April 26, 2013 by Silvana Bolocan
By Andrew Gardner – 25.04.2013 / 04:00 CET
A former US national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, tells Andrew Gardner that an EU-US trade deal would be of great benefit for both sides, but only if Europe has strong leaders
Zbigniew Brzezinski, widely viewed with Henry Kissinger as one of the two most influential shapers of US geopolitical thinking of the past 50 years, last week argued that the emerging free-trade agreement between the US and the European Union could help Europe meet its central global challenge, to contribute to a “new…vital West” capable of making democracy relevant to the “increasingly turbulent 21st-century world”.
Brzezinski, who was speaking at Globsec, a central European security conference in Bratislava, said that the prospect of a “north Atlantic free-trade area” had “enormous promise”, enough possibly to reshape the “geopolitical realities of the world” and to generate “new vitality, more security and greater cohesion” in the West.
This could make Europe “of increasing attraction” to Russia. Describing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s vision of a Eurasian Union of post-Soviet states as doomed, he told European Voice that there was “almost a predictable inevitability” to Russia choosing a more Western approach. The alternative, he suggested, was for Russia to become “a satellite of China”.
His comments about Russia came in the context of a conviction that the US and China could establish “a balanced relationship in which there is still rivalry and competition”. Describing himself as an early advocate of the notion of a ‘G2′ strategic understanding between the US and China, he pointed to China’s lack of “ideological, doctrinal views” and its decision to limit its stockpiles of nuclear weapons.
The alternative to geopolitical balance between the West and China could be global chaos. “Asia could even replicate internally the sad experience of Europe during the 20th century,” said Brzezinski, who was, as a US national security adviser from 1977-81, crucial to shaping the US-China relationship.
To avoid that prospect, he said: “Europe needs leaders who can personalise and dramatise the historic mission of a more united Europe in closer intimacy with America.” This was, he made clear, a particular problem in western Europe. “In western Europe today, there is a dearth of historical imagination and of global ambition. There is no Churchill, no De Gaulle, no Adenauer,” he said.
By contrast, he said that his audience of central and eastern European politicians and officials included people “eminently qualified to be leaders of Europe as a whole and who are sensitive to these challenges”. The region, he said, “needs to assert its democratic entitlement to a greater share of the top decision-making positions in the EU”.
They should address Europe’s main problem, which is “that today’s EU is a Europe more of banks than of people, more an economic convenience than an emotional commitment of the European peoples”. He went on specifically to criticise the UK for “reserving special rights for the global equivalent of Las Vegas”.
He linked Europeans’ lack of commitment to Europe to geopolitics, saying that “the absence of a wider vision of Europe’s global role, not to mention the widely shared European view that assuring global security is largely an American obligation, intensifies narrow aspirations for privileged status for some states and complacent expectations of generous bail-outs from the more disciplined members of the Union”.
Deficits of vision and commitment were just two of the limits on Europe’s global presence. “Europe doesn’t have a foreign policy,” he told European Voice. “Europe has a foreign-policy process in which some useful discussions take place and in which Europe can engage itself in a manner that simulates the idea of a foreign policy.” Europe’s ability to project itself was, he suggested, also limited by “a real cultural and historical problem” of colonialism – a problem, he was at pains to say, that is shared by the US. He suggested that was harming the West’s response to the Syrian crisis.
“I am troubled by the degree to which we in the US, in dealing with the Syrian problem, have to be reliant on the British and the French, because I know how people in the region feel about these countries,” he told the audience.
Speaking later to European Voice, he said: “I think the ones we have to take seriously into consideration are the ones that are going to be most directly affected: Turkey clearly, Saudi Arabia clearly, and for better or for worse, given the fact that the Saudis are not exactly neutral, the Iranians, who are neighbours to Syria.”
On Syria, and on the peace process between Israel and Palestine, he was critical of US President Barack Obama. “Strategy means a design for implementation, which means a commitment to action,” he said. Obama had not committed himself enough to forcing Israel and Palestine to a deal. On Syria, he had both under- and overcommitted the US. “By what right do we have from the balcony or the steps or the press room of the White House to declare ex cathedra [that Syria’s President Bashar] Assad has to go? And then it turns out that we don’t have a policy for making that happen. And we do have interested parties whose views have to be considered,” said Brzezinski, who has advocated an internationally-supervised political process including Assad.
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