Europe and the United States: Friends and Allies, or Rivals?

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occasional paper series

Europe and the United States: Friends and Allies, or Rivals? David O’Sullivan Ambassador of the European Union to the United States (2014 - 2019) Secretary-General of the European Commission (2000 - 2005)

occasional paper, volume 3

Europe and the United States: Friends and Allies, or Rivals? David O’Sullivan

Ambassador of the European Union to the United States (2014 - 2019) Secretary-General of the European Commission (2000 - 2005)

2019 Nanovic Forum

Nanovic Institute for European Studies Keough School of Global Affairs University of Notre Dame September 18, 2019


Copyright Š 2020 by Nanovic Institute for European Studies Keough School of Global Affairs University of Notre Dame Printed and bound in the United States of America ISBN: 978-0-9975637-0-2 First Edition, First Printing

Table of Contents

Preface and Introduction


William Collins Donahue

Europe and the United States: Friends and Allies, or Rivals?


David O’Sullivan

Post-Lecture Discussion




David O’Sullivan



Preface and Introduction William Collins Donahue

Director, Nanovic Institute for European Studies (2018 - 2020) Cavanaugh Professor of the Humanities The title of Ambassador O’Sullivan’s lecture is noteworthy: “The United States and Europe: Friends and Allies, or Rivals?” Who would have thought this to be a serious question just a few years ago? Who would have expected that an organization the United States consistently fostered throughout the post-war period would suddenly be deemed a foe by the President of the United States of America? During the golden days of the alliance, if one spoke of rivalry at all, it would have at most referred to fairly minor economic competition having to do, perhaps, with agricultural subsidies, and reflecting the important fact that the European Union had in the intervening period become a formiddable free trade zone, roughly on par with the U.S. market. But times have changed, and the Europe some of us had become complacent about is now riven by internal division as well as by strife between it and the United States. Thankfully, all I have to do is identify the problem. The solution, if there is to be one, will be addressed by the Ambassador. It is really no wonder that David O’Sullivan was named European of the Year by European Movement Ireland because he has, throughout his 40-year career, served Europe and the EU in numerous high-level capacities. In 1999 he served the European Commission as Director General of Education and Culture, from 2005 to 2010 as Director General of Trade, and in 2010 he added external relations to his portfolio. You will have noticed that I skipped five rather important years: he is widely respected for his intervening work from 2000 to 2005 as the Secretary-General of the European Commission. After a stint as Chief


Operating Officer of the European External Action Service from 2010 to 2014, O’Sullivan served as Ambassador of the European Union to the United States, concluding his term in March 2019. In an interview he gave at the end of his time in office, Ambassador O’Sullivan referred, poignantly I think, to the “shared destiny between the United States and Europe.”1 “That is something,” he said, “that we have had historically through ties of family and kinship, through the shared experience of two world wars, the Holocaust, the rebuilding of Europe through the Marshall Plan, and the strong alliance we had during the Cold War.” It is indeed this deeply felt shared destiny between the United States and Europe that Bob and Liz Nanovic, through their extraordinary generosity, have enabled us here at Notre Dame to explore, to research, and to promote. I am grateful to them and to you, Ambassador, for making our 2019 Nanovic Forum possible. 1. Ashish Kumar Sen and David A. Wemer, “Exit interview: EU’s envoy to Washington on navigating challenges in the transatlantic relationship,” Atlantic Council, New Atlanticist, February 5, 2019,


Europe and the United States: Friends and Allies, or Rivals? David O’Sullivan

Ambassador of the European Union to the United States (2014 - 2019) Secretary-General of the European Commission (2000 - 2005) I am always delighted to have any excuse to come back to the United States. I first came here in 1961 when I was eight years of age. My father was in the Irish military serving with the United Nations in the Congo and my mother, whose family had all moved to California, decided we would spend a year there. Coming from Dublin in 1961 to Pasadena was quite like what I would describe as my Wizard of Oz moment: when the movie turns from black and white to color. I fell in love with this great country then and have been coming back with great pleasure—regularly back and forth—ever since. The topic for the 2019 Nanovic Forum touches on some of the tensions or difficulties that we currently have between Europe and the United States. I think it is very important to see this in the context that I really do not believe any two continents in the world share the same degree of connectivity as Europe and the United States. This country was created by an unprecedented European diaspora. It was built for many reasons: adventure, avarice, escape from poverty—but most importantly hope, a sense of being able to build a better future in this new world, leaving behind the constraints and the difficulties of a Europe struggling to be reborn out of feudalism and absolute monarchy. The ideas that took root here were European: the ideas of the Enlightenment, Smith, Locke, and Edmund Burke—I saw a book of his over in Notre Dame’s Snite Museum of Art. These ideas were able to take root here in the United States in ways that took longer in Europe, and


david o’sullivan you were able to build here a new society on the foundation of these European ideas. The great second sentence of the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident,” was a true Copernican moment of political thought that really did revolutionize the way the world would develop in the future.1 The United States was born and its relations with Europe developed over centuries not without difficulty. The flow of people continued; the flow of capital and technology continued, enabling the United States to become the great continent it became. But there was rivalry; there were wars: wars with the U.K., wars with Spain. The new state of the United States sought to assert itself in opposition to some of the colonial tendencies in this part of the world, with the Monroe Doctrine asserting its own sovereignty over this area. Those tensions were there, and when it came to the outbreak of World War I, the United States—following Washington’s admonition not to get involved in foreign entanglements— held back from wanting to get involved in what was seen as yet another internal squabble and battle of the Europeans. Eventually, it was understood that the U.S. actually had a stake in the outcome of that great struggle and thus intervened. We had the Treaty of Versailles, and we had the great initiative to try to build a better world: the American initiative to build a League of Nations and to try to have a new construct that would make war less possible not just in Europe but also more generally. We know the story, and that did not succeed. In fact, the U.S. went backwards, into a period of isolationism. It was not possible to ratify the League of Nations. We had the Depression; you had Prohibition and a more inward-looking America. When the events of the 1930s produced the Second World War, the U.S. was again very reluctant to get involved. 1. Ambassador O’Sullivan placed a footnote here because he “cannot help but do so. May we note that many of the people who signed that were also slave owners, and that this phrase meant that the people who were self-evidently equal, were not all of the people. But leaving aside all of that, the sentiment was what it was and has inspired political thinkers ever since.” 2

europe and the united states: friends and allies, or rivals? Notwithstanding efforts to support the Allied cause in Europe, it took finally the attack from Japan and a declaration by Germany of war on the United States for America to get involved. The American military intervention was even more decisive in the Second World War than it was in the first, and thank goodness. America was able to help Europe liberate itself from Nazism and, for the second time, from totalitarianism. We never forget the sacrifice of young American men and women in those two world wars. I have seen some of the names here on buildings in this University. I see it everywhere I go in the United States. You should understand that this is still deeply felt in Europe and never forgotten. President Juncker, the president of the European Commission, spent a good few minutes talking to President Trump when they met in the White House on the 25th of July, 2019, explaining that the experience of the American liberation of Luxembourg was something he would never forget. General Patton is actually buried in Luxembourg. The care given to the graveyards of American soldiers in Europe by Europeans, by villagers, by people still remembering what those people did, is deeply felt and I want to acknowledge it here today: there is an enduring legacy of friendship between us that is never forgotten. More importantly, after the Second World War, enlightened American statesmen and women decided that this time, having helped us win the war, they would try to help us win the peace. A radically different approach was taken after the Second World War than had been taken after the First World War, with the Treaty of Versailles in particular, which was a punitive and vindictive treaty that ultimately laid the seeds of the Second World War. On this occasion, it was decided to make friends of former enemies. What the United States did in Germany and in Japan— and I spent four years living in Japan in the early eighties—was quite remarkable. Incredible foresight and statesmanship went into actually helping those two countries reinvent themselves as democracies and


