Confused, Contradictory Policies: Will
Post-9/11 America Lose Its Allies, Its Way?
By Andrew Jack
MOSCOW, 13 June 2002—From
the US, home of the politically correct, has come a worrying new
trend: an ever stronger dose of domestic intolerance and international
That, at least, is how many in Europe see the
evolution of US foreign and domestic policy in the wake of the
terrorist atrocities of September 11.
There is no denying
the outrage and grief triggered by the unjustifiable attacks in New
York and Washington, any more than the genuine and widespread
worldwide sympathy at the pointless deaths which followed.
large numbers of citizens from outside the US, including hundreds from
the UK and many more from other European countries, were killed in the
Twin Trade Towers, drawing other nations directly into the aftermath.
But the US has taken an increasingly unilateral line since
then, and proved itself uncharacteristically intolerant of criticism
from European leaders of the course it has adopted.
so, it seems to many to have abandoned or diluted many of its great
founding principles of democracy, freedom and tolerance. Lengthy
detention without trial; demands for extradition with scant evidence;
the possibility of closed, military tribunals; and government pressure
on media which prove critical, have all become topics of current
There is some understandable US hostility to
anti-Americanism. But there is also a danger that the Bush
administration is pushing too far in its exploitation of the support
it receives domestically in its efforts to reduce the future threat of
At a seminar last month in Moscow, some US
congressional leaders argued that only Russia had equivalent
experience to their own country in coping with the dangers of
In doing so, they betrayed an ignorance of
the multiple terrorist conflicts that have permeated Europe for
decades - the IRA for Britain; ETA for Spain; the Corsican separatists
for France; left-wing groups in Italy and Germany - and the
realisation that there is no simple solution.
Not to mention
the smaller but continuous stream of deaths in political-related
violence in other parts of the world - whether in Israel, East Timor,
Tajikistan or beyond - over many years.
To claim today that
countries that harbour terrorists should be considered enemies, that
nations are either good or evil, "with us or against us",
ignores both history and the subtleties in the structure of such
It flies in the face of the tolerance shown in the
very recent past by the US itself of the active operation and funding
of organisations such as Noraid which supported the bloody terrorist
acts of the IRA in Northern Ireland over many years.
mention, at least as far as Russian officialdom is concerned, meetings
between senior US government officials and representatives of the
outlawed regime in Russia's breakaway republic of Chechnya.
also forgets too quickly the past role of the US in supporting and
even creating terrorist groups, notably Islamic fundamentals, as it
fought proxy wars against the Soviet Union and other enemies,
including in Afghanistan itself.
To use the attacks last
year to justify the bombing of Iraq - with which there has been no
clear sign of any connection to Al Qaeda - is also something which
leaves many in countries outside the US perplexed.
mention a continued resistance to any easing of sanctions against
Iran, despite a refusal to share evidence on the country's supposed
nuclear and terrorist build-up, and a risk that the continued
isolation of Iran will simply serve to strengthen the arm of the
hardliners in the country against those emerging moderates.
seems to many in Europe that the solutions proposed by the US - with
the exception of certain military strikes - also still focus too much
on an exclusively domestic response to terror, at the expense of
greater international cooperation which might prove more effective.
After all, it was the in-coming Bush administration which -
ahead of September 11 - stalled protocols that would have improved
international monitoring of biological weapon threats, and US
politicians who blocked further financing to Russia in efforts at
stemming the risk of proliferation of nuclear and chemical weapons.
A fresh round of introspection about the impact of and the
need for change in US foreign policy, instead of simply further
reinforcement of its embassy compounds abroad, might be desirable.
In Russia specifically, personal sympathy towards the
victims of terrorism in the US (including a number of Russian
citizens) has turned to bitterness at the pace with which US
policymakers have expanded their influence unilaterally.
weeks after September 11, President Vladimir Putin took the historic
step of announcing unprecedented cooperation with the international
coalition against terrorism, providing valuable intelligence
information, offering air corridors and support to the Northern
Alliance. All that despite considerable reluctance by most domestic
politicians and military advisers at the time, who took a more
suspicious view of the West.
In return, the US unilaterally
announced its intention to withdraw from the 1972 anti-ballistic
missile treaty; decided to store rather than destroy nuclear warheads;
and extended its long-term military presence across Central Asia and
even neighbouring Georgia. There was little by the way of fresh
economic incentives to "reward" Russia, and to cap it all,
the US even imposed new tariffs on Russian exports.
to be said that the US has since undertaken a number of initiatives
that the Putin administration itself supported, including the attacks
against Taliban-run Afghanistan threatened by Mr Putin himself many
months ahead of September 11.
After initially scrapping many
of the Clinton-era mechanisms for negotiations with Russia, the US has
begun to reestablish some of them. It no longer sees Russia as a
country that can simply be ignored.
Certainly Mr Putin has
played a bad hand well, negotiating from a position of weakness to
ensure that a new nuclear reduction treaty exists, rather than simply
an informal oral agreement as Mr Bush originally sought.
the aggressive stance taken by the US risks destabilising Central
Asia, alienating European politicians, and making Mr Putin's
pro-Western stance more precarious in the process.
better that the US, with its liberal and democratic values, "won"
the Cold War than the Soviet ideologues. But the dangers of being the
world's only superpower also bring demands for a new degree of
responsibility to tame the temptations to wield too much of that power
and wealth unilaterally.
Andrew Jack is a British
journalist based in Moscow and the author of The French Exception
(Profile Books, London). He is also a member of the editorial board of