Becoming the 51st State

It’s beggars belief, but it is true. Last week, a group of influential politicians who inhabit the rarefied but influential world of Washington DC think-tanks, proposed that US government officials be given the right to sit in on the European Union’s inter-govermmental conference, and on meetings of its other executive bodies, so that the USA can keep an eye on the direction Europe is taking. The cat, therefore, is finally out of the bag: American politicians are now so seriously worried that the European Union might be emerging as some kind of independent force, that they are trying to work out a way of preventing this from ever happening.

The suggestion that US officials attend the highest-level European inter-governmental meetings was made on 14th May 2003 by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The proposal was signed by one of those temporary constellations into which the luminaries of the American political establishment frequently arrange themselves in order to encourage policy to navigate by their lights: Madeleine Albright, Harold Brown, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Frank Carlucci, Warren Christopher, William Cohen, Bob Dole, Lawrence Eagleburger, Stuart Eizenstat, Al Haig, Lee Hamilton, John Hamre, Sam Nunn, Paul O’Neill, Charles Rob, William Roth, and James Schlesinger. That makes four former Secretaries of State, one former National Security Adviser, two former Secretaries of Defense, a former Secretary of the Treasury, a former Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, a former Director of the CIA, and three Senators.

This distinguished and powerful group expresses concern that Europe and the United States are drifting apart. While reiterating the traditional US commitment to the integration of the European Union, the group stresses that "There is also an urgent need for Europeans to do more to reassure Americans that the union they are competing will continue to make the United States feel welcome in Europe." In particular, say the authors, it is wrong for Europeans to present their achievements as "challenging" the United States. "Rather, more should be done to reinforce the perception that the ‘finality’ of Europe is being developed in cooperation with the United States." To this end, the authors of the Declaration suggest that US officials should be allowed to monitor the meetings of the European Convention, the body charged with drawing up a European Constitution, and of the Intergovernmental Conference which will take over from the Convention in the second half of this year. The authors also suggest that, once the new constitution is approved, provision be made for members of the US government to be "associated on appropriate issues with the work of separate European Councils." The European Councils are the meetings of EU ministers which make policy and law for the whole of the European Union, so this means that the states of the European Union, which are among the richest and most powerful states in the world, should invite US government officials to attend their highest-level legislative and policy-making meetings, in order that these officials can ensure that the Europeans do not pursue policies which are independent of, or disapproved by, the American government.

Despite an attempt at overt even-handedness (the document berates American anti-Europeanism as much as European anti-Americanism) the authors make no suggestion that the transatlantic relationship is or should be a relationship between equals. Instead, it is a relationship between hegemon and subordinate. The authors make no equal and opposite proposal, for instance, that members of European governments should be invited to sit in on meetings of the US Cabinet, the Pentagon or the National Security Council, so that they can monitor whether decisions being taken there are directed towards what Richard Perle called for in February, namely "a policy to contain our erstwhile ally, France". (1)

This extraordinary document therefore confirms that senior Americans are now seriously worried that the tame EU states might be flirting with the heretical idea that they are masters of their own fate. We know from Donald Rumsfeld’s division of Europe into "old" and "new", as well as from the subsequent confirmation that US troops are to be re-located from Germany to South-East Europe, that US policy is indeed now to counter-balance a resurgent Franco-German axis by bolstering new satrapies in Poland, Romania and Bulgaria. Other countries, too, might host new US bases: after Colin Powell visited Belgrade in April, during the Iraq war, the Serbian papers speculated that he had come to discuss the installation of 50,000 US troops at a military base outside Niš in Southern Serbia. This suggestion was denied by the US embassy in Belgrade – just as the US government had initially denied, only later to confirm, reports that there are plans to move troops out of Germany into Eastern Europe.(2) We also know that the influential neo-conservative commentator, Michael Ledeen, recently made the outlandish suggestion that "We will have to pursue the war against terror far beyond the boundaries of the Middle East, into the heart of Western Europe." (3)

Relations between the US and Europe have deteriorates so fast, indeed, that a Bill was presented to the US House of Representatives on 9th May which, if passed, would allow the US to attack Belgium, where NATO is based. The "Universal Jurisdiction Rejection Act of 2003"(4), presented by Rep. Gary Ackerman (Democrat, New York) was occasioned by the fact that Belgium has recently declared its courts competent to judge accusations of genocide and crimes against humanity, wherever in the world they are alleged to have been committed. This pretence to "universal jurisdiction" by Belgium has led to a flood of suits lodged with Belgian courts against a host of political leaders, including Ariel Sharon, George Bush Sr. Colin Powell, Dick Cheney and, most recently, General Tommy Franks. Rep. Ackerman seems more preoccupied with the apparent threat to General Sharon than to General Franks, judging by the bill’s fourth paragraph, but the key provision comes in Section 6, where the Act would permit the President of the United States to use "all necessary means and appropriate to being about the release from captivity of any person" detained under the provisions of Belgian law. Unlikely though the prospect may be of bombs falling on Brussels, the US government has already issued a threat to close down NATO’s headquarters in Belgium if the kingdom persists in thinking its courts have the right to sit in judgement over US or Israeli citizens.(5)