david o’sullivan peace-loving countries, having come back from the history of Nazism in the case of Germany or of the militaristic state that was Japan in the 1930s. This heralded an unprecedented period in world history from 1945 through pretty much the end of the last century, which we can call a Pax Americana. We had the successful creation of the United Nations, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the Bretton Woods Institutions, the International Monetary Fund, and the General Agreements of Tariffs and Trade, or the World Trade Organization as we now know it. This tissue of multilateral structures helped generate a period of peace and stability unprecedented in world history. This was very much due to American leadership. The collapse of communism in 1990, the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union, was in many ways seen as a vindication of that period, those policies, and the great enlightenment. I think we can all remember the huge optimism felt at that moment across the world, that we really had entered a new era. Francis Fukuyama said it was “the end of history.” Well, that was a bit of hubris, I fear. I am sure he would like to take a different title for that book now in retrospect. Still, it was a moment of great optimism. In Europe, in parallel with the American initiative of rebuilding, we also decided that after two world wars and the Holocaust we needed a different business model for managing our continent under the impulse of the Marshall Plan, which was of course of very great financial assistance to Europe to help rebuild. It also came with the exhortation, and indeed in some cases the condition, that we work together, that we build new pan-European structures of cooperation in order to try to avoid repeating the errors of the previous fifty years. The Marshall Plan begat the European Coal and Steel Community, which begat the European Economic Community, which begat what we now know as the European Union.


europe and the united states: friends and allies, or rivals? This was also a period of unprecedented progress on the European continent. The European Union delivered peace, freedom, and prosperity since its creation in the early fifties to the present day. Peace: it is self-evident. Seventy years without a major power conflict on the European continent. You have to go back a very, very long time in our history to find a comparable period. It was not exclusively due to the European Union. Of course, it was due to NATO; it was due also at least in the early stages to some of the Cold War tensions between the Soviet Union and the United States. Fundamentally, it enabled a reconciliation of France and Germany, which had been the single greatest source of instability in European politics and society since the late nineteenth century. Freedom: founded on the principles of democracy, human rights, the rule of law, the right of expression, and the market economy. It was a beacon for countries emerging from totalitarianism. The first was Greece in 1981 after the collapse of the Colonels’ regime, put in place with American assistance. The first thing that a democratic Greece wanted to do was join the European Union. The same was true for Spain and Portugal in 1985 at the death of Franco and the collapse of Salazar. Both countries saw entering the European Union as the consolidation of their commitment to democracy and the rule of law, and you look at the progress those countries have made since then and it is quite remarkable. The same was true, of course, after the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the manner in which the newly emerging countries of Central Europe rushed to join the European Union. I don’t believe that the European Union can claim credit for the collapse of the Berlin Wall, but I do believe that the European Union can claim credit for the fact that that collapse was not followed by chaos, fighting, and discord but rather the orderly transition of countries formerly part of totalitarian Communism into broadly speaking Western-oriented liberal democracies. I’ll come 5

david o’sullivan back to some of the challenges that we now face on that issue, but I can tell you that in 2004, the moment when those ten countries of the former Soviet bloc joined the European Union—the event took place in Dublin, because it was the Irish presidency of the European Union, at the home of the Irish president, the Áras an Uachtaráin—was for me, personally, a moment of enormous pride. As the flags of the ten countries were raised in a solemn ceremony by the Irish defense forces, it really seemed like a moment of huge optimism. Think of all the progress made and the future that lies ahead, certainly with challenges but with enormous optimism. Finally, prosperity: you may laugh because when the European Union got the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012, I happened to be in New York to make a speech at an event attended by Ban Ki-moon, then Secretary-General of the United Nations. I said that I was delighted that we had won the Nobel Peace Prize—that was of course at the height of the Euro crisis—because we clearly were not going to win the Nobel Prize for Economics, which the Secretary-General seemed to think was very funny. He kept chuckling as he was leaving, saying, “that’s a great joke! Great joke!” I would respectfully say that the European Union could now also get the Nobel Prize for Economics. We have built out of 28 separate countries the largest single market in the world: 500 million people. You often forget this in the United States because you never aggregate our economic statistics. You always compare yourselves to Germany, or you compare yourselves to France. It is a no-brainer for you; I understand why you do it: you always look so much better! Compare yourselves to the European Union, and we actually are two of the three largest economies in the world: the European Union, the United States, and China. When I first arrived as Ambassador, we were the largest economy in the world, and I used to be able to say that China and America were battling for second and third place. This did not always go down very well in


europe and the united states: friends and allies, or rivals? Washington. I have to admit, the exchange rate has moved around a bit, and it now fluctuates. But to be frank, those are the three largest economic entities in the world by far. The European Union is the largest trading bloc in the world, the largest donor of development assistance, and the largest donor of humanitarian assistance. This is something that we have created consensually and democratically through the approval of our member states, and it is a remarkable achievement. We have done this in full respect of the identity and the cultural separateness of our member states. We are not building a monolithic United States of Europe that seeks to eliminate national differences. On the contrary, our member states are deeply attached to their national identity, to their language, to their culture, and to their cuisine. When you go to Estonia, you know that you are in Estonia and not in Greece. When you are in Portugal, you do not think you are in Poland. That is ever how it is going to be. We don’t wish to create homogenized European identity. We combine the two levels of identity: a national identity and a European identity. Many of you, at least in this part of America, know Ireland well. For Irish people, their first reaction is not whether you’re Irish, it’s where in Ireland you are from. What county are you from? Now I’m from Dublin. I’ve no doubt that Dublin’s the best place in Ireland. I mean there are other nice places, but Dublin is where it really counts. I’m Dublin; I’m Irish; I’m European. There’s no contradiction between these levels of identity. They are complementary. That is very important to understand. Ireland has never had a higher international profile since it joined the European Union. Ireland’s cultural and economic activity is much higher now than it was when we were not part of the European Union but still independent. So the European Union is creating, in an unprecedented way, a supranational grouping of sovereign states who join willingly and with democratic control and full sovereignty because you can get better 7

david o’sullivan outcomes for your people by doing certain things together than if you do them separately. This is also a Copernican moment in political thought. It has never been done before in the history of the world. It is a remarkable achievement, and I think we are very grateful for the fact that we’ve been able to do that with a huge amount of support from the United States. Now, that takes me to the fact that all of this seemed hugely optimistic at the turn of the century. You then had 9/11, which we have just commemorated yet again, and which was a horrible moment and wake-up call. I think it had a very dramatic impact on the loss of innocence in this country that resulted in the invasion of Afghanistan. I remind people, because I think it is important to do so, that the only time Article 5 of the NATO treaty has ever been invoked is when the other member states of NATO spontaneously—and not at the request of the United States—declared in the aftermath of 9/11 that the attack on the United States was an attack on every NATO member. All the countries of NATO mobilized to support the United States. NATO also followed the United States into Afghanistan, which I can assure you was not a self-evident decision. Over 1000 European NATO members have died in that war in Afghanistan alongside American troops. I think that there was a strong degree of solidarity with the United States in the face of that attack. This was then followed, unfortunately, by a war that divided us. The invasion of Iraq—I personally apologize if you disagree—was a catastrophic decision with catastrophic consequences, which we are still living with today. It divided us because most European countries did not agree that this was the right thing to do. I understand from the American perspective why some people thought it was, but it had enormous consequences.


