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Interview: Robert Kagan and Charles Kupchan Discuss the Relationship Between the U.S. and Europe

Weekend Edition Sunday: February 9, 2003

U.S. and Europe



LIANE HANSEN, host:

We're joined by two veteran Europe watchers, both of whom have written about the evolving US-European relationship. Robert Kagan is a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He's in our New York bureau.

Thanks so much for joining us.

Mr. ROBERT KAGAN (Senior Associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace): My pleasure. Thank you.

HANSEN: And Charles Kupchan is an associate professor of international relations at Georgetown University. He's also a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, and he joins us from member station KPBS in San Diego. Hello again.

Professor CHARLES KUPCHAN (Georgetown University; Council on Foreign Relations): Hi. Thanks for having me on the program.

HANSEN: Mr. Kagan, I'm going to start with you. You've just written a book called "Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order." In it, you argue that American and European perspectives are diverging on the question of power. Explain what you mean by this and why it's happening.

Mr. KAGAN: Well, it's something that's been developing over several decades, but particularly within the last decade. Europe, partly because of the sort of political miracle it accomplished on the European continent, has developed a very strong faith in international institutions, international legal mechanisms, as the key to international order, and have really begun to view military power as an illegitimate form of activity, but in any case, something that is to be avoided at almost all costs. And Americans really haven't quite gone that far yet. I think most Americans believe that although it's better not to use military force if you can avoid it, that the world simply doesn't provide us the luxury of giving away military force as an important tool of foreign policy.

HANSEN: Professor Kupchan, your book is called "The End of the American Era." And in it, you also suggest a deep divide between Europe and the United States. But you argue that America may one day face an integrated Europe as a rival superpower. What evidence do you have for that?

Prof. KUPCHAN: Well, I think the key difference between Bob and myself is Bob sees the source of the rift as rooted in European weakness, and I think that's part of the story, but we're also seeing Europe rise as a more integrated confederation. They're debating the creation and establishment of a constitution, perhaps appointing a single foreign minister for Europe. They're far away from becoming a unitary federation, but I think we are seeing Europe gradually come of age, gradually dig in its heels against the United States. And I also don't think that the Europeans have forever foresworn the use of force. I believe that as they have more capability, more wealth, more centralized institutions, they will yearn for the same things that Americans yearn for: prestige, dignity, influence.

HANSEN: Mr. Kagan, I wonder, do you agree with what Secretary Rumsfeld referred to as `an old vs. a new Europe'?

Mr. KAGAN: Well, I think he's right to notice that there is a difference in attitudes and even in the broadest sense of world view between Eastern Europe and Western Europe. Which is old and which is new is an interesting question, and I almost think that maybe he's got it backwards. It could be that Germany, with its increasing pacifism, represents the new Europe. But in any case, the Eastern European countries only fairly recently removed from under the Soviet empire and still very much concerned about Russian power, tend to see the world as still a dangerous place and are, therefore, more likely to view the world in the same way that Americans generally do. How long that will last is another question because if they become more and more secure, they may, in fact, become more like West Europe.

HANSEN: Professor Kupchan, what about that division? Won't that hamper Europe's progress toward becoming what you referred to as a superpower?

Prof. KUPCHAN: Well, I think the division is a little bit different than Bob described it. As far as Central Europe goes, I think what we are seeing is a more emotional attachment to the United States because of a sense that the US liberated Central Europe from Communism, which it did do, in large part. But as the younger generation of Central Europeans grows up, they will be closer to Europe than to the United States. That's their main affiliation, that's the TV they are watching. They will study mainly in Europe, not in the United States. Over time, the center of gravity within Europe will be more European and less Atlanticist. And that's, again, why I am somewhat skeptical that the West as we know it is going to hang together in the coming years.

HANSEN: Charles Kupchan is an associate professor of international relations at Georgetown University. He's also a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, and he's the author of "The End of the American Era: US Foreign Policy and the Geopolitics of the 21st Century." It's published by Knopf. Thanks again, Professor Kupchan.

Prof. KUPCHAN: My pleasure.

HANSEN: Robert Kagan is a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. His new book is "Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order." It's also published by Knopf. Thanks so much for being with us today.

Mr. KAGAN: Thank you very much.

HANSEN: It's 18 minutes past the hour.

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