All this could explain the sudden extraordinary volte-face of the British government over the euro. When Tony Blair became prime minister in May 1997, one of his principal policy aims was to repair the relations between Britain and Europe which had suffered so badly under the Conservatives. As soon as New Labour was elected, London set about constructing numerous close alliances in Europe, with Paris, Berlin, Rome and Madrid. By the end of 2001, it looked as if Britain had bagged the prize which had eluded the British foreign policy establishment ever since the EEC was created in 1957, namely the replacement of the Franco-German axis with a Franco-German-British triumvirate.(6) The principal bridge which Tony Blair constructed to cross the Channel led to France: Jacques Chirac paid a high-profile state visit to Britain in 1997, where he extolled the virtues of the new "young Britain," Blair returned the compliment by addressing the French National Assembly, in French, in 1998; and Jacques Chirac even celebrated his 70th birthday on 29th November 2002 in 10, Downing Street, when he got to kiss little baby Leo Blair, and when the British prime minister called him "a great man in every sense of the term".(7)

That cosy relationship went very suddenly sour on the evening of 10th March 2003, when Chirac announced that France would veto the Anglo-American UN Security Council Resolution permitting an attack on Iraq. From being the closest of allies, Britain and France reverted to type and became the sharpest of enemies. The 10, Downing Street spin machine briefed massively against France in general and Chirac in particular, deliberately distorting what he had said on television. Blair’s sudden reversal of foreign policy priorities could not have been more fundamental. Whereas he had built six years of diplomacy on the previously correct assumption that European integration and the Atlantic alliance were complementary, not contradictory, he suddenly found that the Franco-German axis was indeed lining up against Washington. Whereas Blair had repeatedly insisted that there was no choice between Europe and America – he said in 2000, "I believe stronger with America makes us stronger in Europe. Stronger in Europe and we are a better ally to America. I never believe we need or should choose between the two"(8) – he now found that he did have to make that choice. And he chose America.

This choice, the most fundamental decision to be taken in British foreign policy since at least 1972, was reflected in the heavy leaks to the British press last week that the United Kingdom will not, after all, abolish the pound sterling and adopt the euro. It is difficult to exaggerate the importance of this momentous decision, which flies in the face of everything Blair has said he stands for. It now seems certain that on 9th June the cabinet will decide, on advice from the Treasury, that there should be no attempt to join the European single currency in the lifetime of the present Parliament. In my view, this means that Britain will never join it. To make things even clearer, the extreme pro-European British Minister for Europe, Peter Hain, was despatched to the European Convention to tell the other member states that Britain rejected the concept of a common European foreign policy subject to majority vote. Hain demanded that foreign policy remain a matter for national sovereignty, and that all European initiatives be subject to a national veto.

If correct, this all confirms my view that one of the reasons why the US and Britain attacked Iraq was to bolster the dollar against the euro. In 2000, Iraq had started to denominate its oil sales in the new European currency, and it invited other oil-producing nations to do the same. Had they followed suit, the pre-eminent role of the dollar in the international system would have come under severe strain. The need for dollars to buy oil is one of the main things which bolsters world demand for the American currency, which in turn means that the US can live off debt by issuing ever greater amounts of currency. By contrast, if the world demand for dollars ever faltered, which would happen if it were no longer required for the purchase of oil, then the value of the currency could collapse, and the US would not be able to continue living off imports. We can be sure that the new Anglo-American resolution, presented last week to the UN Security Council – but not, to my knowledge, made public – contains a key proposal to re-denominate in dollars the oil sales of Iraq, which will be controlled by the Occupying Powers, Britain and America.

The principal threat to the pre-eminence of the dollar is obviously the euro. If the US was prepared to fight a war to protect the dollar, it is hardly going to cancel out the fruits of victory by allowing its principal ally to join the rival currency camp. If Britain were now to announce its intention to adopt the euro, this would crown the euro zone with the inclusion of the London capital market, one of the biggest in the world, and it would reverse the highly anomalous status quo in which Europe’s financial capital city is outside the European currency zone. In short, a British decision to join would bolster the euro project immeasurably. That is why such a decision will never be taken. As if on orders from Washington, Tony Blair has thrown six years of diplomacy into reverse. Britain’s decision to remain outside the euro zone now looks, therefore, like a key component of the Anglo-American strategy to encircle and contain the Franco-German core: it looks, in other words, like the monetary equivalent of the military re-location of American bases to the European periphery. Welcome to the new Europe, and welcome to the new world order.

1. Perle’s remarks were reported on 4th February 2003
2. See the denial of the report, "US denies plans to transfer German military bases to Poland," Agence France Presse, 31st January 2003, which quotes State Department spokesman Richard Boucher; and the confirmation of it a month later by General James L. Jones, the commander of Nato: "General Tells Of Plan To Thin Out G.I. Presence In Germany", New York Times, 4th March 2003
3. National Review Online, 10th March 2003,
4. The text of the bill can be viewed on The Bill number is H.R. 2050.
5. See "La « justice universelle » reste un brûlot diplomatique" by Philippe Gélie, Le Figaro, 12th May 2003,
6. I wrote about this myself in The Spectator on 27th October 2001.
7. "Blair showers Chirac with birthday honours," The Guardian, 29th November 2002.
8. Speech on the occasion of Bill Clinton’s visit to the University of Warwick, 14th December 2000, my italics.