Europe’s Cry That U.S. Won’t Consult

The following is from the New York Times. It comments on the views and concerns of some European ministers at the apparent unilateralism of the U.S. on some aspects of the so-called War on Terror. You can see the original article at

German Joins Europe's Cry That the U.S. Won't Consult
by Steven Erlanger
New York Times
February 13, 2002

BERLIN, Feb. 12 — The German foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, warned the Bush administration today not to treat American allies like satellite states in some new empire or to move unilaterally against countries like Iraq. His remarks added a prominent voice to a new wave of anxious Continental criticism of Washington's post-Afghanistan foreign policy.

Mr. Fischer, a Green with a strong pro-American reputation, joined his French counterpart, Hubert Védrine, in rejecting what they view as the simplistic formulation by Mr. Bush of an "axis of evil" made up of Iran, Iraq and North Korea.

Mr. Fischer, referring to Iraq, said, "The international coalition against terror is not the foundation to carry out just anything against anybody, and particularly not on one's own." He added, in a long interview with the conservative daily Die Welt, that, "All the European foreign ministers see it that way."

"Because of that, the expression `axis of evil' does not take us further," he said. "Throwing Iran, North Korea and Iraq into one pot. Where should that lead us?"

The Europeans are concerned about the Bush administration's policy toward the Middle East, which they regard as too heavily tilted toward the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, and too dismissive of the Palestinian leader, Yasir Arafat.

But the Europeans are most worried about how the Bush administration will choose to prosecute the war on terrorism after Afghanistan. They are trying to influence the intense debate going on in Washington about how to deal with, or bring down, President Saddam Hussein of Iraq.

"A world with six billion people will not be led into a peaceful future by the mightiest power alone," Mr. Fischer said. "I do not support anti- Americanism at all, but even with all the differences in size and weight, alliances between free democracies should not be reduced to following. Alliance partners are not satellites," using a term from the cold war for Central European countries under Soviet military domination.

As for Iraq, Mr. Fischer said, Mr. Hussein is playing "a brutal, cynical game" with his population. "But it would be wrong to limit the options to the military realm. The U.N. inspectors must be allowed to return to the country. The sanctions regime must be further developed so that Iraq cannot produce or bring online weapons of mass destruction."

By inference, Mr. Fischer does not favor efforts to produce "regime change" in Iraq, the way the Bush administration does. Nor do the Europeans accept that Washington has the right to attack Iraq unless there is a clear link shown between Iraq and the Sept. 11 attacks.

When the American deputy secretary of defense, Paul D. Wolfowitz, suggested earlier this month that Iraq presented such a clear danger to American interests that the United States might act pre-emptively, Russian and European officials warned Washington to obey international law and respect the need for a United Nations mandate.

Mr. Védrine was the first, and bluntest, critic, saying last Wednesday that Mr. Bush's approach to terrorism is "simplistic" and "reduces all the problems in the world to the struggle against terror." He said Europeans must speak out more loudly now because they faced a United States that acted "unilaterally, without consulting others, making decisions based on its own view of the world and its own interests."

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell rejected those words, saying the United States will not "shrink from doing that which is right, which is in our interest, even if some of our friends disagree with us."

Prime Minister Lionel Jospin of France also made critical comments about the United States, followed by the European Union's foreign affairs commissioner, Christopher Patten, who said European leaders should act before the United States reached "unilateralist overdrive."

Mr. Fischer, who is heading for the Middle East, urged Israel and the United States to respect the Palestinians' choice of Mr. Arafat. "No people will allow themselves to be told by the other side who their legitimate leader is," he said. "And so long as that is Yasir Arafat, one will not be able to push him aside."

Europe must have frank talks with Washington on global security, Mr. Fischer said, including a more "equitable shaping of globalization," to increase a sense of fairness.

"If large-scale rearmament is now signaled, this will not lead to a reduction in potential acts of desperation throughout the world," he said, adding, "A dollar or euro can only be spent once, and the money will be missed elsewhere in the world, and this will increase the potential for acts of desperation, and hence the threats to security."

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  • Posted: Thursday, February 14, 2002

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