LONDON - The caustic, arrogant language employed by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke in condemning European allies for not acting decisively enough to resolve crises within their region ruffled more than a few European Union (EU) tempers. It was not so much the charge of EU weakness that was resented as the Holbrooke insistence on projecting the U.S. as the indispensable policeman and problem-solver for Europe.
Holbrooke's unconcealed impatience with EU members for not devising a Bosnia settlement, which he rammed through at the Dayton summit, became particularly abrasive over the tense situation that developed between Greece and Turkey over disputed possession of the tiny Aegean island of Imia. Denouncing Europeans for "sleeping through the night" as the dispute neared an armed showdown, Holbrooke snapped: "You have to wonder why Europe does not seem capable of taking decisive action in its own theater."
He then added: "Unless the United States is willing to put its political and military muscle behind the quest for solutions to European instability, nothing really gets done."
Actually, in both Bosnia and the Aegean, the U.S.-brokered "solutions" are likely to be temporary. The Dayton accord has been frayed from the start, and no end to the Bosnia problem, nor to the simmering tension in the Balkans in general can be seen by the time U.S. and European peace- keeping troops are to leave Bosnia at year's end.
As for the Aegean, nothing has been settled. The hostility between Greece and Turkey, continually burning on the divided island of Cyprus, has merely been eased by a proposed negotiation of the Imia question. Greece is left resentful because the U.S. would not pronounce on the ownership status of the disputed island. Underlying Greek feelings is distrust of U.S. ties with Turkey. Indeed, the whole U.S. intervention in the Balkans and the Aegean, far from being to "find solutions to European instability," is related to what amounts to a U.S. alliance with Turkey.
As Holbrooke told the U.S. Congress last year, Turkey "is now at the crossroads of every issue of importance to the U.S. on the Eurasian continent." He pointed to NATO, the Balkans, the Aegean, sanctions against Iraq, competing with Russia in the former Soviet republics of Central Asia, peace in the Middle East, and the pipeline transit of oil from the Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan and Turkmenia.
The U.S. was extremely active behind the scenes to get approval of the European Parliament recently for a Turkey- European Union customs accord, prelude to the EU membership for which Turkey has applied. With Turkey in the EU and with a U.S.foothold established in the Balkans, the shape can be discerned of a U.S. imperialist ambition based on this strategic "bridge" region where continents join.
There is good reason to believe that U.S. policy-makers are more happy than worried about disunity in the EU.
The 15-member European Union is approaching the date set for the formal launching of the European Monetary Union and of its single currency (named Euro) that is to supersede all the currencies of member states by the end of 1999. By the beginning of the new century, too, political as well as economic integration is to be initiated, including foreign policy and a defense policy with separate European armed forces.
As far as U.S. imperialism is concerned, an EU in disarray, unable to meet its targets, unable to decide issues or act in unison, is ideal. It impedes and postpones the perfecting of a powerful rival bloc, and it enables the U.S. to move into crisis situations in Europe and on its borders to impose arrangements of benefit to U.S. interests.
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