Foreign Policy Blogs

Senator Hagel on the EU


Following on former Sen. Chuck Hagel’s nomination to serve as President Obama’s third secretary of defense, Foreign Affairs has made available his 2004 essay “A Republican Foreign Policy.” Reading it with the benefit of eight years of hindsight, the essay reveals how Sen. Hagel’s worldview appeals to the Obama Administration. His views on the foundational role the U.S. economy plays in providing for its contributions to global security, and on prioritizing the U.S.-EU relationship, are even more pertinent now than when they were written.

First published when the Iraq War had been underway for over a year, the piece aims to reconnect U.S. foreign policy to the international institutions that were largely ignored during its planning and launch (e.g., “The United States’ long-term security interests are connected to alliances, coalitions, and international institutions.”) More telling, however, is how the article begins with an emphasis on U.S. economic health as a precondition for its ability to ensure its own security. Unchecked deficits and entitlement programs, Hagel writes, will “erode our position as a world economic leader. U.S. policymakers will then be forced to make hard choices between national security and domestic priorities.” The current debate over the debt ceiling and the potential for forced cuts to defense spending under sequestration is beginning to force those hard choices now.

For those following Europe, Hagel’s prioritization of the EU as one of four “vital relationships” (Russia, India and China round out the list) is significant. The EU’s position at the head of this group is surprising, given its absence — and the prevalence of discussion of U.S. relations with Russia and China – in the foreign policy debates during the recent presidential campaign. “The EU will represent one of the most significant power blocs of the twenty-first century,” Hagel writes. He continues:

U.S. foreign policy should recognize the EU as a geopolitical force in its own right, distinct from, although connected to, the NATO security alliance. Washington’s relationship with NATO will in fact be strengthened through recognition of the diplomatic and economic significance of the U.S.-EU relationship…U.S.-EU commerce constitutes the largest trade and investment relationship in the world, with more than $1 trillion exchanged annually.

Since Hagel wrote those words, the EU has plunged into debt-driven economic turmoil. By his own reasoning, the EU’s capacity to serve as a “geopolitical force in its own right” is, like the U.S., tied to its economic vitality. The course of Europe’s economic future and the future of monetary (and potentially fiscal?) union in Europe is not only of global economic, but strategic, importance. The current issue of Foreign Policy magazine echoes this idea. While  considering the “Ten Problems Obama Could Solve Right Now” in its current issue, it cites the need to pursue a U.S.-EU free trade agreement to bolster both economies.

The EU faces additional governance challenges in implementing a common foreign and security policy. For both the U.S. and EU, however, a steady drumbeat of thought leaders are emphasizing the fact that sound economic policy is foundational to both.

  • This is how another non-EU resident thinks of EU:

    “Most of the Keynesian-Marxist economic analysts in their quest for the cause of financial collapse of Eurozone pointed their fingers towards the huge capital owners, stock speculators and other ones that are to be blamed by default. As it was during the Roosevelt’s era, they found their salvation in state – fresh money taken from the taxpayers wallets got redirected to bail out companies that would cease their existence in new, crisis-based circumstances. Stronger monetary control, uncontrolled print of the money bills without the real reserve and raise of taxes according to the cast criteria is something that is widely accepted. However, what distinguishes the current economic crisis and the Great Depression of the early thirties of the twentieth century was the fact that the latter is effectively ended in the outbreak of World War II by putting cobwebs wrapped American war industrial plants into operation, heavy overseas investment in the recovery, and strong economic growth of the post-war Western Europe. As nobody projects something similar to that today, it is likely that a contemporary crisis will be with us for some time.This means that the Eurozone will hardly get over this financial disease, and it is certain that prolonged lying in its sickbed leaves heavy consequences to the political project of the European Union.

    According to the recent statements of the high European Union officials, if even one of the members is to be allowed to get out of the Eurozone, this will, and most certainly, lead to the breakup of EU. After all, it seems that basic pillars of EU, like European Coal and Steel Union of 1951, and European Economic Community of 1958, got heavily undermined by the fresh Brussels bureaucrats born in Maastricht in 1993, centralization of monetary politics and aggressive legislative activities of the European parliament, and that the road that leads to the consolidation will be a long and dangerous one. Sadly, no commissars, no directives, and even no Merkel’s, Barosso’s and Van Rompuy’s frozen smiles can be of help now.”


Michael Crowley
Michael Crowley

Mike Crowley received his MA with distinction from The Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in American Foreign Policy and European Studies in 2003 and his MFA in Classical Acting from The Shakespeare Theatre Company/George Washington University in 2016. He has worked at the Center for Strategic International Studies, Akin Gump, and The Pew Charitable Trusts. He's an actor working in Washington, DC and a volunteer at the National Gallery of Art, and he looks for ways to work both into his blog occasionally.