Stanley's blog

Secretary of State-designate Hillary Clinton did not mention the EU in her statement at her 13 January Senate Hearing from which it has been deduced by some in Europe that this is an indication that the new administration will downgrade the EU in favour of the Member States. The relevant paragraph reads:

Our traditional relationships of confidence and trust with Europe will be deepened. Disagreements are inevitable, even among the closest friends, but on most global issues we have no more trusted allies. The new administration will have a chance to reach out across the Atlantic to leaders in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and others across the continent, including the new democracies. When America and Europe work together, global objectives are well within our means.”

I do not agree with the deduction. “EU” does not fit into the above paragraph and there was no need to mention it as such. Furthermore actions by Member State leaders do not encourage express references ro the EU (eg two competing Middle East peace initiatives)

Mrs Clinton’s statement was, as one would expect, non-controversial. A few points are highlighted below:

  • The new administration will return to the time-honoured principle of bipartisanship in foreign policy.
  • Its overriding duty is to protect and advance America’s security, interests and values. US foreign policy must reflect its deep worldwide commitment to human rights and women’s rights.
  • America cannot solve the most pressing problems on its own, and the world cannot solve them without America.
  • Foreign policy must be based on a marriage of principles and pragmatism, not rigid ideology. On facts and evidence, not emotion or prejudice. America’s ability to lead requires recognition of the overwhelming fact of its interdependence.
  • American leadership has been wanting, but is still wanted. “Smart power” must be used, ie diplomatic, economic, military, political, legal, and cultural tools. Diplomacy will be the vanguard of foreign policy, but military force will sometimes be necessary.
  • It’s not often that a Secretary of Defence (Robert Gates) makes the case for adding resources to the State Department and elevating the role of the diplomatic corps.
  • The United Nations and other international institutions should be used whenever appropriate and possible.
  • America must be an exemplar of American values. The US must lead by example rather than edict.
  • George Marshall noted that the gravest enemies are often not nations or doctrines, but “hunger, poverty, desperation, and chaos.” To create more friends and fewer enemies, one can’t just win wars. Common ground and common purpose must be found with others so that together hatred, violence, lawlessness and despair can be overcome.
  • Those who argue that the end of the “American moment” in world history has been reached are wrong. America’s success has never been solely a function of power; it has always been inspired by values.

What conclusions might be drawn from Hillary Clinton’s statement? The ‘inclusive’ approach is in contrast to that of the Bush administration. The emphasis is on interdependence, cooperation with other countries and soft power. The State Department will be more influential than it is now.

However, this does not mean a European-style multilateralism, a word which was not mentioned. It is also made clear that military force may still be necessary.

Europe will be expected to contribute more soldiers and resources to Afghanistan.

US exceptionalism is alive and well.

There will generally be continuity in substance as opposed to style, although there will be a greater willingness to talk to the enemies.

Transatlantic relations will not be a priority at the beginning. Obama has a plateful of problems to face and the EU is in transition this year. The individuals appointed to sub-cabinet posts will give a clue to the relevance of Europe to the new administration.

It is to be hoped that he will appoint a high calibre ambassador to the Union, one who is both well-connected politically and will immerse him/herself in policy.

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  1. It’s a pity though the much acclaimed Common Foreign and Security Policy has failed in at least equipping the EU with a unitary image, albeit just a rhetorical one. Proposals in the Constitutional Treaty are likely to remedy this. If they will ever be adopted. Let’s hope progress will be made as the American administration progresses in in its path, despite Obama has pointed out long before his elections that EU – US relations are not a priority for him.

  2. You are not right, Corina Murafa. The EU will not have an unitary image until Europe will be compound of many independent states. What high proclamations on a necessary common action will help if every state could act separately on deliberation? The United States of America are one political entity with one political will or fifty separate wills acting together?

  3. The role of the very new american president is difficult to overestimate, but it’s true that his importance has no boundaries only in framework of the country. In EU a period of adaptation is needed.

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