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March 14, 2012
Obameron

From Julian Lindley-French, the New Atlanticist:  Officially Obameron will consider the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, Syria, Iran, and of course the joint position the US and UK will likely adopt at May’s NATO Chicago Summit. It is also clear from the red carpet treatment PR-Meister Dave is receiving in DC that the Americans again see a wider significance to the ‘special (yawn) relationship’. After many months of the Merkel-Sarkozy (Merkozy) duarchy assuming the right to speak for Europe, Obameron are in effect formalizing the new fault-line in the transatlantic relationship. Berlin and Paris be warned: Obameron will henceforth contest the European strategic piece with Merkozy. . . .

The fatal flaw in London’s logic is to equate NATO with the US. NATO is a European organization in which the Americans have at best a waning passing interest. To rely more on NATO means the British relying more on continental Europeans. Not only are the defense budgets of said Europeans in meltdown, but even more importantly so is the political will to use legitimate force and crucially Britain's at best meager political influence in Europe is also in meltdown.

The contradiction in British defense policy is thus clear. On the one hand the British want to save money by relying more heavily on a NATO command structure in which the US has little interest and on European partners that either do not want to act with Britain or simply cannot. On the other hand the British want to stay close to the Americans militarily even though that will cost a lot of money, especially so as the Americans are about to make the final break from a land-centric defense strategy with Europe at its core to a maritime strategy which does not at all have Europe at its core.

Is there a way out? Possibly, but it is a long shot. First, Chicago must reaffirm the principles of national parliamentary sovereignty the defense of which is NATO’s core mission. Second, Britain, France and Germany must be seen to come together and reaffirm the idea of a united Europe established firmly on the principles of national parliamentary sovereignty. Third, the very practical defense pact that France and Britain share must be expanded to include Germany so that Europe’s new strategic triangle could then begin Europe’s long road back to strategic seriousness.

Julian Lindley-French is Eisenhower Professor of Defence Strategy at the Netherlands Defence Academy, Fellow of Respublica in London, Associate Fellow of the Austrian Institute for European and Security Studies and a member of the Strategic Advisory Group of the Atlantic Council. He is also a member of the Academic Advisory Board of the NATO Defence College in Rome. This essay first appeared on his personal blog, Lindley-French's Blog Blast. Photo credit: Getty Images.