europe and the united states: friends and allies, or rivals? In Europe we had the 2008 financial crisis, which brought a massive change in the mood and in the economic situation. I once heard Tony Blair say that he thought 9/11 should be considered the true beginning of the new millennium. Respectfully, I don’t quite agree. The real title in my view belongs on the 15th of September, 2008 and the collapse of Lehman Brothers. The collapse of Lehman Brothers and the financial crisis that followed was an absolute tectonic-shifting moment for the Western world. It exploded our confidence in our financial institutions, in our political institutions, and in economic policy. We have still not fully recovered from the consequences of that moment. That catastrophic moment revealed what was not working in our economic and political models. We have managed to correct some of the worst components on the economic side of things, but I think we still are living with the fallout from that and many of the political problems we face on both sides of the Atlantic. Some difficult years followed for the European Union. The financial crisis turned into a fiscal crisis. We had the bailouts: Ireland, Greece, Spain, and Portugal. We had the sense that the euro was going to collapse which was, I must say, exaggerated by a lot of the British and American press. I remember the amount of time I spent telling people the euro is not going to collapse. It did not collapse, but it is true that the system was put under huge strain because we realized that there were flaws in the way in which the European monetary union had been constructed. There was a need for radical new steps to protect and to build a better architecture, which we have to a large extent succeeded in doing, but not completely. We had Russian aggression in Georgia in 2008, which kind of went unnoticed. Then of course there was the annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the persistent Russian interference in the eastern provinces of


david o’sullivan Ukraine, which was a significant escalation in Putin’s disagreement with the West. We had the migration crisis. I don’t like to call it a crisis because, to be quite frank, the number of people—including the one million taken into Germany—would not have been a crisis if we had been dealing with it on a continental scale. We are a continent of five hundred million people. To say that we couldn’t manage a migration flow of one or two million people is a scandal. The fact remains: we were not managing it on a continental scale. This migration was managed at the national level, which gave rise to a massive crisis, particularly in the front-line countries that were most immediately affected, whether that was people coming through the Balkan route or whether they were coming through the Mediterranean route, the eastern Mediterranean or the western Mediterranean. We have managed, I think, to address this issue, but it is one that is not going away and we will have to come back to it. We also had significant incidences of terrorism. People start to conflate the two, even though they are not related. It is very important to constantly repeat that they were not related. We also had the rise of populism in many European countries and ultimately Brexit in the United Kingdom. These were all a new challenge for the European Union and we have been dealing with these difficulties. I can honestly say to you, and I used to try and say this when I was Ambassador, when you’re in Europe it doesn’t actually feel like it is in turmoil. Yes, we have problems. Yes, we have some challenges. But life goes on pretty normally and people are still living pretty well. We have decent health care, an education system, and a social welfare system. The economy is doing reasonably well. I am not saying we don’t have challenges, but it doesn’t actually feel like the place is falling apart in the slightest. The impression sometimes gained on this side of the Atlantic is, in my view, a little too negative. On the other hand, I think here in the United States you also have some chal10

europe and the united states: friends and allies, or rivals? lenges. I remember in April 2016 being at a dinner party in the French embassy in Washington D.C. People were discussing Europe and the crisis and populism. I said, “You know, don’t you think you’ve got a few problems here? You have got this guy, Mr. Trump.” “ “Oh, no, no. No, there’s no comparison between what’s going on in Europe and what could happen in the United States.” You’ll allow me to fast-forward a few years and say well actually, I think, we’ve got problems on both sides of the Atlantic. It is clear I’m not going to enter into the domestic politics of the new administration, but the arrival of President Trump from a European perspective has produced a massive crisis in relations between the United States and Europe. I can touch on the main issues, as you know them well. The withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement was deeply felt as a betrayal by many Europeans because this is a subject of enormous importance in Europe. This is a hugely important issue. Climate change has been identified by the American military as the single greatest threat to U.S. security over many years now. I think the Trump administration managed to slightly change that, but the security and the economic implications of climate change are massive. Climate change migration, climate change poverty, climate change conflict over scarce resources, water, desertification—climate change has the potential to dramatically change the way in which this planet functions, not just economically and not just in terms of changing weather patterns but actual conflict and warfare. We really have to come to grips with this issue. The Paris agreement was not perfect, but it was the first time we got every country in the world to sit down and acknowledge we have a problem; and we have a plan about how we’re going to face it together. Yes, there are many disagreements


david o’sullivan and many flaws in the plan. But, will it be enough to stop the temperature rising by more than two percent? Probably not by what was agreed in Paris, but it gave us a platform. The withdrawal of the United States is obviously a major blow to that. Now on this issue I’m relatively optimistic because when I used to travel as Ambassador across the United States I found America Inc. actually bought into this climate change agenda. The recognition by business is pretty irreversible that this is something that we have to do, and the business model of a post-carbon economy is something that most modern businesses actually understand is where we’re going. I’m relatively confident in what is going to be done here at the company level and at the state level; I find a lot of interesting stuff going on at the level of governors and mayors. Notwithstanding what the federal administration is doing, at other levels of U.S. government there’s a huge recognition about this and we can cooperate closely. But obviously having the federal administration pushing in the opposite direction is not helpful. Of course President Trump has made a big issue about burden-sharing in defense and security, and this is not a new point. President Obama has said it, as have other presidents. Robert Gates, who was President Obama’s defense secretary, made a very important speech in Brussels in December of 2011, I was there and remember well, where he warned the Europeans that if we did not do more on our own security this would become a political issue in the U.S. We get that, and it has to be done. I would just like to make a couple of points, if I may, so that you get the context. First, it is not true that we’re not paying up to NATO. All the member states of NATO have paid the NATO budget. The NATO budget is largely administrative and a small operational budget, but everyone has paid their NATO share. The issue is whether we are spending as much collectively on defense as is the United States, and clearly we are not. The United States currently spends about three to five percent of 12

