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Transatlantic Relations

Lawrence Freedman: Strangely, they’re not that bad. I think- I mean, trans-Atlantic relations obviously hit a low in 2003. The whole cast of characters, apart from Bush himself, has now changed- there are different leaders in Britain, France and Germany- the Italian one has come back again. And I think there- you know- the will in Europe is to make the trans-Atlantic relationship work. And also, I think, you know, the Putin- now Meledev- factor is making Europeans, you know, remember why it’s always quite useful to have the Americans- to be with the Americans. And not in the sense if you’re scared or frightened like they were in the Cold War days, but all these issues are reasons to deal with the Atlantic countries are working together. I think it’s the case- it isn’t a partisan point- that Europeans have been absolutely riveted by the Election campaign, and it’s- for all sorts of reasons- probably rooting for Obama just because he represented something so different from Bush that they can see the PR advantages at home, which is not to say they would be unhappy with Hillary. I think they would be fine with Hillary, too- I mean, she- because by and large, they got on okay with Bill. Towards the end, I think people forget just how bad trans-Atlantic relations were in the first term of Clinton, over Bosnia, which was actually a very difficult time. But by the end, he was fine. But Obama represents a different sort of America. And so I think that he would have an unusual opportunity. McCain would also- will also have an opportunity

because he’s recognized to be different to Bush and- but I think there would be a concern that he was carrying on the sort of- a blustery sort of foreign policy, whereas, you know, I think Europeans would like a more diplomacy-heavy American foreign policy rather than one that just relies on sort of threats and actual use of force. So, trans-Atlantic relations aren’t really that bad, I don’t think. But I think people are waiting, you know, as indeed, Americans are. And I think 2009 will be a, you know, potentially quite an interesting year in terms of whether you can seek new directions in Western foreign policy in general.

Recorded on 5/19/08

Lawrence Freedman on the state of geo-politics.

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