Her concern is not in isolation. The Obama administration has been increasingly questioning the wisdom of Tory leader David Cameron’s recent hostile moves toward Europe, including his decision to take the Tories out of the main centre-right grouping in the European Parliament to form a new alliance with hard-right Eastern European parties and his antagonism toward the Lisbon Treaty. The Times reports today that the US Ambassador to Britain has also been voicing alarm over Cameron’s Europe plans, and that Jewish groups within the Democratic Party are expressing alarm over Cameron’s new ties to anti-Semitic politicians in Poland.
The concerns are further evidence that the Obama administration considers the so-called “special relationship” (a term I’ve never heard used in the US, though it is used almost obsessively in the UK) to be obsolete, and would prefer a united Europe to deal with in foreign policy. This is a sea change from the previous US administration, which notoriously used the idea of the “special relationship” to drive a wedge between the UK and Europe in the run-up to the Iraq war. As The Times notes,
“[Obama] believes that Britain should be at the heart of Europe — a position that has been put in doubt by French and German anger over Mr Cameron’s decision to sever ties with the federalist centre right grouping in the Strasbourg Parliament. Mr Obama is enthusiastic about the idea of a permanent EU president to replace the revolving chairmanship of the EU council, a measure opposed by the Conservatives.”Wheras the Bush administration was hostile toward the EU and seemed to repeatedly seek to undermine it, the Obama administration has so far been an enthusiastic supporter, as demonstrated by Hillary Clinton’s speech in Brussels earlier this year. In fact I think I could without hyperbole call Obama a European federalist. He wants a strong, united Europe as a partner in combating terrorism, dealing with the financial crisis and providing a counterweight to China.
The administration’s reported comments seem to suggest that Obama has little patience for European leaders who cow-tow to old instincts of nationalism and divisiveness. And he has also demonstrated impatience with some of the more archaic, slow-moving aspects of the EU, and is likely eager for the streamlined reforms the Lisbon Treaty will bring about. Of course this is just speculation, but it’s what his administration’s statements and behaviour seem to suggest.