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NATO's Robertson Calls European Anti-Americanism Damaging, Corrosive

By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 21, 2003 – NATO Secretary-General George Robertson labeled displays of European anti-Americanism and American anti- Europeanism as "damaging," "not fair" and "it's not right." He made these remarks as preparations continue for a possible showdown with Iraq and anti-war demonstrations escalate.

Speaking here Feb. 20 at a European Institute press conference, Robertson responded to a series of questions about the state of U.S.- European relations following recent angry public debates on whether to take military action now to disarm Iraq. The institute is a public policy organization involved with transatlantic affairs.

"I constantly criticize people in the European part of NATO for allowing public opinion to go in an anti-American way, which is a betrayal of the steadfast links that the Americans have had with Europe and, indeed, the role played in liberating Europe by the United States," Robertson said. "That anti-Americanism is, I think, profoundly damaging and corrosive and needs to be condemned by all decent people.

"I similarly condemn some of the approaches that have been taken here (Washington) in relation to some European countries and, indeed, on occasion, against all European countries," he continued. "You know, the jokes are good, the humor is high, but underneath it is a sort of ... discrimination or sometimes occasionally of racialism, which I think is deeply unfair, horribly corrosive."

Robertson said he believes people on both sides of the Atlantic for now need to "cool down, get things into perspective, (and) recognize that the values that unite this alliance -- this island of stability in a very dangerous and volatile world -- are worth protecting.

"That means that tempers and emotions must be kept under control at this time. And we've got to recognize that there are nastier and more brutal enemies out there who are going to attack us if we get divided in the future."

The heated words traded recently by the United States, Germany and France over the wording in U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441 raised NATO-watchers' eyebrows worldwide. U.S. announcements that it might possibly reduce troop presence in Germany in order to meet deployments elsewhere fueled more speculation of a rift between the U.S. and its European NATO partners. Robertson said that is not the case.

"I think there's been some discussion generally about the deployment of American troops worldwide and how best they can be configured in a world that has changed dramatically from the days when they were initially deployed," Robertson explained. "But that is in a very, very early stage of thinking, and some of the things that have come out recently in the press represent only a series of ideas that certainly haven't been enmeshed into any formal process.

"American troops in Europe have been part of the architecture of security since the end of the Second World War. But nothing is static, nothing remains unchanged in a world where the threats have changed," he noted.

No one can write off NATO on the basis of one argument, he said. The debate within NATO was about how best to disarm Iraq, he noted, and not at all about whether disarmament was necessary -- nor about the importance and urgency of getting compliance with Resolution 1441.

"We've been through arguments in the past. We'll undoubtedly have arguments in the future. But NATO is not the Warsaw Pact. People come with propositions to NATO and they'll argue it out among democratic countries," Robertson said. "That sometimes takes a little bit of time, a little bit of effort, a lot of lost sleep."

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