A few weeks ago, seven Eastern European countries - Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Romania, Bulgaria - joined NATO. On May 1st, they joined the European Union. These are momentous milestones with powerful potential. The news media's reporting acknowledged accession but avoided analysis, seeing the symbolism but missing the significance. With this expansion of the institutional expression of Western Civilization, almost all of the countries to its historic limits, from the Baltic to the Black Seas, will be unified and integrated, save for Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia, and Albania - and, of course, Belarus and Ukraine. This barely noted expansion is of critical importance to the U.S. because the U.S. is confronted with a new, long-term, hostile strategic challenge - from an ally turned adversary. This challenge starkly manifested itself in the fullness of its unbridled hostility during the diplomatic debates leading to the War Against Saddam.
For more than a half century, the US has been a European power - indeed the paramount European power - primarily because of its leadership of NATO. That paramountcy has been at the foundation of the U.S.'s global superpower station. That paramountcy now is challenged - by France. France intends to exclude the U.S. from Europe. France's petulant pursuit endangers all of the West as it undermines the foundation of Western - and French - security: the European-American alliance. France, in short, has abandoned the alliance with America.
France is abetted in its active undermining of the US by those European states that accept, willingly or unwillingly, France's terms for Europe's enterprise. Germany, the US's former main military ally, is being led by France - as are other feckless states on the Continent imbued with the Socialists' aged but active antagonism to the US - into international irrelevance. The United Kingdom, the reed across the Atlantic on which historically the US has leaned, risks the irretrievable dissolution of its century-old familial friendship with the US - the price, however hedged with cautious qualifying conditions, for eventual entrance into the European enterprise - notwithstanding its steadfast and sacrificial support of the US on Iraq.
France's counteractive global strategic vision is to vitiate the United States' worldwide vitality. France is executing nothing less than a calculated policy of containment and roll-back of the US as the sole superpower. Whether from the arrogance of ambition, the enjoyment of aversion, the resentment of disappointment, or the pridefulness of the past, France has unmistakably and deliberately set out to diminish permanently the influence, access, and power of the US across the globe. This fact is widely acknowledged privately but rarely admitted publicly, either here or abroad. France, having ceased to be a great power at Waterloo, and now a second-rate state fit only to police the failed Francophone client kleptocracies of West Africa, can pretend to power only by gulling, usurping, and leveraging those that have some genuine power. France, thus, is openly pursuing a permanent strategic partnership with Russia and China, whose sole common purpose and objective are the diminution of the United States. France is succeeding with Russia and China because they despise Western values and institutions (but not Western wealth and skills) and resent American power built on those values. The French are campaigning to end the European embargo on arms to China imposed after the Tiananmen Massacre, thereby, laying the base for its dominance of the Chinese arms market, but at the risk of destabilizing the Far East. The French partnership with China entails some recent and specific far-reaching military-industrial cooperation that directly, deliberately, and dangerously undermines the US's warfighting capability, particularly its advantages in geopositioning and reconnaissance in a war over Taiwan - a region remote from any legitimate French geopolitical interest. Clearly, this French initiative can have no other purpose except to contribute to the defeat of US military forces and the decline of US power in the Pacific.
In Europe, France is using the EU to supplant NATO. France is coercing the East European states through the EU to neutralize NATO. It would be sadly ironic if the East European states, who through decades of dictatorship painfully, valiantly, and persistently sought the security of alliance with America, would attain that association just as it lost its value. France will not succeed in Europe if the US resorts to its primary advantage on the Continent, the friendship of the East European states. None of the East European states wants the US eliminated from the Continent. The US needs to strengthen, support, and sustain the states of "new Europe" against the passé powers of "old Europe". The US also needs to move speedily to make fit for membership those in East Europe who remain outside the alliance. Those who remain outside NATO serve only as the objects of Russian mischief making in Europe.
The US ought to capitalize on the friendship of the East European states who want a continuing US presence in Europe. Foremost among these is Poland, who is now the principal ally of the US in Europe. Poland is the single state of "new Europe" that profoundly and almost viscerally understands the strategic condition of the US in Europe and the world and is prepared to act on this understanding in constancy and concert with the US. (It is a passing shame that in Poland there was not a suitable candidate available when the post of NATO Secretary General was vacated this past autumn. Interestingly, the two most qualified Poles were in the US.) The United States will have to act decisively and soon to prevent the new strategic connections from achieving an irreparable reduction of its power and a new insidious threat to its security.
Walter Jajko, a retired Air Force general and former Assistant to the Secretary of Defense, is an East Europe specialist, who teaches strategy at the Institute of World Politics.