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Podium: America needs its European ally

From the Churchill Lecture given by the former Foreign Secretary to the English Speaking Union
NINE YEARS ago this month the Berlin Wall collapsed, and with it the Communist system. These have been nine remarkably fruitful years for those who hold a fundamentally liberal hope of how the world should move forward.

On the political side, Eastern Europe and, with some doubtful patches, the countries of the former Soviet Union, have established democratic institutions. The transfer of power from apartheid to a democratic rule in South Africa in 1994 was the more sensational for being quicker, and more complete, than most expected. In Latin America democratic roots are now deep down in the soil. In Asia, the Republic of Korea, the Philippines, Thailand and Taiwan have all evolved in a democratic direction.

I imagine that there can have been no period in the history of the world when so many people have seen the institutions under which they live change from an authoritarian to a democratic basis.

On the economic side, the parallel move has been slower and less dramatic, though almost as important for the citizen. The sustained economic success of the United States, in contrast with the collapse of the Soviet Union, has taught a lesson not easily forgotten.

Nine years ago, we had a third aim, which had been much less successful, namely creating a better system of regulating the relationships between 185 nation states. During the Gulf war, President Bush provided the West with a model of firm, patient leadership. After that war he talked of "a new world order", but he was speaking of something that he hoped to achieve, rather than something that was already in being.

The end of the Cold War had been swiftly followed by the defeat of a particularly flagrant aggression of one nation state against another - Iraq against Kuwait. But these two successes have not been followed through. Take civil wars. We Europeans tend to focus on our own disturbed Balkan back yard, in which we and the Americans are working to establish some form of some stability. But the most tragic civil wars are now being fought in Africa, within the Sudan, the Congo and Angola. These three African civil wars are creating two regiments of African states, ranged against each other, using civil wars as an instrument of their sharpshooting. The rebels in the Sudan, in the Congo, and in Angola are armed and financed from outside, as part of a destructive game.

The hope that, under the leadership of a democratic South Africa, we might see a new benevolent order [in Africa] has collapsed.

The economic misfortunes of this year have created discontent. After startling economic success, South East Asia has seen startling reversals of that success. Japan is economically waterlogged. China seems uneasily poised. She has not renounced the brave reforms emphasised so strikingly in London this spring by the new premier, Zhu Rongji. But it is not clear how consistently these reforms are being applied. In Russia, there is a void where economic policy used to be. How can we best fortify the ground that we have gained, and prevent further corrosion?

We shall not do this by excessive ideological pretence. The free market is not a god to worship, but a technique to use. The markets do not invent, but they certainly exaggerate; nations are entitled to look for means of curbing such exaggerations. I do not believe that we have seen the end of the present phase of economic turmoil; indeed, the greatest strains may lie ahead.

The United States badly needs a valid partner in handling threats to the peace - terrorism, the proliferation of weapons, and civil wars. A valid partner is neither a satellite, nor a rival. That partner can only be Europe. We sometimes have spats with the United States, but fundamentally we are on the same side.

If we are serious in believing that something must be done when men inflict horrors on each other in their own country, then we may find that none of the techniques so far used is adequate. For a short time, a small slice of the Balkans, Eastern Slavonia, was under UN administration. We administer something very like a protectorate in Bosnia. It would be very strange if we do not find ourselves establishing something similar in Kosovo before long. This is trusteeship without the name. The doctrine of trusteeship is there in the United Nations Charter, though established there for a different purpose. It needs to be taken out, revised and reintroduced with care. This is an example of the forward thinking that needs to be based on a valid partnership between the two sides of the Atlantic.