American Attitudes on European Political Integration

The Nixon-Kissinger Legacy
2 / 2007
Youri Devuyst


This paper concentrates on the Nixon-Kissinger view of European political integration. In contrast with the mainstream position of the American Administrations during the 1950s and 1960s, Kissinger was convinced that by encouraging European unity, the United States was in fact creating its own rival. The start of a new system of European foreign policy cooperation in 1970 was seen by Kissinger as a particularly important example of Europe’s attempt to challenge the American hegemony. Kissinger emphasized the need to maintain Western Europe in a subordinate role. Three main lines of action were pursued to keep the development of the European Community under control: maintaining bilateral contacts with key European allies, requesting a seat at the Community's decision-making table, and linking "obedient" European behavior to American military presence in Europe. The legacy of this policy still seems to influence the current American policy on the European Union. The Nixon-Kissinger term was, however, detrimental to rather than conducive of harmonious transatlantic relations. Tendencies to emulate it should therefore be discouraged.

About the Author

Youri Devuyst has been teaching politics and institutions of the European Union at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel since 1994. He has been on the teaching staff of the IES Program on International Legal Cooperation (PILC) since 1997. Devuyst holds a doctorate in Political Science (VUB) and obtained Master’s degrees in International and Comparative Law (VUB) and International Relations (Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies). The views expressed are purely those of the writer and may not, in any circumstances, be regarded as stating the position of the institutions for which the author is or has been working.