A decade after the end of the Cold War, the U.S.-European alliance has become the object of intense scrutiny. The disappearance of the Soviet threat appears to have diminished the need for security cooperation. Economic and trade frictions as well as European resentment of American domination seem increasingly evident, and calls for European autonomy and American disengagement can be heard on both sides of the Atlantic. Moreover, expansion and deepening of the European Union, together with recent initiatives to create a real EU military capability, suggest that Europe may at last be acquiring the means to forge a more independent and even competitive relationship with the United States.
Contrary to these appearances, however, good reasons exist for believing that the Euro-American partnership still rests on a solid foundation and that the prospects for sustaining it are stronger than they may seem. To understand why, it is useful to recall the past tensions and periodic crises that marked the alliance during the Cold War, consider the new stresses that have arisen since then, and identify the underlying realities of power and politics that sustain the relationship. While future cooperation should not be taken for granted, Europe’s need for a hedge against emerging security risks, America’s continuing primacy, the EU’s underwhelming achievements in foreign and defense policy, and shared interests in international economic stability all continue to bind Europe to the United States.