BLOG: Obama and the World, Part Two

By Sir Christopher Meyer, Former British Ambassador to the United States and Germany, former Chairman of the Press Complaints Commission

"Back in the bad old days of the Cold War, the US and the Soviet Union deterred each other from nuclear attack by something called the doctrine of mutually assured destruction. The idea was that neither side could eliminate the other's nuclear arsenal in a pre-emptive first strike and would be destroyed by the retaliation that followed.

Decades later, people forget how international relations were utterly dominated by the competition between America and the Soviet Union. This was the glue that bound the transatlantic community, expressed above all through the military alliance, NATO, of which the US, Canada, Britain, France and a range of continental western European powers were member. Though Britain and France were nuclear weapon powers, our 'deterrents' were tiny compared with the American nuclear arsenal, under whose umbrella everyone in NATO took shelter.

The Cold War produced one of the glory periods of the UK/US 'special relationship' under Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. Yet, there were constant tensions between the two sides of the Atlantic. From the start, France played the awkward squad inside NATO, as we have done inside the EU. Some of us in the Foreign Office tastelessly characterised the US/European relationship as mutually assured schizophrenia. The condition manifested itself in the following way. The Americans constantly cajoled the Europeans in NATO to take on more of the burden of their own defence. One of the ways in which the US hoped to achieve this was with efficiencies of scale through European integration. Thus, Henry Kissinger's notorious and probably apocryphal yearning, when he was US Secretary of State some 40 years ago, for one telephone number to call Europe in an emergency."

Read the rest of Sir Christopher's article here -
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