Europe, Headlines, North America

WIKILEAKS: Yours Obediently, Europe

David Cronin

BRUSSELS, Dec 21 2010 (IPS) - Commenting on the state of trans-Atlantic relations in 2008, former U.S. president Jimmy Carter argued that European Union governments are “not our vassals” but “occupy an equal position with the U.S.” Documents released over the past month appear to offer a different view.

In a report finalised earlier in December, the European Union’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton signalled that the EU’s main purpose internationally is to “help” Washington “achieve its global objectives.” By coincidence, a series of secret cables from U.S. embassies around the world made public by the website WikiLeaks indicates that the U.S. expects Europe to constantly act as its subordinate.

A memo approved in 2005 by William Leach, then U.S. ambassador to Paris, deals with French opposition to the war declared against Iraq two years previously. Leach takes comfort in learning that the anti-war stance of then president Jacques Chirac was not supported by some prominent members of Chirac’s own party, the Union for a Popular Majority (known by its French acronym UMP).

The memo summarises a visit to Leach from Hervé de Charette, a former foreign minister and then head of international relations for the UMP. De Charette, according to the memo, called Chirac’s position on the war “embarrassing”. Giving the impression that he was speaking on behalf of Nicolas Sarkozy, now French president and the UMP leader at the time, de Charette identified a sturdy relationship with the U.S. as “the basis for French foreign relations.” De Charette also described the Israel-Palestine conflict as “the key issue” for both the EU and U.S. and suggested that he wished to counter the perception that France was more sympathetic to the Palestinians than to Israel.

Another cable from 2005 pinpoints Britain and the Netherlands as the most trusted U.S. allies in western Europe. Drafted by Clifford Sobel, who was about to step down as the U.S. envoy to The Hague, it labels the Dutch as “go-to guys” when disagreements arise between the EU and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). Sobel says that the Dutch helped “push back” plans by France and Germany to develop a European military capability that could act independently of NATO, a U.S.-dominated alliance.

He applauds the Dutch, too, for providing “early logistic support” for the war in Iraq by allowing the U.S. military to pass through Rotterdam, when it was unable to use other European ports for that purpose.

Furthermore, the cable celebrates the willingness of Dutch diplomats to act as “eyes and ears” for the U.S. It recommends that – because the Netherlands has a history as a coloniser in the Caribbean – the Dutch should be given a role in countering the rise of left-wing politicians in Latin America.

According to Sobel, the Dutch are “deeply concerned” about “meddling” by Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez in the Caribbean. “As a Caribbean power, the Dutch have good reasons to lead an effort to balance traditional Spanish dominance on Latin American issues in the EU, but the U.S. and others will need to push them to take this role,” the cable adds.

Eva Golinger, a New York lawyer who has written several books on Chavez, said that the cables published by WikiLeaks underscore Washington’s “obsession” with relations between Cuba and Venezuela. Claims that Cubans have penetrated every aspect of Venezuelan government and economy are redolent of Cold War warnings about “communist expansion” in the Southern hemisphere, Golinger wrote on her Internet publication Postcards from the Revolution.

She also accused U.S. diplomats of painting a false picture of Venezuela. Whereas one cable alleges that the quality of hospitals has declined under Chavez, his administration has pumped billions into a public healthcare system which guarantees free treatment to all citizens.

Two decades after the Cold War was widely assumed to have ended, the cables show that at least 200 U.S. nuclear weapons remain on European soil. Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Turkey are named as some of the countries hosting these weapons.

In addition, the cables appear to offer proof that NATO is planning for a confrontation with Russia. A document from January 2010 shows that the alliance approved a plan during that month to expand an operation known as Eagle Guardian, under which preparations would be made for fighting with Russia in Poland and the three Baltic states (Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia).

The decision follows NATO’s encroachment into countries surrounding Russia over the past decade. This enlargement occurred despite promises made to Moscow by James Baker, the U.S. secretary of state from 1989 to 1992, that NATO would not expand eastwards. As members of NATO since 2004, the Baltic states have accommodated both military bases for the U.S. and operations training soldiers preparing attacks on Afghanistan.

Writing in September, Rick Rozoff, a blogger with the campaigning website Stop NATO, noted that the warplanes from a variety of NATO members fly “round-the-clock” over the three Baltic countries, all of which adjoin Russia. Rozoff intimated that these operations are bound to increase friction between Russia and the alliance.

“NATO’s new members on the Baltic Sea are delivering on the demands imposed upon them by accession to the alliance,” he added. “They host NATO – particularly U.S. – troops, bases, warplanes, warships and missiles. They provide troops for wars far abroad. They supply training opportunities on the ground and in the air for the war in Afghanistan and for future conflicts with none of the restrictions that exist in North America and Western Europe. And they render those multiple services near Russia’s western border.”

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