europe and the united states: friends and allies, or rivals? GDP on the defense budget; the President would like to spend more. In Europe, a fraction of the member states are meeting the target of two percent set by an agreement in NATO; most are below that. Why is this? You need to understand that in Europe, traditionally, we needed armies to fight each other. That’s why we had them, because we wanted to fight our neighbors. When we decided to stop fighting each other, a lot of people said, actually, we don’t need as big an army. Then, isn’t it natural that we started spending less on defense and more on other things? That’s why it’s not particularly electorally popular in Europe to say I want to spend more money on guns and troops. That has changed since the Russian aggression, and I think people are rethinking it. But it’s very important that you understand this mindset. Second, it is not that we don’t spend money on defense. Going back to my point about aggregating European budgets, if you add up the defense expenditures of all 28 of our member states, it is the second largest defense budget in the world, way ahead of China and Russia. Now, the problem is it’s not a very effective defense budget because it’s split between 28 countries with high overheads, and we have 1.4 million people in Europe in uniform in our armed forces. By the way, that’s a very big number of people. But we are told by the experts that on a good day we can maybe put 50,000 fully-equipped and trained infantry soldiers in the field. Now the ratio of that number to the 1.4 million is utterly out of proportion to the United States, where the ratio is closer to fifty percent. We get on average fifteen percent operational value out of our defense expenditures compared to fifty percent in the United States. So we have a major problem which we have to fix, which is the effectiveness and the efficiency of our military operation. It’s not absolutely about spending more money; it’s about spending it more wisely, pooling and sharing. We have multiple defense systems, weapons systems, overlapping systems, and weapons. This all needs to be rationalized.


david o’sullivan The minute we start doing this, oddly enough, people in Washington start saying, “No, no, that’s not what we meant actually. What we meant was could you just buy more American equipment? Thank you very much, that’ll do fine.” There’s no reason why we shouldn’t also buy some additional American equipment, but you understand this is not necessarily a popular agenda in domestic terms. The final point I want to make about security is the point I made earlier. Europe is a massive spender on overseas development assistance and on humanitarian aid. Sixty percent of overseas development assistance from the developed to the developing world comes from Europe, from the European Union and its member states. The figure for humanitarian aid is even higher. That is a massive contribution to global security; that is a share and a burden that we bear financially that is not borne by the United States because you’re spending money on defense, which I understand. We are also in trade terms the only major trading bloc that offers full quota-free, tariff-free access to all exports from the least developed countries to the European market. The only other country that does that is Canada and I believe Australia. But we’re the only major trading bloc that does that, another major contribution to the development of these countries. This also needs to be factored in the equation. None of this is to run away from our responsibility to do more. We need to do it. The idea is not to create a European army, it is about creating a more effective European capability, which by definition is also a more effective contribution to NATO. It is not in competition with NATO because for the vast majority of our member states NATO is the cornerstone of European security policy. Not for the Irish, we’re neutral. A famous Irish prime minister, Charles Haughey, said, “We’re neutral. We just haven’t decided who we’re neutral against.” Unfortunately, we still haven’t decided who we’re neutral against, so for the time being the 14

europe and the united states: friends and allies, or rivals? Irish participation in all of this is limited. But the fact remains that for the vast majority of our member states who are part of NATO, NATO is the cornerstone of security and the transatlantic alliance is key to that. The more worrying aspect of disagreement with the current U.S. administration is really about multilateralism and about the nature of the European Union itself. This administration has consciously chosen to set itself against multilateralism, against international organizations. It’s very strange for many of us because most of these international organizations were created in America’s image and have been hugely beneficial to America. It is strange that America now seems to want to go back to an international environment where we don’t have rules, where we don’t have engagement, and to what we would call the law of the jungle. Maybe the assumption is that because America is the world’s greatest superpower that you will always win in that situation. Time will tell, but I’m not so sure. More importantly, in Europe I find it incredible that this administration is encouraging far-right nationalist and populist forces, the kind of people who in the 1930s gave us the Second World War, who gave us the Holocaust. I find it absolutely unbelievable that an American administration would throw its weight behind these kind of forces in Europe and somehow say that they represent nationalism and sovereignty, and this is the right way forward. Believe me, we do not need more nationalism in Europe. We have buckets of nationalism. We’re trying to store it like carbon capture; we’re trying to harness it, and stick it in the ground and say “it’s there, but we don’t need any more.” What we need is a greater understanding of how we work together, how we cooperate, and how we overcome differences of nationalism, national identity, and national language. We don’t need more conflict, and we don’t need, respectfully, someone coming from the outside and basically saying the same thing that Mr. Putin is saying from the other side: “You need more nationalism; you should each put your own country


david o’sullivan first.” The whole point about the European Union is that we don’t try to put our own country first. We try to sit down and figure out what’s collectively in our best interest. That will usually also be to the benefit of our own countries, otherwise it wouldn’t work. But sometimes you have to make compromises in order to make it work, and I really think this is a fundamental disagreement, which frankly we’re going to have to find a way out of in due course. What happens next? The great journalistic question—I have a few journalist friends and they say when you don’t know what to say at the end of an interview, you ask the person, “So what happens next?” Here in America you have your election in 2020, and I think that most of us are of the view that not a lot is going to happen until you have your election because you’re basically already in election mode. I don’t know who’s going to win the election. What I do believe is that it’s very important, and the message I bring back to Europe is “this is not only about Mr. Trump.” He of course is an important personality in the process, but he is much more the symptom than he is the cause of what is happening. Americans may think differently about this—but respectfully I say it would be a mistake to believe that if President Trump were to lose the election and be replaced by somebody else, Republican or Democrat, that we could go back to normal. There are forces at work in your society that are changing the way you think about international relations and that’s reflected in a lot of what President Trump is saying. I believe the next administration, whether it’s Republican or Democrat, is going to have to take into account the kind of genie that’s been let out of the bottle by this administration. We in Europe are going to have to acknowledge that we’re going to be dealing with a different America. I still believe profoundly in the decency of the American people, your goodness, and in your commitment to be a force for good in the world. But you will also put your own self-interest first and how you define that will be part of


europe and the united states: friends and allies, or rivals? the political process of what occurs in the election. Will you have an interventionist foreign policy? Will you have a more isolationist foreign policy? Will you spend more or less on defense? How will you resolve your internal differences over health care, over race, over gun control? All of these issues are going to preoccupy you for many years to come, and we in the rest of the world are going to have to recognize that we’re going to be dealing with a slightly different America. It’s the America you will choose to build, and we will have to deal with it. On the European side, we have new institutions every five years and just had the elections to the European Parliament. The good news is there was not the great populist victory that many people predicted. People predicted a great wave of nationalists and populism. It didn’t happen. The populist non-establishment vote went up slightly but still is in a minority in the European Parliament. The center has broadly held but looks different than it did before because, whereas previously it was largely composed of two groups, the Christian Democrats on the one hand and the Socialists on the other, they now share the power much more evenly with groups such as the Liberals and, interestingly, the Greens who have seen a huge surge all across Europe. These are all pro-European parties but with different views about how we address the great questions of our time in terms of economics and international relations. The new European Commission is in the process of being installed. I think the agenda will broadly be the same, but there’s going to be a lot of emphasis on climate change. This is a big issue, particularly as you know with Greta Thunberg and the extinction revolution. This is strongly felt across Europe, and this is a very big political issue. Migration is going to continue to be a big question. We haven’t solved it yet. There are 65 million displaced people in the world, 25 million of them in our immediate region in Europe. They’re not going away, and they’re not going anywhere any time soon. We have to figure out how to do this.


