Fainting in Coyles An occasional letter from the
Heart of Euroville
Thursday, June 19, 2003
Kagan in Brussels
Last Friday I was invited to attend a talk given by Robert Kagan on Rond Point Schumann entitled “Can Transatlantic Relations be Repaired”. From the way the meeting went the answer seems to be one word and it’s shorter than Yes.
He was introduced by a chap named Luc Veron. This fellow glories under the title ‘Deputy Head of Unit, Relations US, Canada, NAFTA at the European Commission’. Quite a fromage. Veron prefixed his statements by stating that they were his views alone. Then went into a 20 minute diatribe attacking the US in every conceivable way and “Robert Kagan” in particular. My wife, no great fan of all things American, and undecided on the merits of the Anglosphere, leant over and scribbled a note “I thought you were supposed to be rude in the questions, not the introduction”. He ended his assault with this prime stinker,
“Zer is an old joke, British I sink, ze reason zat the Americans are so keen to go to war iz becos zey were zo late for ze last one”
He sat down to deafening silence.
Kagan stood up and asked pointedly whether any member of the Commission spoke for the Commission “for whenever Chris Patten responds to my pieces in the Washington Posts he does it a private capacity”.
The speech was very good and continually pointed out that the differences between the two sides are not the result of a swinging chad, but of a long term, shift in interests –essentially a reprise of his book. He wanted the US and the EU to agree on objectives – such as Iran with nuclear weapons is a scary idea, but he feared that there was no agreement even there.
The questions almost to the echo seemed not to pick up the nuance. Two in particular stood out.
The first from a young german European Parliamentarian who stood up and issued what sounded like a threat.
“You should be frightened in the growth of the German army. You should be worried by the increase in Germany’s military power in Europe” Admittedly the MEP in question is a very young German Green Ilka SCHRÖDER and she is frightened of Germany – but if you did not know that the implications were very different. Kagan obviously didn’t and was quite thrown by the implications.
The other was from another senior Commission figure who got very worked up and suggested that there might be complimentarily in the different approaches. America does the cooking and Europe does the washing up as Kagan put it himself.
The response was positive laughter.
“Oh yes I agree with you, and I think that a level of good cop, bad cop could work in the geo-political situation. European leaders could phone up Tehran and say ‘Look Mohammed, the Americans are dangerous madmen and will attack you if you don’t stop making A bombs. These days they might believe you and it might work”