The sharp attack by France's Prime Minister Lionel Jospin on the US at the Denver meeting of G-7 leaders was not so much a jarring note in the relationship between the major powers as it was further confirmation of growing resistance to the "superpower leadership" of the Clinton administration.
Jospin accused the U.S. of trying to impose its economic and social model on Europe, saying, "I am not satisfied with the results at Denver. We see a certain tendency towards hegemony which is not necessarily identical with exercising a great power's global responsibilities, even if it is a friend."
Reports during the summit were of general irritation by other heads of government and finance ministers over the tone of moral superiority in Clinton's claims of U.S. economic health based on high productivity, high employment and low inflation, which leading European countries haven't attained.
"That may be so," say Jospin and other Europeans, "but we try to preserve a balance between economics and social priorities." While that is scarcely a true picture of European capitalism today, as Jospin and others stress, neither are Clinton's boasts a true picture because they leave out the gross inequalities of income and wealth; the poor quality public education and health services, and the grim social problems it produces.
A European official supposedly said: "They keep telling us how successful their system is. Then they remind us not to stray too far from our hotel at night."
European resentment at the US had been kindled by the Clinton administration's role on the issue of NATO expanding membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization by including former socialist countries, one of the main features of Clinton's foreign policy. This has become a contentious issue among NATO members that was to be decided at the NATO summit in Madrid in July.
On June 15 the U.S. jumped the gun, announcing its decision to support Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic. By this act the U.S. was seen as dictating the decision.
It has produced a bitter division in NATO, with France, Belgium, Canada, Luxembourg, Italy, Turkey, Greece, Spain and Portugal - defying the U.S. and calling for adding five countries, while Germany wants four. France, in particular, supports Romania, threatening not to return to NATO's military structure unless Romania is approved, while Germany backs Slovenia, its protege in breaking up Yugoslavia.
This dissension has been exceeded by reaction to the U.S. position in regard to steps necessary to limit the danger of global warming. At both the Denver summit meeting, where the issue was placed on the agenda, and at the U.N.'s Earth Summit, Clinton rejected demands for a reduction in the emission of "greenhouse gases" by 15 percent by the year 2010.
Clinton was taking his lead from the Chamber of Commerce which ran full-page ads opposing tough environmental controls because it would cause the American people "great sacrifice," causing some Europeans to accuse the U.S. of "reckless consumerism."
Anger expressed by developing countries at the Earth Summit was fueled by legislation in the U.S. Congress that places emphasis on private investment rather than aid. Stephen Nzita, a Congo representative, said, "If this kind of Earth Summit circus continues, then the people of Africa will perish. We need the rule of law, we need democracy, peace with justice, and we need fair terms of trade so we can develop a proper market economy, then we can protect our environment."
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