London (CNSNews.com) - If Europe continues to seek a role as a superpower to counterbalance the United States, it may push its trans-Atlantic ally towards the "powerful allure" of Asia, to the great detriment of NATO, Britain's Conservative Party has warned.
In a keynote foreign policy address Tuesday night, the opposition party's spokesman on foreign affairs, Francis Maude, criticized forces within the European Union, which he said regarded the U.S. as a rival to be matched and outdone.
The goal was "unworthy as well as unrealistic," he said in a wide-ranging speech at the Royal Commonwealth Society in London.
The proposed common European defense policy, the European Strategic Defense Initiative (ESDI), was at its worst "a visible expression of a chilling, and growing, anti-Americanism in some parts of the continent."
Critics say the European Strategic Defense Initiative, which will entail a standing military force of European soldiers operating outside, but in cooperation with, NATO, will threaten the Alliance, jeopardize trans-Atlantic ties, and undermine the security of both America and Europe.
Maude noted that while EU members should be modernizing their armed forces and preparing to "carry more of the [NATO] burden," they were instead cutting their defense budgets.
Placing the ESDI within an EU - rather than NATO - framework would "encase it in committees, bureaucracy and the creeping embrace of the EU institutions," he predicted.
The proposed ESDI was to comprise the "wrong group of countries," including some non-NATO members, while excluding some NATO members. "Our concerns over this have been echoed by the U.S. administration," he said.
"There are those who resent the emergence of the U.S.A. as the sole remaining superpower. They believe that the EU must form itself into a countervailing superpower.
"It is partly that unworthy, as well as unrealistic, ambition that has created the European currency, to challenge the hegemony of the dollar. In the same way [Romano Prodi, president of the EU's executive Commission] seems to believe that the European Army of his dreams can match the military might of America.
"This mindset is worse than simply being unrealistic and vain. It is positively harmful. If it encourages America to turn its eyes further westward to the powerful allure of Asia, we will have inflicted a devastating blow at the basis of our security, the Atlantic Alliance."
Maude called on the Labor government to lead the way in Europe in supporting Washington's proposed National Missile Defense program.
NMD is a planned system to offer the U.S. protection against missiles launched by rogue states. President Clinton will decide this summer whether or not to go ahead with the multi-billion-dollar project, which both Russia and China strongly oppose.
Prime Minister Tony Blair's government has expressed cautious willingness to help NMD if requested, although pressure from disarmament and other groups is growing.
Nation 'not dead'
In his speech, Maude also defended the importance of the nation state in the new, "networked" world.
"If the Old World of the Cold War was one of blocs and hierarchies, the new world will be one of nations and networks."
The Conservatives were proud of British nationhood, and did not feel the need, "as some of our neighbors do," to subsume that nationhood into a wider bloc.
The country was threatened by those who wanted to consign it into a European "superstate," who wanted to unravel the United Kingdom and repackage it as "a weakening amalgam of [EU] zones without common loyalties and interests."
"This is what we are going to fight against - and win the fight. This nation state, though ceaselessly threatened, is not dead, nor 'irrelevant' - that favorite modernizer's word."
Britain was uniquely qualified to profit economically, politically and culturally, from the new world, Maude argued.
"In this new world, in which physical geography matters less and less, we should not think of Britain as being on the periphery of anything. On the contrary, the network world places us - as never before - at the heart of the global system."
Maude criticized the Labor government's assertion that it was introducing an "ethical" foreign policy - as though previous policies had been unethical.
"If we are promoting democracy, if we are supplying a rule of law where none exists, if we are acting to achieve prosperity then we can be sure that our intervention is beneficial not only to ourselves, but the wider world.
"In this sense our foreign policy as a liberal democracy has been ethical in intention and principle all along, as far as realities allow."
But he warned the government against pursuing a "grand, gesture-ridden, and simplistic strategy."
"It raises expectations only to dash them down. It makes us misjudge world situations and leads others to misjudge us ..."
Maude called the doctrine of "humanitarian war" (as cited by the West in Kosovo) ambiguous and dangerous.
"We can, and will continue, to play our full role in the new global order but this role must always be tempered with profound caution and humility about what in practice can be achieved by the outside intervention of the international community."