Saturday, 6 October 2007
Re-visiting the United States
Washington is a beautiful city in many ways. I saw it now in various seasons and I must say that it is one of those places in the United States where European could feel comfortable. At least, I do.
ALDE decided to visit the US in order to explore perspectives of transatlantic co-operation and get the feeling or at least a vague idea what the possible change of US administration could offer for Europe. We visited quite prominent institutions and met with decision makers at various levels: Department of State, Department of Defence, National Security Council, Think Tanks and Democratic National Committee. Few important observations to share:
- Iraq is the biggest single political matter that dominates majority, if not all, political debates on external policies. Arguments of this debate would lead to a certain general floating agreement that War in Iraq is not going to an end, it doesn‘t have a substantial progress and largely it requires rethinking of US role and presence in general, while securing, if that at all is a possibility, some sort of stability in the country and the region.
- New administration in the White House will be exposed to a major challenge of how to finish the war in Iraq during the first term in office and hope for re-election and new foreign agenda in the second mandate (success of moving out of Iraq will be a key to the second term, whoever becomes a President).
- In this context European Union will have to reflect on its role in Iraq. Surely refusal to invade Iraq, which was wisely made by number of European countries will be confronted with the discussion on whether EU is willing to contribute to cleaning up „the mess“ and contributing to stabilisation of Iraq and the region at large.
- It was clear from various meetings that relation between EU and US that were rather frosty in the past few years experience renaissance with the change of leadership in few of the EU countries (Merkel, Sarkozy, Brown).
- Many Think Tanks have elegantly indicated that new US president will be a democrat with the skirt, since if economy continues in free fall and Iraq casualties will grow, there is no way that Republicans will be able to mount strong opposition.
- Democrats seem to be unanimously afraid of Mit Romney as the only Republican who is credible and potentially able to raise the Republican voters base.
- New administration will not be 100% different in its approaches to external policies no matter who is in charge, there is of course a much greater possibility for revival of multilateralism if Democrats take charge, however both parties would defend one thing – national interest.
- Europe will be remembered and will be asked to make a stronger contribution to securing peace be it Iraq, Afghanistan or Middle East at large.
- As a final speculation or rather an expectation one might add the reference that one prominent Democrat has made to the possibility of US reviewing the nuclear non-proliferation treaty article 6 that refers to the need for gradual move towards nuclear disarmament.
Overall it was an exciting few days, looking into the US from inside and listening to the Washington whispers and shouts. One thought was continuously appearing in my mind. Observing tranquil, almost provincial streets of Washington and walking in the green alleys and parks of Georgetown, I could hardly visualise that in this city politicians have the possibility to decide on the destinies of people living in the countries with names that most citizens would not pronounce not to mention place on the map. Ignorance is a bless, but are Washingtonians aware of the impact that building on Pennsylvania avenue have and whether how many of those are willing to share this privilege, but most importantly responsibility.