This year marks the 75th anniversary of one of the most successful and mutually beneficial alliances in history. In August 1941 off the coast of Newfoundland, aboard the warships HMS Prince of Wales and USS Augusta, Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt met in secret to sketch the contours of what would become a closely integrated strategic and military partnership between their two countries throughout World War II and beyond.
The meeting produced a diplomatic communiqué called the Atlantic Charter, which articulated a set of common democratic principles and a long-term vision for a post-war world. But it also marked the formal beginning of the “Special Relationship” between the United States and the United Kingdom — a military, intelligence and trading alliance that would prove decisive to the outcome of World War II and would underwrite seven decades of peace and prosperity.
It was Churchill himself who first referred to this Anglo-American alliance as a “special relationship.” In his famed Iron Curtain speech in Fulton, Missouri, in 1946 Churchill described the contours of this developing alliance as “a fraternal association of the English-speaking peoples … a special relationship between the British Commonwealth … and the United States.” Churchill envisioned “not only the growing friendship … between our two vast but kindred systems of society” but a close trading and military alliance, “leading to common study of potential dangers, the similarity of weapons and manuals of instructions [and] … the joint use of all Naval and Air Force bases.”
In the years since World War II “the close fraternal relationship” between the U.S. and U.K. developed along precisely the lines that Churchill envisioned. In trade, in the sharing of intelligence, in the joint operation and development of military bases and weapons systems, and in the close strategic and battlefield cooperation in a common struggle against tyranny and terror, both countries have benefited profoundly.
Yet this close cooperative and beneficial alliance between the United States and the United Kingdom is now threatened in a way that it has not been since Churchill and Roosevelt stood together in the sunshine of the North Atlantic in 1941. What menaces this alliance?
The EU Blocks and Baffles British Cooperation with the U.S.
As I explained in my last piece on the European Union, the goal of politicians leading the EU’s unaccountable bureaucracies and agencies is to establish a politically integrated federal state, a United States of Europe. What too few Americans realize is that the emergence of a European superstate would not benefit the USA. It was never intended to. British journalists Christopher Booker and Richard North documented in The Great Deception, their authoritative history of the European Union, that the architects of the European project conceived of the EU as a geopolitical “third force” that would check and even undermine the interests of the United States.
And that is already happening. The EU is currently crippling cooperation between Britain and America in three areas that Churchill and Roosevelt specifically singled out as crucial: trade, military cooperation and intelligence sharing.
A Regulatory Trade War
The effect of EU over-regulation on member states has been obviously harmful — impeding economic growth and raising the price of consumer goods across the board. The EU bureaucracy has harmed the U.S. economy as well. First of all, it prevented Britain from establishing a free-trade pact with its largest and most lucrative trading partner, the U.S., to the detriment of tariff-paying businesses on both sides of the Atlantic. Great Britain cannot join NAFTA, since the U.K. is no longer free to negotiate its own trading arrangements or to decide on its own trade policy.
The growing regulatory apparatus of the European bureaucracy and courts has encumbered American business interests with excessive regulation, arbitrary antitrust restrictions and punitive fines — targeting such U.S.-based companies as Microsoft, Intel and, more recently, Google. The regulatory burden on American companies operating within Europe grows daily, to say nothing of the EU practice of subsidizing otherwise uncompetitive companies such as Airbus. The European courts are also now increasingly blocking mergers and acquisitions between American companies, even if the companies in question do only a small percentage of their business in Europe.
A Threat to Future Military Cooperation
The European Union also threatens, for a simple reason, the longstanding military and strategic partnership the U.S. enjoys with Britain. A minimal pre-condition of decisive bilateral military action is the sovereignty of participating nations. The political unification of Europe threatens British sovereignty and will necessarily prevent future British military collaboration with the United States.
As the result of successive treaties since 1999, the EU has adopted a common foreign and defense policy. The Amsterdam Treaty, signed by all European Union member states and enacted in 1999, included articles envisioning a continent-wide foreign policy as well as an EU Foreign Minister and President. The European Constitution, which was rejected by French and Dutch voters, would have permanently codified these changes and taken away the last vestiges of national sovereignty over defense and foreign policy and created a fully sovereign European super-state with a distinct legal personality.
