New Atlanticism on Horizon

Viola Herms Drath sees the dawn of a “New Atlanticism” on the horizon. While rather ironic in light of reports that the Bush Administration is snubbing Britain, it’s an interesting argument.

The dawn of a New Alanticism comes as a welcome surprise. After years of benign neglect, European leaders who are energetic and emancipated Atlanticists in Germany, France and England are ready to shoulder new responsibilities outside their borders. Based on their appraisal of terrorist threats and the Middle East quagmire as immediate danger to world peace and Western civilization, these newly elected politicians are shifting political gears. Activated by the number of mosques rising on their soils, failing integration policies and the radicalization of young Muslims, leaders in the three major European nations promise, at long last, new geostrategic horizons benefiting partners on both sides of the Atlantic: a New Atlanticism — reviving the spirit of the West.

With Washington engaged in the Middle East for more than four years, trans-Atlantic relations have been relegated to the backburner. Substituting export of democracy for the subtle art of diplomacy, Bush administration foreign relations — rife with bureaucratic turf wars between the State and Defense Departments and a strangely conflicted Central Intelligence Agency — were allowed to drift into isolation.

At the same time, after five years of viewing “foreign affairs through a clouded Iraqi lens,” she sees American leadership ready to re-engage.

What can we do together was the most frequent question of the trans-Atlantic partners during the U.S.-EU summit in May 2007. Taking the initiative, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, a staunch Atlanticist and at the time the rotating EU president, decided to break down the divisive trans-Atlantic economic regulatory walls of a region that generates 60 percent of our world trade. Though ridiculed by bureaucrats, her concept of a barrier-free Trans-Atlantic Economic Zone featuring cuts in costly regulations was easily adopted. With the founding of the “Trans-Atlantic Economic Council,” Mrs. Merkel paved the way for the first significant step toward a New Atlanticism. Squabbles between Boeing and Airbus aside, all participants welcomed the new Air Transport Agreement liberalizing trans-Atlantic air travel. Expansion of the American Visa Waiver is yet another milestone in strengthening U.S.-EU economic relations, though it gives little comfort to visitors from excluded East European countries.

Then again, we’re still dealing with powerful states with differing interests.

Acknowledging the reality of a still divided European Union, Poland’s ambassador to the United States found it necessary to remind the Bush administration that though Poland is grateful for America’s role in freeing Europe from communism, the time has come for America to deal equally well with its friends such as Poland that are loyal supporters on matters such as the controversial missile shield.

Europe is reinventing itself. As a dominating figure at the EU summit in Brussels in June 2007, Mrs. Merkel did her best to unify the fractured Union with the transformation of the rejected “Constitutional Treaty,” framed by France’s Valery Giscard d’Estaing in 2005, into a “Reform Treaty” streamlined in length but not essentially altered in the content that arouses sovereignty concerns among members. As expected, the commitment to cover “all areas of foreign policy and all questions relating to Union security” raised questions about sovereignty and the issue of national referenda. Opposing provisions granting more power to EU institutions, Ireland immediately opted for a plebiscite. Other countries may follow suit.


Europe is a work in process. Facing myriad threats to Western society, the new trans-Atlantic leadership understands the West must learn to focus more on common interests and mutual efforts. To keep the channels of communication open, a political link is needed. A “Trans-Atlantic Political Council,” patterned after the “Trans-Atlantic Economic Council,” would guarantee a continuous dialogue that would enable the partners to develop major strategic concepts.

Together we are responsible for much that is positive and good in the world. Thus, it becomes imperative that the trans-Atlantic partners begin to work together on resolving vital issues allowing the global community a choice between freedom and the rule of law over absolutism.

I’m ideologically and, now, professionally interested in strengthening the trans-Atlantic community. Ultimately, a united front among the world’s democracies is the only way we’ll solve some of the world’s most significant problems. But as even Drath acknowledges, there are still plenty of serious disputes within the EU, let alone the EU-US and US-NATO fronts.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Dave Schuler says:

    At the same time, after five years of viewing “foreign affairs through a clouded Iraqi lens,” she sees American leadership ready to re-engage.

    Harrumph. More like 25 years of fashionable anti-Americanism. If true, the backpedalling should be entertaining. I hope the French and German people don’t get whiplash.

  2. Patrick T. McGuire says:

    I hope the French and German people don’t get whiplash.

    A fine point perhaps, but it is the governments of these two countries that have been un-American, not the people.

    I extensively toured Normandy in 1997 during the first week of June. There were more US flags along the streets and in shops than you would find in the US. There was a very strong pro-American sentiment among the French in that area.

    Similarly, during the same period, I worked for a German company. I had an interesting conversation with one German engineer who told me that the German people were very greatful for what the US did during the Berlin airlift.

    There is more pro-American sentiment there than most people know.

  3. Wayne says:

    Normandy has a different attitude toward the U.S. than Paris does.