Alain Minc: The transatlantic alliance is heading for divorce

From the Foreign Policy Centre lecture, delivered by the chairman of 'Le Monde'
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The Independent Online

For a Frenchman, to talk about transatlantic relations would be like a murderer becoming a criminologist. But, in the end, the war in Iraq was more of a symptom of the transatlantic rift than a key cause.

The reason is simple: America is a new country; today it is a world country. What will the US look like with the Indians as powerful as the Jews, the Chinese as influential as the Wasps, and the Hispanics as politically important as the Irish Catholics? Harold Macmillan saw these changes in the US as early as 1952: "We are threatened by a mixture of patronising pity and contempt. Perhaps the mistake we made is to regard them as an Anglo-Saxon people. That blood is very much watered down; they are a Latin-Slav mixture with a fair amount of German and Irish. They are impatient, mercurial, and panicky". Tomorrow will they be an Asian-Hispanic mixture with a black flavour.

Strategically the links between the US and Europe are becoming weaker. Nato is overstretched and without clear mission, philosophy or goal. It is a tool preventing Europe from having a common defence.

Within Europe the UK is aware of the American mutation but does not want to get rid of the special link; the Germans are becoming "Swiss" - with a peaceful public opinion but no strategic will. They pay lip-service to the US but it is no more the core of their strategy. The French are Gaullist and Third World oriented. The Spanish consider themselves leaders of the new Hispanic Commonwealth (which creates links with the US); Europeans in the former Eastern bloc are grateful the US won the Cold War but it is not a feeling that will last.

In the absence of a new enemy or dramatic crisis, the transatlantic alliance is heading for divorce. Britain can no longer be the bridge between the US and Europe with the new America, and must finally choose Europe. For what did Britain get from the US after the Iraq crisis? They owe much to you but paid nothing. They consider you average. What will your link be when we have an Asiatic President with a Hispanic Secretary of State and Indian Defence Secretary?

They will not share history or memories with you; they consider that you are more sympathetic than the French, more friendly than the Portuguese but even less important than the Spanish. That will be a change for Europe.