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From the April 2003 issue of World Press Review (VOL. 50, No. 4)

Closing Time: Is the Case Against Saddam Hussein a Case for War?

Europe Is Coming Undone

Leopold Unger, Gazeta Wyborcza (liberal), Warsaw, Poland, Feb. 11, 2003

Success! [Russian President] Vladimir Putin has emerged victorious from the delicate balancing act between his relationship with the European Union (E.U.), Russia’s largest business partner, and the United States, the only partner that can enable Russia’s participation in governing the world. Putin has not offended or hurt anyone. Returning to Russia from Germany and France, he is entitled to ride up to the Kremlin on the “White Horse”—the name of the best wine (500 euros per bottle and up) from the St. Emilion region that graced the last leg of the visit.

Success. For as history would have it, he has witnessed the realization of the fatwa handed down on Europe by a Soviet politician, warning the West, “We will divest you of your enemy,” the chief glue preserving Western unity.

The post-battle landscape is plain to see: Europe is cracking. Thirteen years after the loss of the common enemy, on the first try, the unity of the West is unraveling like an old sweater. The West is torn. Saddam is laughing. Iraq divided his enemies. Europe, to borrow [U.S. Secretary of State Donald] Rumsfeld’s phrase, is split into the “old” (France and Germany, the rest do not count) and the “young” (Great Britain, Italy, Spain, Poland, and 14 others). The NATO alliance has split, too: France, Germany, and Belgium blocked the votes of the 16 remaining members of NATO regarding possible assistance to Turkey.

But let’s dispel any lasting illusions: This isn’t the first disruption in the democratic camp, but it isn’t really a question of age. The emperor is naked. Iraq is a test, but it’s a coincidental one. Today Europe doesn’t have—and never has had—a genuinely common and cohesive foreign policy, not to mention a defense policy (then again, there isn’t one without the other).

Contemporary Europe never could relate as an equal either to the Soviet Union or to the United States. Its security has always depended on U.S. assistance. It is not even about the two world wars, the Marshall Plan, or the Cold War, although given today’s anti-American babble, we should recall these. It was the U.S. Army, however, that ran Al-Qaeda out of Afghanistan; right here in Europe, in Kosovo, we couldn’t manage without it, and—this borders on black humor—it took Powell to resolve the dispute between Morocco and Spain over the island of Perejil. Even in matters of the economy, the European giant feverishly awaits news from Wall Street, knowing that a European Eldorado depends on a U.S. rebound.

The conclusion is simple: We are at the root of the deepening division across Europe, not Iraq. Everyone should have an opinion, especially in matters of war and peace, and Americans are often wrong and tend to be blinded by their power. But if Europe wants to be taken seriously, its foreign policy and its input toward preserving democratic values cannot come down to an anti-American fixation.

As a farewell gift from the French, Putin received a case of “The White Horse.” But he’ll invite Americans to the party. They know about horses.

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