Stung by Europe's seeming ineffectiveness in dealing with the Balkans crises the British championed a military capability for the European Union. The resultant plan for a rapid reaction force must be handled carefully if it is not to drive a wedge between the United States and Europe.
While Americans were preoccupied with the hung election in Florida, they could have been forgiven for missing another issue generating heated argument on the other side of the Atlantic—the European Rapid Reaction Force. In the run up to the European Union (EU) summit in December 2000 in Nice, a significant element of the British press and the opposition Conservative Party raised fears that this force would threaten the cohesiveness of NATO. While this reflected a degree of hyperbole, over the subsequent months, there has developed an almost self-fulfilling problem, which appears to be increasing in complexity. If not handled carefully by both sides, it has the potential to drive a wedge between the United States and its European allies.