Nevertheless, the unelected architects of an “ever closer union” have used other means to implement key provisions of the unratified constitution. The Lisbon treaty in 2009 — which was accepted without consulting voters — included more than 90 percent of the wording from the document that French and Dutch voters had rejected.
The Lisbon Treaty also strengthened EU authority over a common European Union defense and foreign policy. Consequently, the treaty also provided a legal basis for the expansion of earlier EU initiatives that created a “European Defence Identity” and a “European Rapid Reaction Force” operating separately from NATO. The latter initiative has more recently morphed into a more modest plan to create small 2000-man “battle groups.”
Currently, these EU agreements and forces represent a threat to NATO and the US-UK military alliance for two reasons. First, investments in the European Rapid Reaction Force and battle groups have drained resources away from NATO at a time when none of our European allies save Britain are making their required 2% of GDP contribution to defense.
The British, for example, have been forced to invest in two large diesel-powered aircraft carriers, though their Italian and Spanish partners have not provided the supporting ships and submarines to make them operational in an EU rapid reaction naval force. Secondly, because of other agreements with their EU partners the UK increasingly is developing weapons systems that are dependent upon the European Galileo satellite system rather than the American GPS system. As the UK harmonizes it weapons and communications systems with those of its EU partners, it will make close battlefield cooperation with the US increasingly difficult because of the incompatibility of the two nations’ respective weapons systems.
Moreover, the push for “ever greater union” will inevitably result in a bigger and more tightly integrated EU military subservient to a European Union foreign policy. Britain will be obligated by treaty to accept the dictates of such a policy, which inevitably will restrict bilateral British military cooperation with the United States.
If Brussels, not London, dictates British foreign policy, it’s hard to see how there will ever again be U.S.-U.K. joint military operations of the kind we saw in World War Two, the Cold War, Iraq and Afghanistan. Will the close strategic cooperation from which these two nations have benefited since 1941 (and in many ways, since 1917) come to an end?
Since World War II, Anglo-American intelligence sharing has extended, in the words of Cambridge University historian Christopher Andrew, “far beyond the formal obligations of the Atlantic alliance.” The U.S.-U.K. bilateral relationship has long anchored a beneficial larger five-nation intelligence sharing alliance that includes Canada, Australia and New Zealand. A common European defense policy means the UK will be increasingly required by its treaty obligations to share military and intelligence information freely with France and other EU nations (indeed a “semi-secret” treaty signed by the UK and five other EU members in 2000 already commits the UK to this). The growing integration of the UK’s defense efforts with those of its EU partners, and the inability of some of those partners to keep intelligence secure from hostile states in the Middle East, has already aroused alarm in the U.S.
Several years ago members of Congress alert to this possibility, including the late Congressman Henry Hyde of Illinois, moved to deny Britain access to the electronic source codes vital for the operation of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, though their effort eventually failed. Nevertheless, this episode raises an important question: Will the United States remain willing to share sensitive information with Britain, knowing that it is likely to be passed on to less reliable European allies or less sympathetic EU officials who might in turn pass it on to hostile states?
One such potentially concerning entanglement involves the People’s Republic of China and the EU’s Galileo satellite. The EU has not only allowed China a significant ownership share in the system, but the EU has made China a full operational partner in the system. That means in any potential conflict between China and the United States, China would have access to European Union technology that could supply critical global positioning data and intelligence to China.
The Need for Friends in a Dangerous World
The rise of the European Union as an increasingly socialist, utopian and anti-American political force represents a portentous geopolitical realignment at a time when the U.S. is facing military challenges from China and Russia and overt hostility from a worldwide network of Jihadists.
The European Union, like the United Nations, tends to indulge a lowest common denominator anti-American (and anti-Israeli) foreign policy. To cite just one example, the EU long refused to join the U.S. in identifying Hezbollah as a terrorist organization and still now only recognizes the military wing of Hezbollah on its list of terrorist organizations. The reflexive hostility to U.S. interests was also clearly evident in the EU reaction to the U.S. war effort in Iraq, in its arms sales to China, in its anemic response to the Russian annexation of Crimea, in its litigation against U.S. businesses and in the consistent rhetoric of its spokesmen.
In a still-dangerous world wracked by instability, the United States needs more allies, not fewer. Americans should welcome the prospect of their British cousins freeing themselves from the EU’s suffocating embrace.