Adelina Marini, 2 November 2005
The United States intend to pour new energy into NATO because this is the only place where the US has the opportunity for joint actions with Europe. As I've mentioned before when saying Europe Washington does not mean the EU but any nation on the European continent, sharing momentary American interests. Or as the assistant Secretary of State Nicholas Burns put it, NATO is the organisation, realising America's foreign policy in Europe. Brief and clear.
In other articles we have deliberated on what NATO was and what it is now. What were its initial tasks and what are the current challenges. In this regard, we had a very interesting conversation with Radek Sikorsky, a former deputy foreign minister and deputy minister of defense of Poland. We met him in the end of his work for the American Enterprise Institute. He was about to return to Poland and again join the Polish politics. With him we discussed the differences between the allies but also the common ground between them.
About the differences: "This is life. The fact that some states are allies does not necessarily mean that they agree on everything. The question is that Europe does not seriously consider reforming its military capacity. Most European countries do not spend, as NATO recommends, 2% of their GDP and when they do they do not spend the money reasonably. If the US had 50 (as the number of its states is) armies, 50 headquarters, 50 fleet, they would have also spent their money in vain.
Europe spends around one third of what the US invests in defence. If we could spend more we could have earned the respect we expect to. This is the reason why the US has the right to defend its significance as the most powerful nation in terms of military affairs, and I even think that their efforts in this sector are unprecedented so far".
This statement of Radek Sikorsky from the American Enterprise Institute provoked the first question at the discussion - this is exactly what I can't entirely understand why is it so important Europe and the US to spend equally on their military budgets, since they are not equal in many other aspects? For example, Europe has its own priority to fight poverty, while the US invests more in military research. Here is what Radek Sikorsky responded to me, typically the Polish way:
"Europe is in peace right now because it has to, but when the European countries were so powerful as the US is now, they were not that peaceful. I can even say that they used to create much more cruel empires than America. I don't think that the stereotype that the US are the war-lovers and Europe - peace-lovers, is political correct. Yes, it is true that as expenditure per capita the US spends less in fighting poverty, but on the other hand, the private sector spends much more money on charity than Europe. Americans are much more generous in this respect.
And if you look at the results, here is what the situation is - in Europe we are accustomed that whenever there is a problem we rely on the government to solve it. Yes, you might say, fighting poverty is too important and this is why governments should deal with it. But it may take years a decision to be taken to send aid to the Third world, which is terrible. Not to mention that Europe has not fulfilled its commitments to Afghanistan yet, for example".
As a model for good joint activities Sikorsky outlined Iran. He said that Tehran was a very good example of what we could do together. Europeans play the good cop and the Americans - the bad one. But we all agree that cops are needed and that we have common goals. According to the Polish politician, one of the main problems of the Old continent is that Western Europe does not perceive Central and Eastern Europe's history as its own:
"So, the fact that we were a communist colony should be perceived as common European history, in which there is no us or you. We all were one way or another touched and bare responsibility. This is why the sensitivity of some central European nations toward Russia is well grounded and must be perceived as such. The western Europeans must put themselves in our shoes and think about it what could their attitude be, if for example Russia had killed half of their officers or if it had occupied half of their territory for 45 years.
So, a process of psychological maturity is still going on in Europe, which takes time. It usually takes a generation. In the same time, the Central Europeans must understand that inaction does not do any good". Radek Sikorsky also said that in Europe we have to conclude the following deal: if we want, we the Europeans, to have any significance on global stage, to have common policy, this means that on some issues big countries should acquire the interests of the smaller states. He also said that:
"In this regard, the EU-US relations are very important, because when these two powers have a common goal, it is always achieved. It's just that these two powers should have a common agenda. Europe must be something more than a community of high standards. Human nature is such that it needs the creation of a community in order to make a policy work. In other words, a community which will make people sacrifice themselves one for another.
It is necessary for people to have the feeling of a shared history, shared fate. This is not something rational, for which there is a law or a standard. And if we think about how far Europe can go I would apply the initial formula of the Rome Treaty - each European country can join. And European means a country a larger part of which is in Europe".