April 30, 2003

The "Four" France, Germany, Belgium

The "Four"

France, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg are planning a Euro-defense capacity.

"La dŽclaration Çinsiste en particulierČ sur Çle caractre fondamental du partenariat stratŽgique entre l'Europe et les Etats-Unis dans le cadre de l'AllianceČ, a ainsi tenu ˆ souligner le prŽsident franais Jacques Chirac."

Translation: The declaration "insists in particular" on "the fundamental character of the strategic partnership between Europe and the U.S. in the framwork of the Alliance," emphasized French President Jacques Chirac.

I think Jacques doth protest too much here.

More: "Une Union europŽenne renforcŽe en matire de sŽcuritŽ et de dŽfense Çn'est pas antagoniste ou n'entre pas en compŽtition avec l'Alliance atlantiqueČ, a renchŽri le Premier ministre belge Guy Verhofstadt, en invitant Çles Etats membres actuels et futurs ˆ rejoindreČ les Quatre."

A European Union reinforced in matters of security and defense "is not antagonistic or isn't entering into competition with the Atlantic Alliance"...the Belgian Prime Minister [said] in inviting "current [EU] members and future ones to join "the Four."

We might start by assuring the Belgian Prime Minister that we aren't overly concerned about the "Four" constituting "competition" with the Atlantic Alliance (Luxembourg?). But sarcasm aside--why has this Euro quartet picked the present juncture so as to make such an announcement? Partly, perhaps, to counter Robert Kagan's Mars/Venus arguments that only Hobbesian Americans understand force while the Euros dwell in a Kantian universe of perpetual peace blissfully sans any need for significant armies.

But, given the timing of this initiative, one can also see a continuation of a short-sighted and highly unfortunate French tendency to have the current organizing principle of their foreign policy seemingly appear to be focused on limiting U.S. power whatever the specific merits of the issue(s) at hand. Their contention that, during the Resolution 1441 Turtle Bay imbroglio, they played the role of guardian of international law can't be taken seriously. Saddam's violations of 1441 have already been proven to be material and thus it was the U.S. that was pursuing the integrity of international law by insuring the integrity of U.N. resolutions.

More worrisome, of course, are the intelligence documents being unearthed in Baghdad that showcase close Franco-Iraqi cooperation including French provision to Baghdad of appraisals regarding U.S. foreign policy thinking--certainly not behavior akin to that of an ally. And why did Dominique de Villepin head to Teheran at the present juncture?

Relations with France look set to continue detiorating for a good while yet--unless Chirac and Dominique swiftly change course--highly unlikely given an increasingly consistent pattern of behavior.

UPDATE: Vinocur's analysis in the Trib.

Two money quotes:

The project was dismissed by Colin Powell, U.S. Secretary of State, who called it "some form of plan to develop some sort of headquarters." He said the four would have done better spending more money on guns, manpower and equipment."

And Japp de Hoop Scheffer, the Dutch Foreign Minister: "Belgium and France will not guarantee our security. Germany will not guarantee the security of the Netherlands. I cannot imagine a world ordre built against the United States."

Posted by Gregory at April 30, 2003 12:45 AM
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