Atlanticism is a term used to refer to a belief in or support for a
close relationship between the United States,
Canada and Europe
regarding political, economic and defence issues, with the belief that
it would maintain security and prosperity of the participating
countries and protect perceived values that unite them. The term
derives from the
Atlantic Ocean that separates the two continents.
The term can be used in a more limited way to imply support for North
Atlantic military alliances, or in a more expansive way implying
broader cooperation, perceived deeply shared values, a sense of
community and some degree of integration between
North America and
Europe. In practice, the philosophy of
Atlanticism encourages active
North American, particularly US, engagement in
Europe and close
cooperation between the two sides of the ocean.
Atlanticism manifested itself most strongly during the Second World
War and in its aftermath through the establishment of various
euro-Atlantic institutions, most importantly
NATO and the Marshall
Atlanticism varies in strength from region to region and country to
country based on a variety of historical and cultural factors.
Atlanticism is often considered to be particularly strong in eastern
and central Europe, and the
United Kingdom (linked to the Special
Relationship). Politically, it has tended to be associated most
heavily and enthusiastically, but certainly not exclusively, with
classical liberals, or the political right in Europe. Atlanticism
often implies an affinity for American political or social culture as
well as the historical bonds between the two continents.
There is some tension between
Atlanticism and continentalism on both
sides of the Atlantic, with some people emphasising increased regional
cooperation or integration over trans-Atlantic cooperation.
However, the relationship between
Atlanticism and North American or
European integration is complex and they are not seen in direct
opposition to one another by many commentators. Internationalism is
the foreign policy belief combining both
continentalism. The relative decrease of European power in the
world, the fall of the Soviet Union, as well as the spread of
Atlanticist norms outside of the North Atlantic region, have decreased
the strength of Atlanticist thought since the end of the Cold War.
Other international relationships have been increasingly emphasised,
although the trans-Atlantic relationship is still arguably the most
important in the world.
4 Prominent Atlanticists
5 See also
Main article: Transatlantic relations
Ronald Reagan speaking in Berlin, 1987 ("Tear down this wall!") with
Helmut Kohl, Chancellor of Germany. Reagan was a committed Atlanticist
Prior to the World Wars, western European countries were generally
preoccupied with creating colonial empires in Africa and Asia and not
relations with North America. Likewise, the
United States was busy
with interventions in Latin America, but had little interest in
European affairs, and
Canada had yet to exercise full foreign policy
independence as a part of the British Empire.
The experience of having American and Canadian troops fighting with
British, French, and other Europeans in
Europe during the wars
fundamentally changed this situation. Though the US (and to some
extent Canada) adopted a more isolationist position between the wars,
by the time of the
Normandy landings the Allies were well integrated
on all policies. The
Atlantic Charter of 1941 declared by US President
Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Churchill established the goals
of the Allies for the post-war world, and was later adopted by all the
Western allies. Following the Second World War, the Western European
countries were anxious to convince the US to remain engaged in
European affairs to deter any possible aggression by the Soviet Union.
This led to the 1949
North Atlantic Treaty
North Atlantic Treaty which established the North
Atlantic Treaty Organization, the main institutional consequence of
Atlanticism, which binds all members to defend the others, and led to
the long-term garrisoning of American and Canadian troops in Western
Ronald Reagan (right) and British Prime Minister
Margaret Thatcher in 1986
Bill Clinton (left) greets British Prime Minister Tony
Blair in 1999
After the end of the cold war, the relationship between the United
Europe changed fundamentally, and made both sides less
interested in the other. Without the threat of the Soviet Union
dominating Europe, the continent became much less of a military
priority for the US, and likewise,
Europe no longer felt as much need
for military protection from the US. As a result, the relationship
became much less important strategically speaking.
Atlanticism has undergone significant changes in the 21st century in
light of terrorism and the Iraq war, the net effect being a renewed
questioning of the idea itself and a new insight that the security of
the respective countries may require alliance action outside the North
Atlantic territory. After the September 11, 2001, attacks,
the first time invoked Article 5, which states that any attack on a
member state will be considered an attack against the entire group of
members. Planes of NATO's multi-national AWACS unit patrolled the U.S.
skies and European countries deployed personnel and equipment.
Iraq war caused fissures within
NATO and the sharp
difference of opinion between the US-led backers of the invasion and
opponents strained the alliance. Some commentators, such as Robert
Kagan questioned whether
Europe and the
United States had diverged to
such a degree that their alliance was no longer relevant.
Atlanticism is a belief in the necessity of cooperation between North
America and Europe. The term can imply a belief that the bilateral
Europe and the
United States is important above
all others, including intra-European cooperation, especially when it
comes to security issues. The term can also be used "as a shorthand
for the transatlantic security architecture."
Supranational integration of the North Atlantic area had emerged as a
focus of thinking among intellectuals on both sides of the Atlantic
already in the late 19th century. Although it was not known as
Atlanticism at the time (the term was coined in 1950), they developed
an approach coupling soft and hard power which would to some extent
integrate the two sides of the Atlantic. The idea of an attractive
"nucleus" union was the greatest soft power element; the empirical
fact of the hegemonic global strength such a union would hold was the
hard power element. This approach was eventually implemented to a
certain degree in the form of NATO, the G7 grouping and other
Atlanticist institutions. In the long debate between
its critics in the 20th century, the main argument was whether deep
and formal Atlantic integration would serve to attract those still
outside to seek to join, as Atlanticists argued, or alienate the rest
of the world and drive them into opposite alliances. Realists,
neutralists, and pacifists, nationalists and globalists tended to
believe it would do the latter, citing the
Warsaw Pact as the proof of
their views and treating it as the inevitable realpolitik counterpart
Atlanticism is, broadly speaking, particularly strong in Britain
(linked to the
Special Relationship), and eastern and central Europe
(i.e. the area between
Germany and Russia). There are numerous
reasons for its strength in Eastern Europe, primarily the role of the
United States bringing political freedom there after the First World
War, the role of the US in defeating Nazism, its leading role during
the Cold War, its relative enthusiasm for bringing the countries of
the region into Atlanticist institutions such as NATO, and a suspicion
of the intentions of the major Western European powers. Countries
such as Denmark, Poland, Romania, and the
United Kingdom are among
those who generally hold strong Atlanticist views, while
to promote continentalist views and a strong European Union.
In the early 21st century
Atlanticism has tended to be slightly
stronger on the political right in
Europe (although many variations do
exist from country to country), but the political center-left in the
United States. The partisan division should not be overstated, but it
exists and has grown since the end of the Cold War.
While trans-Atlantic trade and political ties have remained mostly
strong throughout the
Cold War and beyond, the larger trend has been
continentalist economic integration with the
European Union (and its
regional partners) and the
North American Free Trade Agreement
North American Free Trade Agreement notably
dividing the Atlantic region into two rival trade blocs. However, many
political actors and commentators do not see the two processes as
being necessarily opposed to one another, in fact some
commentators believe regional integration can reinforce
Atlanticism. Article 2 of the North Atlantic Treaty, added by
Canada, also attempted to bind the nations together on economic and
North Atlantic Council
North Atlantic Council is the premier, governmental forum for
discussion and decision-making in an Atlanticist context. Other
organizations that can be considered Atlanticist in origin:
Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)
North Atlantic Cooperation Council
North Atlantic Cooperation Council (NACC)
Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council
Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC)
Well-known Atlanticists include former U.S. Presidents Franklin D.
Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan; U.K. Prime Ministers Winston Churchill,
Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair, and Gordon Brown, François
Mitterrand, Dean Acheson, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and Javier
European Union relations
North Atlantic Treaty
North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
Transatlantic Free Trade Area
Transatlantic Free Trade Area (TAFTA)
German Marshall Fund, an atlanticist think tank.
Atlantic Council, an atlanticist think tank
Streit Council, an atlanticist think tank
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe
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