Donald H. Rumsfeld is not a diplomat, to put it mildly
The United States of America can have a serious fight with Europe over Iraq, with “old Europe,” to be more precise. This is what US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld called France and Germany. Making a statement for foreign reporters in Washington, Rumsfeld said that France and Germany’s position regarding a possible war with Iraq was a “problem” for the USA. However, as the defense secretary added, the vast majority of European countries backed the States: “They're not with France and Germany on this. They're with the United States. You're thinking of Europe as Germany and France. I don't. I think that's old Europe," said Rumsfeld to a reporter.
The contradiction with the Old World is something that runs in the American blood. The USA’s tense relations with geography are also widely known. That is why, it is not surprising that Rumsfeld can easily strike France and Germany out from the list of European countries. US defense secretary might also want to create a new continent of only two countries – Old Europe. Donald Rumsfeld does not care that the German or the French history is a lot richer than the American one.
American hawk’s words cut the leaders of “old European” countries like a knife. French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder confirmed their aspiration to act against a possible war in the Persian Gulf. They said that their stand on the issue was a constructive, not a problematic one, as Americans believed. Germany and France have recently celebrated the 40th anniversary of reconciliation (the Elysee Treaty was signed by the leaders of the two countries in 1963).
Making a speech in front of German and French students in Berlin, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder stated in Jacques Chirac’s presence: “We are both of the opinion, and the French president said that quite clearly yesterday, that one can never accept it when it is said that war is unavoidable. War may never be considered unavoidable," Schroeder said.
Other politicians of the two countries did not hesitate to comment on Rumsfeld’s statement regarding “Old Europe.” French Finance Minister Francis Mer said that he was very disappointed with the words from the American defense secretary. German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer tactfully stated that the word ‘problem’ was not a good word to be used towards the two respectable countries. As he said, the USA and Europe are supposed to treat each other in a reasonable way.
Rumsfeld is not a diplomat, to put it mildly. It would be more reasonable for him not to say anything like that at all. This was the point of German former Defense Minister Volker Ruehe's comment. French Minister for Environment Roseline Bachelot stated in one of her interviews: “If you only knew, what I would like to say to Rumsfeld.” She reasonably withheld her comments for the American defense secretary, though.
Donald H. Rumsfeld’s statement did not only insult the two European countries. He probably set out the American attitude to Europe. To all appearances, it is good for Americans to divide the continent into old and new Europe. Rumsfeld has made a geographic discovery: “If you look at the entire NATO Europe today, the center of gravity is shifting to the east and there are a lot of new members,” said he. Volker Ruehe stated that it was not fair to split Europe into two. Probably, the Americans recollected an old rule: “divide and conquer.” The USA is in need of the political support on Europe’s part (it does not need the military backing), so America decided to use that rule. It just so happens that the United States can easily deal without NATO from the military point of view, whereas “old Europeans” do not need the bloc either. They think of their own European army instead. NATO is needed for East European and Baltic countries as their protection from unpredictable Russia. America promised NATO’s support to East Europe in return to the support of the war in Iraq. Germany and France can rest alone in old Europe. Kindness is a bad helper in a war.
Translated by Dmitry Sudakov