'CAN BUSH HEAL THE RIFT WITH EUROPE?'

By Julian Lewis

Western Mail – 24 February 2005

The question is whether or not the United Kingdom is seen as being part of Europe in this context. There is no significant rift between the United States and the UK. What has happened is that pre-existing Franco-German wishes to create in Europe a political and military entity to rival the United States came to the fore at a time of great international tension over Iraq.

The issue we have to face is that certain European powers are consumed with envy, both of America's strength and of America's record of saving Europe's freedom on more than one occasion when Europe couldn't save itself. In my view, it's not a matter of Bush having to heal a rift but the Franco-German partnership in Europe having to exorcise its historical and psychological ghosts.

In the final analysis, however, modern nation states usually act in accordance with hard-headed assessments of their own interests. Therefore, I remain optimistic that our European allies, for all their posturing, will realise that it is in their interest to keep America on-side. This will involve putting strict limits on the current flirtation with Communist China in spheres like the Galileo global positioning system, which is seen in America as posing a direct threat to military security.

The prospect that American forces might one day find themselves fighting in defence of Taiwan against Chinese military might equipped with European designed and possibly manufactured weaponry doesn't bear thinking about. It is almost as if those on the Continent who are constructing these links with China are doing so in a way calculated to incense the Americans.

Fortunately, the new members of the EU which were formerly controlled by Communist Russia may be expected to exert some pressure in the opposite direction, where the Communist Chinese with their unacceptable human rights record are concerned.

The effect of this dangerous liaison with China could be to sever the vital US-European intelligence relationship at a time when cooperation against international terror should be our top priority.

Returning to the original question, the central issue is not for Mr Bush to have to reach out to mollify certain European countries. It is for those countries to turn their back on ambitions and policies which treat our friends as if they were enemies and potential enemies as if they were friends.

Julian Lewis is Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office.