in your good old USofA.... Well, should I continue? Would you still say: oh well, this is like founding of the USA in the 19th century.
Mowbray: One thing we should keep on mind is that, although membership in the EU is voluntary, though I concede "voluntary" might not seem so to those countries who join under duress-- you have all these disparate cultures and peoples being brought together under a similar government. The EU is not--nor can it ever be--in any way similar to the United States, which successfully homogonized an original 13 (and current 50) states into a single nation. Italy and France--never mind Sweden or Ireland--are simply not going to consolidate under a single government in the end. To artificially foster unity, the EU's leftists might turn to their tried-and-true solution of massive government--they're already underway--and the bureaucracy there would be huge.
Sikorski: The cause of European unity is too important to be left to socialists. It was originally a Christian-Democratic idea and movement, and conservatives are behind many of its most inspiring achievements. The single market, for example, was a pet project of Margaret Thatcher's and it has benefited businesses and consumers across the continent. We need to have enough European unity to prevent war and to make Europe a player in global affairs but not so much as to stifle the variety and competitiveness that was always Europe's strength.
That's why I am worried about the proposed European Constitutional Treaty. I was in favour of a European Constitution, hoping that it would achieve three objectives: first, codify articles of association of the federation so that we would know what the rules are, decide once and for all what would be done at the federal and what would remain at the national level; second, make Europe more democratic, with key officials directly responsible to the people and real parliamentary oversight of the Commission by the European Parliament; third, I thought that we could produce a text that would be concise, lucid and - dare I say - beautiful, so that school kids could learn it by heart.
Instead, the European establishment has produced a turgid, 300 page monster which you need a university course to comprehend. I am afraid that Vladimir is right that it will shift power to the people who will do the interpreting of its obscure clauses: the bureaucrats and ideologically motivated judiciary.
There are more worrying developments: the way that the voting system agreed by the Treaty of Niece is being shoved aside in favour of more powerful countries, the way in which those countries have nullified the Growth and Stability Pact when it became inconvenient to them, the way they are trying to blackmail candidate countries into accepting the Constitutional Treaty threatening them with expulsion. Personally, I feel that rejecting the proposed Constitution could serve as a welcome shock for the Euro-elites. We need a new mood of respect for the peoples of Europe in Brussels.
FP: Thank Mr. Sikorski. Let’s turn to the question of NATO now. Mr. Bukovsky, do you think the EU poses a threat to the organization?
Bukovsky: Well, Jamie, let’s put it this way: we have just witnessed the first ever serious rift in NATO in the run-up to the war in Iraq, which was caused by the leaders of the EU. But it is only a beginning. After the EU Constitution is adopted next year, EU will be obliged to have one voice in the political, economic, military, social and security policies. We will have a President and a Foreign Minister of the EU. Please tell me how could it be possible then to have a functional NATO? Particularly, as the EU is planning to have its own Rapid Deployment Force? Further on, we are told that one of the EU purposes is to become a counter-balance to the USA. How is this going to work within the same organisation? I doubt NATO will be able to make any decision.
I would like to return to a point on which I disagree with Prof. Kupchan. Yes, the U.S. administration tends to perceive a new strategic threat in the emerging militant Islamic extremism. Is this a whimsical decision by the US Administration? If not, then the fact that the EU leadership is not ready to recognise this new geopolitical threat speaks volumes about that leadership.
Prior to the threat of militant Islam, and for almost 50 years, the main strategic threat was perceived to be the Soviet communism, and the US stood firmly with its European allies. For 50 long years the American taxpayer was willing to pay for the security of Europe, while the American soldier was ready to sacrifice his life for it. Tomorrow, it might be China. Or North Korea. Or Cuba. And we might even argue about that behind closed doors. But the essence of military alliance of Western democracies is their readiness to stand together, whatever new challenge might be. If that is gone now, we don't have Western civilization anymore.
Kupchan: I agree with Mr. Bukovsky that a stronger European defense posture will come at the expense of NATO as traditionally conceived. But that is the way it should be. The U.S. has more important fish to fry in other parts of the world, and Europe ought to step up to the plate and do a
better job of taking care of Europe. Furthermore, I think a stronger Europe will ultimately help transatlantic relations by giving Europe the opportunity to be a more mature partner of the U.S.
Sikorski: With jihadist terror edging closer to Europe and Russia sliding towards neo-imperial authoritarianism, Europe can no longer continue to consume the post-Cold War peace dividend. I believe that the US and Europe agree about democratic, free-market ends in both the Greater Middle East and the former Soviet Union. They disagree about means and tactics and they disagree about the distribution of power among the major democracies. Europe needs to get serious about its defence capabilities and then I think America will give it the respect and the influence that it craves. Personally, I think NATO is still the best vehicle for our common security because it is, on the one hand, a majority-European organization, but one suffused with American spirit and leadership. The EU, as it evolves into a federation, will inevitably grow a defence arm and the challenge is to make it complementary to NATO.
Bukovsky: Most observers here doubt very strongly the ability of Europe to create its own armed forces. As is the case with most things the EU leaders say, it will remain on paper. So, the likely outcome will be a destruction of NATO without a suitable replacement. Whether or not it is good or bad depends on what we actually want to see here. The EU position is at best ambiguous: they want to make their own military and security policies, but they have no intention of increasing their military budgets. It is mostly hot air.
