As part of USIP’s ongoing series about the U.S. role in the world, Judy Ansley, a member of USIP’s board and former deputy national security adviser discusses the economic crises in Europe, the changing relationship between the U.S. and Europe, and the contributions the Institute can and does make during this time of tremendous challenge and opportunity.

The Big Picture on Europe’s Travails

Judy Ansley, a member of USIP’s board, served as assistant to the president and deputy national security advisor at the National Security Council (NSC) from 2008 until January 20, 2009. Ansley also served as deputy national security adviser for regional affairs from 2007-2008 and began her service at the NSC in August 2005 as special assistant to the president and senior director for European affairs. Prior to her NSC service, Ansley served for more than 20 years in various positions in the U.S. Senate. From 1999-2005, she was first the deputy staff director and then staff director of the Senate Armed Service Committee. From 1995-1999, Ansley was national security adviser to Senator John Warner of Virginia. Earlier, she was on the staff of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, first as special assistant to the vice chairman and then as minority staff director, responsible for issues related to the national intelligence budget and congressional oversight of the U.S. intelligence community. Ansley began her Senate career in 1983 on the professional staff of the Senate Armed Services Committee. She had also served as a research assistant in the Foreign Affairs Division of the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress. Ansley holds an M.A. from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and a B.A. from Tufts University.

This past year has offered fresh proof that the world we live in is ever dynamic. Amid fundamental changes in the Middle East and North Africa, a decade of war and a weak U.S. economy, the need to think about the U.S. role in the world is growing. This article is part of a series offering the thoughts of USIP leaders, board members, senior staff and experts on the effects of these changes and the contributions the Institute can and does make during this time of tremendous challenge and opportunity.

The countries of the European Union (EU) are facing a debt crisis, an economic slowdown, doubts about the future of the euro and political dissension over how to overcome the EU’s difficulties. How do you see Europe’s prospects over the next year or so?

It seems likely that Europe will continue to struggle with its economic problems over the next year, particularly a comprehensive solution to the crisis in Greece. The agreement in January on a new fiscal treaty to impose stricter budgetary rules on European economies, which was supported by 25 of the 27 EU members and all members of the euro zone, appears to be a sign that Europe is developing a level of consensus (albeit not unanimous) on how to address some of the underlying problems that led to the financial crisis. Political debate in Europe will continue between those who believe that the solution to the current crisis is to focus on debt reduction (most importantly Germany) and those who believe it is more important to focus on growth. But nuances are beginning to appear in the statements of European leaders on these issues that indicate a compromise including both debt reduction and economic development might be possible in the months ahead.

For now--on the immediate problem of Greece--there is consensus on what Greece has to do to continue to receive EU financing and support. If Greece does not take the necessary steps required by the second bailout agreement, the economic implications for Greece and for Europe could be devastating.

As for the future of the euro zone, I don't believe there is any doubt that it will continue; rather the question is the impact of the crisis on the euro zone. The most immediate issue is whether or not Greece will remain a member of the euro zone; that remains to be seen. In the future, the impact of the crisis is likely to be seen in a lessening of enthusiasm and desire by additional nations to join the euro zone, unlike what we have seen in the past. Several years back, joining the euro zone was an aspiration for nations in central and eastern Europe--a symbol of success, almost as important as joining NATO and the EU itself. That aspiration has been replaced by caution.

Is Europe going to be able to continue playing the role of key partner of the United States on a host of security issues and international political priorities in the coming years? How important is the partnership with Europe to U.S. policy goals in Afghanistan, in countering terrorism and in countering proliferation of weapons of mass destruction?

Despite its economic challenges, Europe will continue to be the key partner of the United States on a wide range of national security priorities. Our partnership with Europe is critical to our policy goals around the world, including in Afghanistan where NATO commands the international military coalition and our European partners make a significant contribution to the effort with troops on the ground and financial assistance to the Afghan people. Europe has also been key in other areas: in NATO's recent efforts in Libya, where European nations took the lead; in our ongoing efforts to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapons capability, with tough EU sanctions playing a critical role; in our diplomatic efforts to support the Arab League in its efforts to bring about a transition in Syria, with NATO ally Turkey playing a leading role; and in our efforts around the world to counter terrorism.

In the months ahead, my concern is that the economic problems in Europe and the United States will have an impact on how much we will jointly be willing to do around the world. Budget cuts both in Europe and at home are reducing defense spending. One wonders how much these budget cuts are a factor in calls both in Europe and the United States for accelerated troop withdrawals from Afghanistan and in the current reluctance to entertain military options to deal with the crisis in Syria. Economic difficulties and budget pressures are certainly not the only reasons for the caution we are seeing; there are legitimate policy concerns as well. But would the debate be different without the current economic pressures?

As in the past, some European politicians are calling for the EU to respond to the present crisis with deeper integration, both politically and economically. Broadly speaking, how do you expect the EU to change as a result of this current time of testing?

We are already seeing signs of change on the economic side with the agreement on the EU fiscal treaty, which is an attempt to add more fiscal discipline, accountability and enforcement to national budgets. This is particularly important for the euro zone countries, where the impact of the current crisis has been felt most strongly. Whether the fiscal treaty will lead to greater integration of European economies remains to be seen. It's also unclear if European publics will be supportive of the fiscal treaty and the stronger economic ties it implies. While Germany’s Bundestag recently approved the treaty overwhelmingly, Ireland has decided to hold a referendum on it. That will be the treaty's first test with the voting public. Securing approval from a nation that has not always supported EU initiatives will be a key indicator of where the EU goes from here economically. On the political side, I don't see this crisis leading to deeper integration. The Lisbon Treaty of 2009 which created an EU president, has not lead to "Europe speaking with one voice,” as some had hoped. Nations continue to take national decisions on security and defense issues (such as deployment of troops to Afghanistan) and--in the case of Great Britain and the Czech Republic--on certain economic issues, albeit in consultation with EU partners. I think this trend will continue for the immediate future.

Will Europe be as important to the United States in the coming years given the growing economic and political power of Asia, particularly that of China and India?

Europe will continue to be America's key partner in the coming years, despite developments in Asia. For more than 60 years the United States and many European nations have been bound together as members of the most successful military alliance in history--NATO. I believe we will continue to turn first to Europe when crises arise around the world.

From your experience in the NSC and on the Hill, do you see an independent federal agency like USIP contributing to peacebuilding and conflict management efforts in ways that complement policymaking agencies such as Defense, State and others?

USIP will continue to play a key role in the years ahead to advance U.S. peacebuilding and conflict-management efforts, particularly in light of current budgetary pressures. For a relatively small investment, USIP provides experts on the ground in areas of conflict, such as in Iraq and Afghanistan, working alongside U.S. and international military and diplomatic personnel and nongovernmental organizations; experts to assist newly emerging democracies, such as Libya; and experts to help nations emerging from years of dictatorship to prepare for "the day after," such as with Syria. In addition, USIP's Academy trains U.S. government personnel who are deploying to conflict zones in peacebuilding and conflict mamagement. All of these efforts complement the national security policymaking agencies of our government, which is why State and Defense often turn to USIP for special projects and missions. USIP may be a small federal agency, but its impact is widely felt and highly valued in hot spots around the world.

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  • Global Change, Peacebuilding and USIP
    USIP leaders explain the effect that events around the world and here at home will have on the U.S., and the contributions the Institute can and does make during atime of tremendous challenge - and opportunity.

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