david o’sullivan We have to demonstrate that we can manage our external frontiers, but we cannot close our external frontiers. We cannot deny the legitimate expectations of people fleeing conflict and persecution, and we cannot do to them what we did to the Jewish people in the 1930s, which was to refuse asylum. That is why we have an international convention on refugees and asylum seekers. We have to find a way of squaring that circle. We in Europe, in any event, will need immigrants. We have a declining demography. We need the economic contribution, but we have to find a way of demonstrating to our citizens that we can do this in a managed way. We also need to work much harder on the issue of integration and finding ways of ensuring that those immigrants who come to live in our countries are integrated and given the opportunities that are needed. We also have to address the issue of the rule of law. In Europe this is a big issue now, particularly in Poland and Hungary. And we will have to address the issue of international relations: the United States being the first challenge, which is so important for us; China, where we actually share a lot in common with the United States; Russia; and, of course, Africa. I haven’t discussed Brexit in part because it’s very difficult to be concise about Brexit. What can I say? The British have voted that they want to leave. We’re very disappointed. You will note that the European Union allows countries to leave, not something you allow in your own Constitution by the way. I’m sure yours is a very good constitution, but I just note that the undemocratic European Union actually allows countries, democratically, to vote to leave. But as Paul Simon says, “There are fifty ways to leave your lover.” We’re discovering there are fifty ways to Brexit or maybe a hundred ways to Brexit. All I can say is, this has largely become a British problem in the sense that they have to figure out what it is they want to do. Frankly, the rest of us are having a hard 18

europe and the united states: friends and allies, or rivals? time fully understanding that. What I think is important to understand is that whereas some people thought the British decision to leave would be the beginning of the unraveling of the European Union, it has actually had the opposite effect. Support for membership in the European Union across other member states is at an all-time high, with approval ratings in the high eighties in many countries. As Europeans watch what is happening in the U.K., leaving the European Union may not look like a great idea. They may think “we don’t always love it and we don’t always think it’s the best thing, but frankly it’s clear that when you try to leave it brings you all kinds of problems that you didn’t have to deal with before.” Fundamentally, and this is my absolute last point I want to make, on both sides of the Atlantic we are still dealing with the unresolved issues of the financial crisis. We’re dealing with the collapse of the center on both sides of the Atlantic. We’re dealing with a feeling of inequality, a sense of injustice. If you look at the income inequality in Europe, which is much better than it is in the U.S., it is still worse today than it was twenty years ago and this is deeply felt. We are dealing with identity politics. In Europe this reflects itself in nationalism, national identity, or some national movement as in Catalonia. In the U.S., it represents itself in cleavages between different ethnic groupings within American society. This is something which was triggered by the financial crisis but is being stoked by certain forces who see value in encouraging people to “blame the immigrants, blame globalization, and blame trade.” In fact, many of these issues, both in America and in Europe, are the result of domestic policy choices. We can choose to have a more equal society. We can choose to spend more money on social justice or on education or on health care. These are not decided by China or by globalization. They’re decided by our own politics. We have not yet found the optimum response which squares the circle of economic competitiveness and success with equality, social justice, and a greater sense of inclusive-


david o’sullivan ness, whether it’s in American society or in our European societies. The institutions that are most valuable to us are very much in threat—the press, the courts, even Parliament. We’ve seen this in the U.K., and this is very dangerous. We are going through, in my view, a profoundly dangerous moment in the Western world in terms of our politics, and we’re having this on both sides of the Atlantic. I hope that we will find each other at the end of this. I’m an unreconstructed believer in the importance of the transatlantic relationship. I don’t believe those in Europe who say this is now the time for Europe to be more autonomous, to be more distant from the U.S. Yes, we will always need some distance, but we need the relationship; I believe that you need the relationship with Europe, too. I always used to say it’s like Ghostbusters, “Who you gonna call?” When we have a problem on either side of the Atlantic, fundamentally, we call each other. I don’t think we’re going to call Xi Jinping; I don’t think we’re going to call Mr. Putin. We are condemned to find a way to work closely together. I would like to commend the work of the Nanovic Institute at the University of Notre Dame because ultimately this comes down to people. I referred earlier to the strong sense of connection between the United States and Europe through people. This is true, historically, because so many people came from Europe. America’s demography is changing. You have growth among Asian Americans, African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and the people of European origin are a declining proportion of the population. We need to reinvent this relationship for every generation, and we need to explain why African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans have an interest in this relationship, even if their ancestors didn’t come from Europe. It is very easy if your ancestors came from Ireland, and you enjoy going backwards and forwards, or from Scotland or from Italy. We all share values and interests that are not dependent on connections of kith and 20

europe and the united states: friends and allies, or rivals? kin but rather on shared values and a commitment to a vision of the world uniquely shared between us that is uniquely under threat. I hope the work that you do here in this Institute—and I thank you for it—can be complemented by work done in Europe working on the same level of sending people to the United States, that we can find a way to continue the enormous strength of the transatlantic bonds that have taken us a long way in the twentieth century and can still take us a long way in the twenty-first.


david o’sullivan


Post-Lecture Discussion Audience Member: The United Nations has 17 sustainable development goals, which in my view are struggling compared to the millennium development goals in which we made huge progress on poverty and hunger. My sense is that Europe has been much stronger, more supportive, and much more successful in meeting the goals than we have been in the States. I’d like to ask you about Africa because Africa has committed to goals for 2063. Would you be willing to say a few words about your perspective? David O’Sullivan: Well, I think the UN development goals are, if you like, a nice way of creating an inventory of the challenges we face collectively on the planet and individually as countries. In that regard, I think they are a useful point of reference. They still require a huge effort on the part of individual countries and on the part of institutions. The lack of support from this administration for that kind of approach is obviously unhelpful. I think the Europeans are fully signed up—we are the largest funders of this activity by far and we will continue to do that. I think we also need America on board. I’m relatively optimistic about what is happening in America, but the fact that we don’t have an administration that is signed up for that is not helpful. Africa for me is the neighborhood of Europe. If we don’t look after Africa, I don’t know who will. There is a lot to be optimistic about in Africa; there are positives, but it is also hugely challenging. From a European perspective, the work of the African Union, their attempts to unify the continent and ambition of creating a single market for the whole of the African continent, is modeled on what we have tried to do. I fear it may be overambitious at their level of development, but it is a good objective. I think the Europeans certainly, and I think the next


david o’sullivan Commission, will be heavily involved in refocusing a lot of our external development assistance on Africa, not least for the selfish reason that it is from Africa that the biggest migration threat is presented for Europe. Of course there is instability in the Middle East—God forbid we have another conflict in the Middle East, we would see an outflow as we had in Syria. In fact, the long-term serious threat of very worrying migration is from Africa. To that we need to do two things: (1) have more clear legal paths of migration, making it relatively easier for people to migrate legally and under decent conditions, and (2) increase the investment to create greater conditions of prosperity and hope in their own countries so that people don’t feel this pressing need to flee their country. Now that’s easier said than done, but I think that is one of the things the next European Commission is going to put a lot of emphasis on. Vittorio Hösle:1 Substantial evidence shows that cooperations of countries that start as confederacies usually evolve towards a formal federal state like this country, or they fall apart. There are very few confederacies that were at least able to survive historical crisis. The last example was the Holy Roman Empire. The German nation was more or less a confederation, but under the crisis of the French Revolution it collapsed and fell apart. Do you see any possibility for the European Union to move towards a federal state? Clearly only France and Germany could be the motors of such a development. If you read the European Union’s white paper “On the Future of Europe” and its five scenarios on how the European Union may develop in the next decades, everything is possible. One has the impression that there is no clearly-shared strategy on where we want to be with the European Union in the next twenty years.

1. Vittorio Hösle is the Paul G. Kimball Professor of Arts and Letters in the Department of German and Russian Languages and Literatures and Concurrent Professor in the Departments of Philosophy and Political Science, University of Notre Dame. 24

post-lecture discussion O’Sullivan: It’s a very good question. As you can imagine, it’s one that people in Brussels ask themselves every morning over breakfast. I would say two things. First, I don’t totally agree with the premise of your question, which is that the historical experience condemns us to assume that either we have a federal state or we fall apart. I do believe it is possible to imagine a new outcome that is a compromise between the two, where we reconcile the benefits of a large degree of supranational action in certain areas while retaining the maximum level of autonomy at the national level for what can best be done. In this august Catholic institution, I’m sure the word subsidiarity is understood, and that is something which I believe we’re in the process of doing. I believe it is an absolute mistake to say to the people of Europe, you’ve got to choose: either you create a federal Europe, like the United States, or you are facing catastrophe. People will not make that kind of choice. On the other hand, day by day I believe that we make those choices. In the face of the migration crisis, we created a European Border and Coast Guard, which now has ten thousand people. If you had asked two years before the migration crisis if we should create a European Border and Coast Guard service, everyone would say, “No, what do we need that for? We don’t need that.” Then the minute the crisis comes, people said, “Okay, you’re right, we need that.” So I think that is what we are doing. I believe it is unique. Personally I believe it will succeed. It has risks. It could fall apart, yes, but then anything can fall apart. We’re about to see the United Kingdom fall apart perhaps. But I think it can also survive and thrive, and I don’t think that we need to constrain our thinking to a binary model of a United States of Europe, à la United States of America, or chaos. Then we are taking the wrong intellectual starting point for what we’re trying to do.


david o’sullivan Tobias Boes:2 Ambassador, thank you for your forceful words, especially about global climate change. I want to ask you about Brexit, though, specifically to ask you to comment not on what Brexit might mean for the future of Europe but rather what it would mean for the future of the transatlantic relationship. It seems pretty clear that Boris Johnson thinks that the way out of the economic mess that Great Britain’s currently maneuvering itself into is closer ties to the United States. It seems also clear that the Trump administration is welcoming Brexit as an opportunity to renegotiate the relationship between America and Europe as a whole. Do you think that in the long run, after Johnson and Trump are gone, the U.S./Great Britain relationship will evolve into a relationship of competition like the one that exists between the European Union and America? If not, is this something of short duration or are we looking at a fundamental realignment? O’Sullivan: I don’t know how Brexit is going to end finally. The unanswered question of the British referendum is yes, 17.4 million people voted to leave. The fact is that there are 17.4 million versions of what leaving meant. That is still the case, and Prime Minister Johnson is promoting one particular vision. I don’t think it’s shared by a majority in the House of Commons; I’m not even sure it’s shared by a majority in the British electorate. Probably there’s going to be an election and we will see. So the jury is completely out on what Brexit looks like in terms of assuming the U.K. leaves, and my working assumption is that they will leave. There are many ways in which they can leave. They can leave and completely cut ties with the European Union. They can leave and retain strong ties with the European Union, like Norway or Switzerland. One simple economic fact: 12 percent of the U.K.’s exports go to the U.S., and 46 percent of its exports go to the EU. That tells you every2. Tobias Boes is Associate Professor in the Department of German and Russian Languages and Literatures, University of Notre Dame. 26

post-lecture discussion thing you want to know. Do you think Mr. Trump is going to offer the U.K. a trade deal that allows them to double their exports to the United States? The U.K. has a huge surplus. In President Trump’s mind, the negotiation of a trade deal will focus on how much the U.K. reduce their trade surplus, not by how much they increase it. In trade, geography is destiny. Everyone trades most with their closest partners, and that in my view is a reality that the U.K. is going to have to deal with. Of course the U.K. has close relations with the U.S., of course they will continue, and maybe they can develop even closer relations. But you do not bridge a gap between 12 percent of your exports going to the U.S. and 46 percent going to the EU by a trade deal. That in my view is an economic reality. I think the more important question is not economic. The more important question is one of policy and politics and, for the moment, the United Kingdom has remained very closely aligned with the predominant European view on climate change, on Iran, on the Middle East, on China, and even on Huawei. Is that going to change? That will create a much greater situation of tension if there were to be a major divergence on those issues. So on the economic issue, I’m sure the U.K. will want to have strong ties with the United States, but I don’t believe it’s going to displace in any way their strong economic dependence on strong links with the rest of Europe.


david o’sullivan Joseph Stanfiel:3 Ambassador, what is the most likely outcome of Brexit for Ireland? O’Sullivan: Well, there’s no good outcome for Ireland from Brexit. Brexit is the worst thing that could have happened to Ireland from the point of view of Northern Ireland because the entire success of the Good Friday agreement was predicated on joint membership in the European Union. Someday, somebody (maybe a student at Notre Dame) will write a thesis about the contribution of the European Union to the peace process in Northern Ireland, which was multifaceted. One piece was the enormous contacts it promoted between British and Irish ministers on a regular basis attending meetings in Brussels, which actually became a kind of back-channel for discussions and helped underpin the process that spawned the Good Friday agreement. The primary credit for the Good Friday agreement goes to the people of Northern Ireland, who decided themselves on both sides of the divide that they wanted a better future. It goes to the British government, the Irish government, and the American government for the support they gave to that process. But it also goes to the fact that joint membership in the European Union is what enabled people to square the circle of the Good Friday agreement, which is what? The recognition that Northern Ireland will remain an integral part of the United Kingdom until such time as a majority in Northern Ireland decide otherwise. That was a Copernican revolution in the way the issue was approached in the south of Ireland and for the nationalists in the north. The other side of that coin was a recognition that since Ireland and Northern Ireland were both in the European Union, once the security apparatus at the border was taken down, there was no need for any other checks at the border. In practice it was as though you were living 3. Joseph Stanfiel is Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Studies, College of Arts and Letters, University of Notre Dame. 28

post-lecture discussion in a united Ireland. I remember, when Declan Kiberd and I used to go debating up to Queens, and we used to get on the train: we were stopped and the army came on, and when we got off the train we went through army checkpoints and through gates in Belfast checking for bombs and all of that.4 All of that is gone! You now drive across the border; you can live in the south and work in the north. Live in the north and work in the south. You cross the border ten times as you find your way along—the only thing that tells you you’ve crossed the border is a ping on your phone saying you’ve changed service providers! In all other respects the border has disappeared. It used to be that you had red telephone boxes on the north side and green telephone boxes on the south side. There are no telephone boxes anywhere anymore! And that was what transformed the situation. The poison of Brexit is you now bring back a debate about how you police the border. Not police it in security terms, but if you’ve got two completely different trade regimes on either side of the border, what do you do? The other thing it has done, unfortunately, is it has poisoned Anglo-Irish relations. I remember the visit of the Queen in 2011. I honestly never thought I would see in my lifetime the Queen of England applauded on the streets of Dublin. I really never thought that would be imaginable, and yet it happened. And in 2011 you could have drawn a sigh of relief: my God, we’ve put all that behind us; we’ve matured, we can have decent neighborly relations with the U.K., which is a country with whom we share so much culturally and family-wise and everything else. We can put behind us the horrors of 800 years of oppression, plus the bombings on the British mainland by the IRA, all of that forgotten. Now you go on Twitter, and honestly it’s like we’ve gone back to the 1990s, the 1980s. The British people saying the Irish have got

4. Declan Kiberd is the Donald and Marilyn Keough Professor of Irish Studies, Professor of English, and Concurrent Professor of Irish Language and Literature, University of Notre Dame. 29

david o’sullivan too big for their boots; the Irish people saying the British could never be trusted. There has been a massive deterioration in the quality of the engagement between the U.K. and Ireland. Not necessarily at the level of senior politicians but on the kind of popular level. So it’s been very bad for Ireland. What can we do? I don’t know. We’ll have to wait and see what is decided. I think Ireland remains determined to avoid an outcome that requires us to put back a hard border on the island of Ireland. But let’s be honest: if the British go for a no-deal Brexit, if they go for leaving the European Union with no deal, then unfortunately there will have to be a hard border in some form or other instituted because the border between the north of Ireland and the south of Ireland becomes the border between the United Kingdom and the European Union. That’s not a small matter in terms of trade flows, in terms of the possibility of organized crime, smuggling. You’re going to have all kinds of illegal organizations, not just the Irish illegal organizations, the IRA coming back or whatever. You’re going to have the Chechnyan mafia, the Russian mafia; people are going to see money to be made if you don’t police that border. The British say they don’t intend to put checks on the border. It’s an act of utter irresponsibility, and they will do it, by the way. It’s a matter of public order that there will unfortunately have to be checks at the border. And what happens then, I don’t know. I think the discussion’s around a backstop and trying to find a solution mutually agreeable that enables us to avoid that, which is hugely important. But Brexit is not good news for Ireland. Audience Member: I never thought I would see the end of the Soviet Union in my lifetime. So I hope you don’t think this question is preposterous: if Russia ever came to be capable of joining the EU, would that be a good thing?


post-lecture discussion O’Sullivan: Well, the idea that Russia would join the European Union I think is based on what we used to call the theory of propinquity, which is that every time the European Union expands, the country which finds itself on the frontier becomes a candidate for membership. So yes, we now have a frontier with Russia, so why shouldn’t they join? You do realize that the next country with a frontier after Russia joins is Alaska. So you’ve exposed the European Union’s theory of global dominance, world supremacy, and world government that we were trying to keep secret! Actually, no. I genuinely think that one of the debates we’re going to have in Europe is on the limits of European integration. I think we’re getting pretty close to those limits. I don’t believe we can endlessly expand. The next enlargement in my view will be the western Balkans because we do understand that the nature of the western Balkans is such that without being members of the European Union those countries have no future. Their joining the European Union poses a large number of problems because they are very small and quite numerous, so it’s going to complicate our institutional structures. Most importantly, we’re only going to let them in when they’ve resolved all of their regional tensions. We’re not going to import those problems inside the European Union. So that’s going to take a while, but the commitment is there. Beyond that, I personally believe that the decision to open negotiations on membership with Turkey was a huge mistake. Turkey never wanted to join the European Union; Turkey always wanted the European Union to join Turkey. Turkey is too big. It’s got nothing to do with the fact that they’re Muslim, by the way. I mean some people may worry about that. There are 80 million people. They would have more members of the European Parliament than the Germans would. Singly, Turkey would absorb the entire budget for regional, social, and agricultural funding


david o’sullivan across the European Union just on its own. It would suck all of that money in immediately. It’s just unsustainable; it’s not politically possible. What we need to find are different ways of working with our neighbors short of full membership. That would ultimately include Russia because Russia under Putin is probably a very difficult interlocutor, but Russia is our single most important neighbor on the European continent. We have deep ties with the Russian people. We need a better relationship with Russia because it’s an important part of the European continent; we just have to figure out how to do that. Though I fear that as long as Mr. Putin is there, it’s going to be very difficult. The only thing that worries me is whoever follows Mr. Putin could actually be worse rather than better. Audience Member: What does the European Union need to do to address the challenge posed by Hungary’s and, to a lesser extent, Poland’s abandonment of democratic institutions? O’Sullivan: I was hoping no one would ask me this question. I think there is a difference between Hungary and Poland because in Poland there is still an opposition. There is still a civil society there, which is real, and the challenges by the European Union, particularly about the control of the judiciary, are important. Hungary is much more worrying because the process is almost complete. Mr. Orban has created a situation of dictatorial democracy, or Putin-like managed democracy. How you undo that is very, very difficult. I think it’s a fundamental challenge for us. As you can imagine, it goes to the core—I was heavily involved in the negotiation for the ten countries of Central Europe when they joined in 2004. We thought it was a great achievement. We genuinely never imagined that it could go backwards. There is a provision in the treaty, Article 7, which allows sanctions against a country deemed to be in breach of fundamental rights, so it’s not that we completely 32

post-lecture discussion ignored the problem. The flaw in Article 7 is that it can only be triggered by unanimity of all the countries except the country who’s in the dock. For the moment, Poland and Hungary are mutually supporting each other in having a veto on that. This is absolutely fundamental—if we are not a European Union of values and commitment to the rule of law, to democracy, to freedom of expression, then we are nothing. This is going to be a very difficult discussion, and personally I’m very disappointed that the European People’s Party, the center-right group bringing together all the centerright parties, have been so lax in continuing to allow the Fidesz party of Mr. Orban to be a member of that grouping. Their membership has been suspended, but in practice they’re still participating. I think we need to send a much stronger signal of disapproval, and we need to start looking very seriously—and I think that will happen—at withdrawing the financial support of the European Union for a country that is not respecting our fundamental values. Hungary is in receipt of massive sums of European Union transfers, and I think we seriously have to consider stopping that until such time as Hungary comes into greater conformity. The difficulty is making this not an arbitrary political process. It has to be a legally-based process. If it’s just political, then even the people of Hungary who don’t like Mr. Orban will think they’re being victimized. It’s very easy to produce a nationalist reflex. The withdrawal of financial support has to be based in detail, in explaining which law is in contravention of which rule in the European Union, and that’s where the European Court of Justice has been very strong in finding against Poland and, in fairness, the Poles have respected that. They have stopped short of being willing to break or not respect a judgment of the European Court. We’re not yet in that situation with Hungary, and we need to create that legal environment in which we can then also give some financial teeth to the consequences you draw for a breach of our legal order. 33

