Letter From London
As the first Brink's trucks loaded with newly minted Euros trundle down German autobahns and up Greek mountains to a mixture of cheers and jeers, Europe's quarrelsome leaders have found they can at least agree on EU-wide arrest warrants, fast-track extradition and powers to cut off terrorist funds. This sudden unity does not augur well for liberal visions of European integration.
The crisis has also reinforced the European pecking order, though Blair's shuttle diplomacy and closeness to Bush have so increased his authority that he may now be prepared to risk a British referendum on the Euro. Europe's statesmen expend tremendous energy jostling for position, and the war has increased the pressure to be part of the inner circle. Tony Blair's attempt to give an intimate supper à trois at Downing Street to discuss Europe's response to September 11 quickly turned into dinner for eight when Blair, Schröder and France's Jacques Chirac were joined first by a pouting Berlusconi, and then by Aznar, with Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, Javier Solana (the EU's foreign policy representative) and Dutch Prime Minister Wim Kok also crashing the party. Kok, the last to arrive, rolled up in the back of a police car.
The intimacy born of crisis does not welcome interlopers. A Europe freshly licensed to tighten its security and clamp down on immigrants is less likely to let in the poorer countries on its borders--Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and eastward to the former Yugoslav republics. There, September 11 produced less widely reported aftershocks: Muslims in Bosnia were arrested as suspected terrorists by UN peacekeepers; the US and British embassies in Sarajevo closed for several days; nationalist politicians in Belgrade tried to recast Serbia as a victim of Islamic terrorism; the Macedonian government suddenly spotted bin Laden's men among Albanian rebels.
All over Europe, politicians are using the war to push their own agendas. The question they are not yet asking, at least in public, is what America's renewed ascendancy will mean for the future. Will this hat trick of military victories--the Gulf, Kosovo, Afghanistan--license America to remove all impediments through aerial bombardment? Will the United States and its bosom buddy Russia pay any attention to Europe's arguments for a security built on more solid foundations than fear? With his eye, as ever, on the main chance, Tony Blair has wasted no time in proposing a Russia-North Atlantic Council, bidding for a role in any formal rapprochement between NATO and its old enemy.
There was a moment when the current crisis seemed as if it might conceal an opportunity--if its own trauma could attune the West more urgently to suffering, if the clamor against America could be heard as a cry for help as well as a call to arms. But the window on the world that opened briefly in September has slammed shut. It seems much harder now to hold out any hope for Europe as a counterweight to America's global dominance. On the Hebridean island of Lewis there are plans to build the world's largest onshore wind-farm, doubling at a stroke Britain's renewable energy capacity. There is comfort in the image of those giant vanes, turning us a little further from the risks of nuclear power and the terrible destruction wrought by oil. Of course, one of the project's leading partners is a US multinational.