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No Transatlantic Strategy but "Multilateralism a la carte"

Helga Haftendorn, professor emeritus at the Free University of Berlin and one of the leading experts on transatlantic relations, argues that "a common transatlantic strategy for global challenges is nowhere in sight -- even in the event of a Democratic US administration come 2009."

Europe and America embrace different concepts of world order that are based on diverging values, belief systems, and experiences-and thus they employ different strategies and instruments to shape international affairs.

Yet, Haftendorn argues that "differences in the power relations between Europe and America are more relevant than diverging concepts of world order." This leads her to conclude: "Given the structural asymmetries between Europe and America, it is unlikely they will unite to cope together with new challenges." The flexible structures of a "multilateralism à la carte" are thus the future.

I agree with this analysis. Such a realistic assessment of the future of European-American cooperation is better for transatlantic relations than those typical essays and speeches full of wishful thinking.

The German Council on Foreign Relations presents her article in IP Global Edition. It is just five pages long, which is unfortunately a bit too short for her analysis of the five basic European-American interaction patterns. A longer version "How well can Europe and the United States Cooperate on Non-European Issues?" is to be published later this year by Geir Lundestad and the Norwegian Nobel Institute.


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Anonymous on :

I think the use of 'analysis' in reference to this article is being overly kind. Call it what it is--a piece of mailed-in boilerplate that is more properly seen in conjunction with that earlier post from the FT Passport blog about Europe's paucity of original ideas. Where is even a passing assessment of the failed Balkan policy, the lack of a uniform energy policy, the intra-European dissention about the a greater Mediterrean economic sphere or the inaction on Sudan due to Chinese pressure? Does anyone who is a serious academic really believe that European nations abide by a Lockean contract in their international legal obligations? The evidence of European compliance with the European Monetary Union, greenhouse gas emissions or even such public international law stalwarts as the Genocide Treaty says differently. The rhetorical flourish of appropriating the anglo-saxon enlightenment might make a prima facie case for the already convinced, but are Europeans really committed international structuralists compared to the unilateralist Americans whose treaty-based organizations span the globe? I hope this trite and provincial worldview does not reflect the extent of original thinking in Germany. Link to something from The New Presence (, at least they are thinking.

Tuomas on :

After almost ten years in Europe, I've more and more begun to question the authority of any writer who misleadingly describes Europe as a nation, as one discrete actor on the international stage, or at all as a, in any respect, single entity. Therefore, as a representative of these folks, the aged Helga Haftendorn (who was the 1990 president of the International Studies Association) does not make any significant impression on me. But having spent a couple of years studying Political Science, I've come to conclude that the academic disciplin [i]International Relations[/i] is very much troubled by the different scope and outlook it gets from the perspective of different languages. This piece is in no way exceptional, and maybe the problem is further aggravated when writers adapt their texts to a larger language, like English. Still, this writer comes up with pure rubbish as: [quote=Haftendorn]The 2003 Iraq campaign saw an open skirmish between the United States and Britain, on one side, and France and Germany, on the other. The latter, for different reasons, wanted to distance themselves from the conflict and to contain America. Their opposition to the war produced a deep split across the Atlantic, as well as in the European Union. [u]The rift was mended when Germany and France realized that their stand hurt other vital interests, such as alliance cohesion. They further understood that an Iraq in chaos was not in their interest. Initial European schadenfreude[/u] at America’s problems gave way to helplessness and deep concern about how the region can be stabilized in the long run.[/quote] Which makes one to wonder if the writer in question has [b]gone native[/b] with Paul Wolfowitz and his ilk.

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