Mowbray: I actually think the latest round of attacks in Turkey could well be the beginning of a re-uniting of the U.S. and the EU in the war on terror. After 9/11, the world united behind the US more out of sympathy, I suspect, than a true fear that other nations could be next. Heck, even many Americans don't think terror will strike here again anytime soon. But the Turkey bombings should remind EU nations that every country--even a Muslim one--is vulnerable to the threat of terror attacks. That renews NATO's thirst for fighting radical Islamists and their terror networks.
I would also like to raise the idea floating around about Israel joining NATO, Some might scoff at this, but the notion makes sense in light of the increasing focus NATO has on the Middle East. Who better knows the terrain and how to fight the game there than Israel? The anti-Semitic EU would never allow it, but "old Europe's" influence within NATO is only going to go down in years to come.
Kupchan: I think it is a bit far-fetched to put Israel in NATO. NATO in Israel to help enforce a peace agreement -- yes. But expanding NATO to the Middle East would stretch the organization to the breaking point.
Bukovsky: As far as a breaking point is concerned, it is already reached anyway. NATO is not going to survive in its present form. Perhaps, it should be re-configured or broken along the line which emerged in the run-up to the war in Iraq.
In terms of Israel in NATO, I agree that this idea needs a careful studying. This idea was first suggested by my old friend Gary Kasparov, the chess champion, in his article in WSJ about a year ago. At first, I perceived it as a clever joke (and so did Gary), but as the events unfold, it looks more clever and less a joke. I think it deserves serious consideration. Yes, it might further split EU, and it might require a re-configuration of NATO. So much the better.
Kupchan: In any case, NATO’s days are probably numbered. The US is packing its bags and leaving Europe for good. Nothing left to do. That is precisely why the Poles and other ought to be investing in the future of the EU.
Sikorski: NATO is the security arm of our Western civilization of which Israel is clearly a part. Israel's military would be a greater asset to the alliance than most European armies, but on the other hand NATO has required of its new members to have internationally settled borders, which would be a tall order in this case.
Mowbray: NATO is not just about geography; it is also about a set of values, the core of which is societies that practice self-determination. Including Israel in NATO would not expand the organization into the Middle East, but rather allow it to take full advantage of a partner best-suited to help NATO do its part in the war on terror. Israel has experiences and skill sets in fighting terror that no other nation can claim.
Kupchan: I agree that Israel has important skill sets to fight terror. But lets not pretend that we can turn NATO into an organization that fights terror in the Middle East. That won’t happen. It can help at the margins, but only that.
FP: So in terms of all these issues connected to the EU and NATO, if you were to give the U.S. administration advice on the best way to pursue its own national and security interests in these matters, what would it be?
Bukovsky: The U.S. should either quit NATO completely or – as I prefer -- create a new entity - a new NATO with mostly new Europe subscribing to it. Quite a few "old European" states will join this happily. The point is that the USA must have an active policy in Europe. It must finally say that the European project is against the Atlantic interests. Your State Department is still sitting on the fence, but it cannot be there for long. It must say the truth.
Kupchan: An alliance between the US, Poland, Bulgaria and Romania does not make the Western alliance. If the US and its traditional NATO allies part company, the Atlantic Alliance is finished. The US should try to keep a cooperative relationship with Europe alive, get some European help in other parts of the world, and look to the EU to take over primary responsibility for managing European security. The US has too many important tasks elsewhere to continue taking care of Europe.
Sikorski: On the contrary, I believe that NATO should become more ambitious. Allies should be consulted about our common Western strategy in dealing with the twin dangers of jihadist terror and a red-brown Russia. France's gaullist elites excepted, most Europeans want their continent's foreign and security policy to develop in harmony with the US and NATO is a proven instrument of their cooperation. The US should reward those who stick by it in the hour of need - which is why it is so important to start building up defence infrastructure in the new NATO countries. I think after Iraq we all know that the US cannot everything by itself, nor can we in Europe do much without the US. Our transatlantic marriage may be less of a romantic infatuation and more a bargain of convenience now but the reasons for it are still solid.
Bukovksy: What Mr. Sikorski is saying sounds beautiful, but totally incompatible with the concept of European Union.
FP: Ok Mr. Mowbray, last word goes to you.
Mowbray: The U.S. should, at every appropriate juncture, try to build an international consensus. But we must always be mindful that the reason for doing so is not to get the world's "permission" before acting, but rather to help others become more amenable to the American position. We must protect our security before our relationships, though it would be nice if we didn't have to choose between the two. To that end, the US should consciously adopt a strategy of promoting greater continuity in the UN, which most likely will mean that we'll have to prevent the EU nations from coalescing behind a "single voice" on major issues. Unless the EU reverses course, it is difficult to imagine the bureaucrats in Brussels collectively acting in a manner that would generally help enhance U.S. security. It is a lot more conceivable, however, that NATO will remain a reliable partner for America in the war on terror.
FP: Our time is up. Joel Mowbray, Radek Sikorski, Vladimir Bukovsky and Charles Kupchan, thank you very much for your time. Take care.
I welcome all of our readers to get in touch with me if they have a good idea for a symposium. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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