“Ever-Closer” European Union No Longer in America’s Interest

European integration may no longer achieve the prosperous and stable continent the United States hope for.

A European Union flag is seen through scaffolding
A European Union flag is seen through scaffolding (European Commission)

Europe is a closer union than it was forty years ago, yet from the American perspective little has changed since the 1970s, when President Richard Nixon’s secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, famously complained that he never knew whom to call if he needed to consult “Europe.” It seems his successors would sometimes still rather their allies form a United States of Europe already and get it over with.

Not only is this unlikely to happen; America’s continued insistence on it might actually harm its interests.

The Foreign Policy Research Institute’s Jakub Grygiel argues that America’s encouragement of European integration no longer matches its goal of keeping the continent secure and stable. The European Union now threatens to divide nations more than it unites them:

By supporting EU’s drive to an “ever-closer union” at all costs, Washington mistakes the tactical process for the strategic objective. The goal is a balanced, stable and prosperous Europe; the means has been, in part, European integration. But it is becoming clear that the former is not being achieved by the latter.

No Atlanticists in Brussels

Even if it did, the United States might not be better off dealing with one Europe.

Whereas national leaders tend to recognize the economic and security benefits of the transatlantic relationship, parliamentarians in Brussels and Strasbourg are far less Atlanticist. They dream of a powerful and united Europe that can one day match the United States.

Some Europeans are also more committed to the alliance than others. Britain, Denmark and the Netherlands have more consistently followed America’s foreign-policy lead. Germany and Italy are also in favor of liberalizing transatlantic trade.

But their sympathetic views could be overshadowed in united Europe.

Readjustment

A readjustment in policy is all the more prudent, Grygiel argues, given “that the reality on the ground seems to indicate that the Russians are seeping in, the Americans are pivoting out and the Germans are moving up” — contradicting the assertion of NATO’s first secretary general, Hastings Ismay, that the alliance is designed “to keep the Russians out, the Americans in and the Germans down.”

Deepening American relations with Germany, when most other European countries regard its rise warily, would be a “desperate move,” according to Grygiel, that is unlikely to pay off — even if worries about a German hegemony are quickly dismissed as ahistorical, overly alarmist and inappropriate.

More importantly, Germany is unwilling to lead.

Stop cheerleading

The least the United States could do is stop cheerleading efforts to keep the European Union afloat, “efforts that are predicated on greater centralization of the powers in Brussels.”

The transatlantic relationship doesn’t hinge on the EU. Seeking a greater relationship with the European Union as an institution could even weaken the United States as the former “is a political entity that cannot protect its own citizens, is creating deep tensions among its states and is contributing to an upheaval of the continent’s equilibrium of power.”