The Magazine

Old Europe, New Europe

Red Europe, blue Europe.

Oct 27, 2008, Vol. 14, No. 07 • By SETH CROPSEY
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Central and Eastern Europeans exhibit none of this strategic blindness nor the suspicion that America represents a threat to democracy and every other international good. A senior Polish diplomat told me that the United States should "stop tip-toeing around the Russians and end NATO's charade of political correctness in dealing with Moscow." Another saw "ominous consequences" in Russia's invasion of Georgia and argued that his nation needed to reconsider NATO's emphasis on expeditionary forces in favor of beefing up its own defenses against Russian forces. "The Russians," argued this experienced official, "have decided that the reassertion of great power status is more important than integration with the West." A Hungarian official similarly warned that "the new Russian imperialism has become a reality." He cautioned that if Russian policy succeeds in its traditional aim of dividing Europe, "you can say bye-bye to NATO."

Europe is as divided over the current American presidential election as it is over whether it faces serious external threats. French foreign policy and defense intellectuals openly admire Obama. One explained that his election would return the United States to "decency." A former national-level German politician argued that the United States "must reinvent itself in order to survive" and that Obama is the only one who can accomplish this.

Central and Eastern Europeans do not share this enthusiasm. They are more skeptical than enchanted. Poles ask about Obama's track record on Russia and his understanding of Central Europe's importance to the Atlantic alliance. They question whether his opposition to the surge in Iraq would find a parallel reluctance to take risks in defense of their own countries. They wonder, as a venerable and experienced Romanian government leader politely put it, "Who is Obama?"

In McCain, Old Europe sees a toughness and worldview inconsistent with its hopes for multilateral resolutions to international problems. New Europe sees the same qualities in McCain, but approves of them as appropriate to the world the next American president will face. One must judge for oneself which part of Europe sees the world as it is.

Seth Cropsey, a fellow at the Hudson Institute, served as deputy undersecretary of the Navy in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations.