By CAROL ARMBRUSTER
Ferdinando Salleo, Italian ambassador to the United States, delivered a Nov. 12 lecture on the changing U.S.-Italian relationship in the context of the broader U.S.-European situation.
In his introduction, Dr. Billington noted that Mr. Salleo (right, photo by Michele Iannacci) had served two previous diplomatic tours in Washington and had held posts in Paris, Prague, Bonn and Moscow, where he was Italy's last ambassador to the Soviet Union and subsequently ambassador to Russia.
To many observers there is "an acceleration of the path of change" in Europe, said Mr. Salleo. Assessments of prospects for the Continent and the United States tend to swing between enthusiasm and pessimism. A few years ago, there was wide concern about the perceived "decline" of the United States, along with "Europhoria" and awe at Japan's apparent economic success. Now, there is talk of a "superiority complex" in the United States and growing pessimism about Europe. Mr. Salleo believes taking the long view is a better approach: "We should avoid overdramatizing the daily chronicles."
He pointed out that U.S. administrations generally had supported European efforts to achieve greater cohesion and stability through the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) and its goal of a single currency. According to Mr. Salleo, the United States "appreciates the macroeconomic stabilization progress that the project has induced in many European countries, Italy for one," and the American business community would benefit from the single currency.
Turning to foreign policy, however, Mr. Salleo noted important differences between the United States and Europe. As for America's relationship with the European Union, he noted that "an unspoken sense of dialogue des sourds -- dialogue of the deaf -- is perceptible on both sides." He cited three major foreign policy issues that highlighted changing European and American approaches and alliances: the Middle East, where he contrasted Europe's more conciliatory attitude toward nations such as Iran and Iraq and America's hard-line stance; Bosnia, which he qualified as a "remarkable success" but one that had severely tested the U.S.-European partnership; and the integration of Central and Eastern Europe into the Atlantic community, which he called the issue that will shape the European-American partnership in the next century.
Mr. Salleo urged the Atlantic community to move beyond the political-military alliance of the Cold War to a more basic commitment to a U.S.-European partnership. Italy, he stressed, as the world's fifth-largest industrial economy, must play a fundamental role in European organizations and alliances. Simultaneously, Italy's geographic location and long-established ties with the nations of Southeastern Europe and the Mediterranean have led it to support an expansion of NATO to include Central and Southeastern Europe and to back a U.S. commitment to the security of the area. Mr. Salleo expressed the need for the European Union to become a foreign policy partner of the United States.
Referring to Thomas Jefferson's warning to President James Monroe against American involvement in European affairs, Mr. Salleo stressed that Europe and the United States were more alike than different and that cooperation was needed now more than ever.
Ms. Armbruster is the French and Italian area specialist in the European Division.