Letter: Europe or America

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The Independent Culture
Sir: The big names of the European Movement are right to emphasise the need for government realism (letter, 30 November). But we need to be at the centre of euro-Europe for more reasons than the economic and financial one, important though that is.

Two other reasons are interconnected: the fundamental changes the US administration, at the behest of the US Senate, is proposing for Nato; and human rights and the international rule of law, brought suddenly to a head by the unexpected presence of General Pinochet.

In each, Britain must make an unambiguous decision or events will take it for us. "Straddling" is not on offer from either side of the Atlantic.

In agreeing to the enlargement of Nato earlier this year, the all-powerful Senator Helms, Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, imposed certain legally binding conditions on the administration: Nato to defend "our shared interests and values" wheresoever they are threatened; no longer to accept the authority of the UN Security Council or the Charter; and to set a "firebreak" on discussions with Russia. (He also wants to inspect our defence budgets for sufficiency.) All these provisions the administration is now obediently proposing for insertion in the revised Nato Strategic Concept, to be signed up to next year at the Washington summit.

So HMG has, now, to decide whether or not to accept the proposals, which would breach our commitments to the United Nations and to international law (and common sense) and which many of our Nato colleagues in Europe strongly object to. Which way will Tony Blair decide?

On Pinochet, the Law Lords have moved the world one precedent closer to an international body of human rights law, of which the International Criminal Court that was agreed by 120 nations in Rome last summer will be the outward and visible tool. Senator Helms has advised - in effect, ordered - the administration to fight the ICC by every means at its disposal. Which way will Jack Straw decide?



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