donderdag, januari 30, 2003

"New" Europe's First Words: Give Me Liberty or Give Me Bush

Last week, in a metaphorical slap across the nonconformist, anti-war faces of France and Germany with his dueling glove, Donald Rumsfeld advised reporters, in response to criticism of the US position, "You're thinking of Europe as Germany and France. I don't. I think that's old Europe." "Old" Europe thus became, in essence, any European ally incapable of blind support for US military action against Iraq.

Never fear however for today, the members of the "New" Europe were knocking themselves over in a race to reveal themselves in the form of a declaration that was published in 12 European newspapers and urges Europeans to unite with Americans to force Saddam Hussein, Iraqi president, to give up his weapons of mass destruction. The declaration was signed by the prime ministers of Spain, Portugal, Italy, United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Denmark. Conspicuously absent of course, were the signatures of Chirac and Schroeder, the leaders of France and Germany.

The declaration urges Europeans to stand by the US at a time of great danger to international peace. It says Europe and the US have common values of democracy and freedom. The prime ministers urge the UN Security Council to ensure that its resolutions are upheld or risk losing its credibility. They warn Mr Hussein that this is his last chance to disarm peacefully. It does not authorize the use of military force against Iraq or give a preemptive standing ovation for any course the Bush Administration chooses to take against Iraq.

Rumsfeld, while disingenuously depicting America's alliance as "shifting more to the East than the West," meant of course, the most recently enlisted new members of NATO (Poland, Czech Republic and Hungary), all of whom signed the document, as well as those seven Eastern European nations invited last fall to join NATO; Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Romania, Slovenia, and Bulgaria, when he said "Look at vast numbers of other countries in Europe. They're not with France and Germany on this. They're with the United States."

Oddly enough, none of the seven NATO invitees of Eastern Europe signed the document. Neither did Holland. Most, like France, Germany and Greece, were neither consulted nor contacted by the document's authors. Lithuania and Latvia expressed that they hadn't been contacted but would have signed had they been contacted, while other countries have passed on supporting Bush at least until February 10th, the next session of the UN council. In an even odder twist, according to Bulgarian newspapers, "24 Chassa" quotes relatives of Bulgarian emigrants to the US as saying that the US authorities want their relatives to join the US army if a military operation is launched against Iraq. If they refuse, they will be sent back to Sofia. The same story is reported in "Standard News."

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that according to a new poll, four out of five Europeans are opposed to participation in a United States-led war on Iraq without explicit United Nations backing.

The survey by EOS Gallup Europe found that 82 percent of European citizens would not support their countries participating in a military intervention without UN support.

I wonder which part of that 82% constitutes "old" Europe and which part constitutes "new" Europe.

Let's face it, no matter how hard Administration officials want to play off this new joint declaration of solidarity as a loud voice of support for war, only 8 of 15 EU prime ministers signed it. Greece - which currently holds the EU presidency - said the letter did not reflect an official EU position. In Brussels, the European Parliament passed a resolution today calling on the United States not to take unilateral military action and urged the United Nations to find a peaceful solution to the crisis.

Le Monde considered that "the parade of vassals" had begun, implying of course, that those who signed were nothing more than servants to the will of Bush. In fact, an unnamed diplomat is quoted as saying that it seemed "the hand of the United States" was behind the declaration. He noted it was ironic that the only three signatories of the declaration from Eastern European countries who were the only three countries who were members of NATO and applicants for EU memberships. Nothing like the old carrot and the stick routine.

In fact, the more you consider it, the more this does seem to bear the mark of cynical political gamesmanship typical of the Bush Administration, going behind the back of any members of the EU who had not enthusiastically and satisfactorily aped the desires of the Bush Administration. The declaration, a petty and backstabbing sucker punch with the goal of driving a wedge between EU members simply to satisfy the insatiable invasion-twitch of Bush, is a ploy which should be recognized for what it is: meaningless and counterproductive.

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