david o’sullivan Nicholas Gadola Holmes:5 Thank you very much for speaking to us today. You talked about the influence of the United States and Russia supporting the rise of right-wing or nationalist parties in Europe. Could you speak a little more about what influence outside powers such as the United States or Russia have had on their rise and any influence they’ve had on their activities or ability to succeed? O’Sullivan: I think it’s well known that Russia has been very supportive of a number of right-wing populist, nationalist movements. Mr. Salvini is regularly in Moscow and recently was seen in discussions with a number of similar parties in Central and Eastern Europe. Mr. Orban also has strong ties to Russia. I think the Russian influence is well known. I’m not going to say that it’s determining, don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t say that if you didn’t have Russia you wouldn’t have the problem. The problem is intrinsic and we have to deal with it. These are parties which find support. On the American side, there has been very strong support for a number of years, particularly from Republicans—the Heritage Foundation, for example, works strongly with a number of these parties. Current American ambassadors in Europe actively work with, talk to, and encourage these groups whether it’s Mr. Wilders in the Netherlands, whether it’s Le Pen in France, or AFD in Germany. Frankly you just have to look at the Twitter feeds of some of these ambassadors; they’re fairly open. Steve Bannon, of course we know, good Irish Catholic that he is, is a leading exponent of nationalism versus the European Union and sees the European Union as something which has to be broken down. By the way, John Bolton, who has now left the administration, believes the same thing and has been giving active support. Of course President Trump himself gives a lot of support to nationalist and far-right move5. Nicholas Gadola Holmes ‘21 majors in political science and history at the University of Notre Dame. 34

post-lecture discussion ments in Europe and has spoken out very strongly in support of a Brexit very recently. Nothing wrong with speaking out in support of Brexit if that’s what you really believe, but I think when you connect the dots across various connections that are there, it is very clear that there is a structured attempt to encourage the development of those forces in Europe who are antithetic to European integration, to multilateralism, and to international law-based organizations in favor of a more narrow, nationalist agenda. Mr. Trump’s point of view and the administration’s point of view: entirely self-interested. As President Trump has seen, when Europe is united as we are on trade, we’re a much more difficult animal to deal with than when we are divided and you can deal with individual countries. So I understand on one level why people would prefer that. On the other level, I think that there’s an element of “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” in all of this. People do not know what they are meddling with. For those of us who are European and know where this has led us in the past, and know that you don’t have to scrape too far below the surface of most Europeans to bring out some of this atavistic nationalism, this is a very dangerous game to be playing. We know how this movie ends, and it is not entirely excluded that it could end the same way again. I think we’ve come a long way and I think it’s highly unlikely, but a very dangerous game is being played. I used to jokingly say to friends in Washington, “You want the Germans to be more nationalistic and to spend more money on armaments. You want the Japanese to be more nationalistic and to spend more money on armaments. When did I last hear that, and how did it end last time?” I’m joking, but I’m also serious. Those who don’t learn from history are condemned to repeat it.


david o’sullivan


Afterword David O’Sullivan I was deeply honored to have been invited to address the Nanovic Institute at Notre Dame. I was very impressed by my meetings with faculty and students. The Institute does very impressive work in promoting better transatlantic understanding, something which is desperately needed in the current climate. The basic thesis of my speech is that transatlantic relations are going through a moment of deep crisis. Some of this is conjunctural and will pass. The big challenge is to identify the structural elements at work that pose a bigger threat to the long-term future of the transatlantic alliance. The election of President Trump has produced a change of both style and policy, but it would be a mistake to imagine that today’s tensions are exclusively, or even mainly, about the person of President Trump to the neglect of the underlying problems that we face, including the question of demographic change in the United States, which I highlighted in my talk, as well as shifting attitudes in Europe. The risk of increased transatlantic divergence over time is, therefore, very real. Several developments since I spoke at Notre Dame have confirmed this trend. The decision of the Trump administration to withdraw U.S. forces from Northern Syria thereby facilitating a Turkish military incursion, targeting, in particular, the Kurdish forces who had been allies in the fight against ISIS, has underlined differences of approach to the Middle East between the current administration and European allies. The fact that Turkey is a member of NATO further complicated the situation.


david o’sullivan More recently, President Macron has given a controversial interview to The Economist in which he spoke very openly and frankly about the challenges facing NATO.1 He provocatively referred to “the brain death of NATO,” but his basic message was that the failure of the NATO partners to effectively coordinate their actions was undermining the alliance, especially since the United States itself appeared to be reconsidering its approach. The speed with which many European leaders, from Chancellor Merkel to the Polish Prime Minister, rushed to distance themselves from Macron’s remarks is testimony to the very high importance that European countries attach both to NATO and to the lead role of the United States. Nonetheless, more privately, most commentators accept that President Macron accurately highlighted a real problem. The trend towards a diminished U.S. overseas engagement has been developing for some time, including under President Obama. It undoubtedly reflects a growing disillusion in the American body politic with the cost in blood and treasure of U.S. military involvement around the globe. This is something that we in Europe cannot ignore. The complaints about unequal burden sharing in the NATO alliance go back a long way and need to be addressed. Many in Europe believe that the best way to do so is for the EU to do more jointly in the defense field. Important steps have been taken in this regard. But there is real ambivalence on the U.S. side about how Europe should do more in the defense field, as I pointed out in my lecture. President Macron highlighted this when he said that President Trump “sees it as a project in which the United States acts as a sort of geopolitical umbrella, but the trade-off is that there has to be commercial exclusivity.” In other words, for this administration, Europe doing more should translate into more

1. “Emmanuel Macron in his own words (English),” The Economist, November 7, 2019, https:// 38

afterword purchases of American equipment rather than more investment in European material and infrastructure. I believe that we will find a way to square this circle eventually. Europe investing more in European systems and equipment is not mutually exclusive with also purchasing from the U.S. The political problem is that many European countries do not want to jeopardize the preeminent role of the U.S. in NATO by appearing to follow a path of full European autonomy. On the other hand, as Macron highlights, can Europe really pretend that there is not a shift in U.S. attitudes? The key question, therefore, becomes what is Europe to make of the current debate in the U.S.? How much of U.S. positioning is specific to this administration at this time, and likely to evolve in the future, and how much is down to a fundamental shift in American thinking about the U.S. role in the world? That is why Europeans follow with great interest the discussions around the 2020 election, even if foreign policy does not yet seem to be the main focus. It is understandable that domestic issues are much more front and center. But the outcome of the election will have a big impact also in the field of foreign policy. I believe that the alliance still has a great future, but we will need a frank discussion about how to ensure that all parties are comfortable with the balance of rights and responsibilities. We will need a renewed engagement on both sides to prepare the ground for a reboot of the transatlantic relationship following the presidential election, covering defense and security, trade and investment, our joint approach to major international issues and our common commitment to the shared values


that make us who we are. I hope that the friends of Europe in the U.S., such as the Nanovic Institute, can help prepare that ground. I say this regardless of the outcome of the election. Europe can only but respect whatever choice the American people will make next November and work with whomever is elected President of the United States. It was a great pleasure to have visited Notre Dame and the Nanovic Institute. I look forward to continuing to debate these important issues in the future.


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