Today's date:
Summer 2001


There Is No Strategic Split With Europe

Condoleeza Rice is the national security advisor to US President George W. Bush. Bush will arrive in Europe Monday, June 11, to meet European leaders.

Washington-President George W. Bush's European trip in June took place against a backdrop of conversation-in the media, in academia and in diplomatic circles-that speaks of a "values gap" between America and Europe. The alleged gap is said to be differences between the United States and Europe over issues such as the death penalty, gun control and genetically modified foods. Some even say there's a "strategic split"-over such issues as land mines, global warming and missile defenses. The premise of the argument is that, no longer bound together by the threat of Soviet communism, America and Europe are growing apart. Some go a step farther and posit that we are destined to become adversaries instead of allies.

The president and his administration fundamentally reject this premise. Europe and the US are partners today. We will continue to be partners tomorrow and the day after-strong partners. Not because of destiny, but by choice. Not because of the inertia of our common history, but because of our common interests and, indeed, our common values.

For starters, the US and Europe have a strong common interest in maintaining healthy economic and trade relationships. The total stock of our investment and annual trade comes to approximately $1.5 trillion. US exports to the European Union support some 1.3 million American jobs. Trade in goods and services between the US and EU nearly doubled during the 1990s. In short, our economic ties alone justify a very close relationship with Europe.

The same holds for our security relationship. Our interest in European security did not end with the fall of the Berlin Wall. Today, we are working closely through NATO to forge the Europe that our grandfathers and fathers fought for in two world wars-a Europe whole, free and at peace. We are working to consolidate our gains in bringing peace to the Balkans. We are working and consulting closely to develop a new strategic framework to deal with common threats such as terrorism, information warfare, weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them. The president is looking forward to addressing all of these topics on his trip.

The debate over a "values gap" or a "strategic split" ignores the fact that at a very fundamental level our economic interests and our security interests-far from driving us apart-are major factors in keeping the US and Europe working together.

But the more fundamental irony is that the values debate is taking place at a moment when our core values-the common values of the transatlantic community-are ascendant.

Citizens on both sides of the Atlantic believe that all humans have the right to fundamental freedoms: the freedom to say what we think, worship as we wish and choose who shall govern us. We believe that open economies and trading systems are the essential starting points for building prosperity and meeting human needs. These beliefs-in freedom for people within borders and freedom for commerce across borders-have long characterized our partnership with Europe. What is different today is that so much of the rest of the world agrees with us.

Indeed, these principles are the hallmarks of the global age. From Latin America to Russia, from Asia to Africa, there is increasing recognition that the only way to improve lives is to open up the economy, root out corruption, eliminate statist subsidies and control and demolish protectionist barriers. There is increasing recognition that economic and political liberty creates the space necessary so that the talents of individuals can produce not just personal happiness but societal benefit.

More and more nations understand that this is the basic dynamic of globalization. And that is why they are choosing freedom and openness-for their economies, their trade relations and their political systems. That is why today a higher percentage of people live in democracies than ever before.

Freedom and respect for basic human liberties are not values that are "Made in America." They are not "American" values any more than they are "European." They are both, and they are neither. Today, increasingly, they are universal.

I do not mean to downplay the issues driving the debate over a values gap. Our transatlantic partnership must and will have open, healthy debate on issues where we differ. Reasonable people can disagree on the best approach to policy issues such as global climate change and genetically modified foods. We should present our differences honestly, look at facts objectively and pursue solutions pragmatically and creatively.

On something as fundamental as the death penalty, both sides must respect the fact that our positions are the result of free and open democratic discourse within our civic and political institutions. And we should appreciate the fact that there is evidence to suggest that the views of our citizens are more ambiguous, and probably a lot closer to each other, than the positions of our governments.

But in many ways, the debate over a "values gap" between the US and Europe is the kind of self-indulgent discussion that only the very successful and well off can afford. The debate appears to take place in a vacuum, ignoring the important work still to be done to build the kind of Europe we know we want, the kind of Europe we know we can achieve. The debate also looks past the important work that together the US and Europe can achieve beyond our borders: to help foster open societies with open economies around the world; to help bring peace and health to Africa; to help set an example of multi-ethnic democracy for those lands where difference is still seen as a license to kill.

This is an important agenda and these are great goals. And one of the defining characteristics of the global age is that no nation-not even a "hyper-power," if one existed-can reach these goals alone.

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