Solana and Miliband Debate the Transatlantic Alliance

| Apr. 06, 2012

Two veteran European political leaders agreed this week that Europe’s relationship with the United States needs to adapt to be able to address fast-changing economic and security problems. They also agreed that Germany must play a more assertive role if Europe is to resolve these challenges.

Javier Solana, the former secretary general of NATO and the former de-facto European foreign minister, joined former British Foreign Secretary David Miliband at a John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum at Harvard Kennedy School to debate the transatlantic alliance and its handling of issues including Afghanistan and Iran.

Solana and Miliband also took part in a series of events and master classes during Europe Week, organized by the Future of Diplomacy Project in the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. They visited the Kennedy School as Fisher Family Fellows.

R. Nicholas Burns, director of the Future of Diplomacy Project and professor of the practice of diplomacy and international Politics, moderated the JFK Jr. Forum discussion with Solana and Miliband on Tuesday, April 3, before a packed audience.

Solana, now director of the Center for Global Economy and Geopolitics at ESADE University in Spain,  said that once Europe works through its current financial crisis, “we need to start a new conversation [with the United States], and develop a new relationship that is adapted to the realities of the world in which power is being shifted around.”

Miliband, who served as foreign secretary under Prime Minister Gordon Brown from 2007-10 and is now a Labour Party MP, said, “I think we should look for change rather than continuity in the relationship and how it operates.”

Miliband said NATO was founded to confront the Soviet Union, but “that project finished with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union. We are still in the post-Cold War phase of thinking about NATO’s role and the transatlantic alliance.”

“We’d know that we had moved from post-Cold War to something definitive and clear if, when the U.S. announced its pivot last year [toward Asia], we had pivoted together. A transatlantic alliance that was really working in unison and in great clarity would have pivoted together,” Miliband said.

He added: “The United States needs Europe to step up in a very big way. We need to step up in terms of the way we engage with our own neighborhood, including North Africa, and elsewhere, and until the EU us able to fashion a stronger and more coherent view of its own foreign policy, the United States is going to struggle to find us to be the partner we need to be.”

Solana and Miliband disagreed on aspects of Europe’s economic crisis and how to deal with it. Solana said the outcome of the crisis in the EU “cannot be in any other direction than more integration,” and that European leaders need to reexamine the meaning of sovereignty. “When we get an agreement at the WTO, we give some sovereignty away. In the European Union, I don’t see any other way out.”

Miliband said “the economics all point to more integration within the Eurozone. However, the politics all point in the opposite direction, because not just in Britain but elsewhere, there is a strong feeling for a looser set of arrangements, both in debtor and creditor countries.” He added: “It’s inevitable that you’re going to have a tighter union in the Eurozone. I don’t welcome that Britain is further sidelined.”

The 17 member states of the Eurozone use the euro currency and are bound closely in a monetary union. Ten other members of the European Union – including the United Kingdom – do not use the euro. Solana said one danger is that the Eurozone and the EU develop in different directions.

Miliband said Germany has been standing in the way of EU economic integration for the past two years on issues such as Eurobonds.

Burns, who was U.S. ambassador to NATO before becoming U.S. under secretary of state from 2005-2008, pointed out that the United States spends 4 percent of gross domestic product on defense, while Germany spends 1.2 percent. Burns asked: “Why should Americans do all the work?”

Miliband said “the German question” has been posed for centuries, and “the irony is that the whole of Europe is asking for Germany to be stronger and tougher in its leadership role.”

Solana added, “I think Germany now has a fear about having to lead. That is the problem we are living with today. That has to do with history.”

With next month’s NATO summit in Chicago approaching, Solana said one of the most important tasks for NATO “is to construct a deeper relationship with Russia.”

Miliband said that finding a solution in Afghanistan requires a regional approach: “The tragedy at the moment is we have an end date, but not an end game.” He said the West needed to state clearly its bottom-line goal – that Afghanistan not become a base for global terrorism again.

Solana said the urgent need is to get a serious regional conference in place to work out an agreement because “2014 is tomorrow.”

Both men said the negotiations between Western powers and Iran scheduled to begin on April 13 offer an opportunity for significant progress and an alternative to military confrontation, but only if the negotiators combine patience with tenacious work for specific goals.

“I don’t think it will happen this year,” Miliband said, “But it is realistic for a second Obama Administration to resolve this diplomatically.”

For more information on this publication: Please contact the Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Smith, James. “Solana and Miliband Debate the Transatlantic Alliance.” News, , April 6, 2012.

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