Is the once powerful transatlantic bond dying? If the last few weeks are anything to go by, one might well wonder…
The disarray between Washington and its European allies became even more strikingly evident as US Vice President Mike Pence addressed the Munich Security Conference this weekend. His speech raised a lot of European eyebrows as it mostly contained a wish list of things that, in Washington’s eyes, need to be done.
With friends like these, EU’s Council President Donald Tusk said last year as the relations were already souring, who needs enemies? Trump “has made us realise that if you need a helping hand, you will find one at the end of your arm,” he added. Meaning, Europe is more or less on its own now.
Worries about transatlantic relations multiply every single time the Trump administration rips another bit out of it.
And let us be honest, over the past two years, Trump has taken many such steps: Pulling out of the Paris Agreement, picking fights over the recognition of Jerusalem, threatening to impose aluminium and steel tariffs and, the latest, putting the European continent on the line of a new arms race by withdrawing from the INF Treaty.
However, in the eyes of many, it was the decision to withdraw from the EU-brokered Iran nuclear deal that has given rise to the belief that the transatlantic relationship is dead.
To be fair, our continent currently cuts a rather pathetic picture: With Brexit, populism and internal divisions, Europeans are facing uncertainties of their own (making) and are still somewhat undecided how to match words with actions on their continent’s foreign, defence and security policy.
Maybe it would be time for a Freudian analysis of our own troubles.
As the Munich meeting drew to a close, one thing especially stood out: What we are seeing is a rift between Europe and Trump/his administration, not the United States as such.
But Europeans are divided even about Trump himself. Especially in Germany, but also in other European countries, three factions have formed:
Those who believe Europe can wait out his term and return to normal in two years at best, those who call for a strategic U-turn, believing the decline of American leadership has begun, and those, especially Eastern Europeans, who support Trump’s agenda.
For die-hard optimists, we are experiencing a long-awaited revival of transatlantic relations. When was the last time, they’ll say, that American politicians have been touring this continent with such frequency, eager to talk and many of them also to listen?
The Munich Security Conference saw by far the largest bipartisan US presence to date with 90+ US officials and 50+ members of Congress that sought to underscore the commitment of large parts of America they represent.
Joe Biden, former US vice president, brought a message of love to Europe, assuring that the EU is ‘more than just a political project’. “The America I see does not wish to turn back to the world or our allies,“ he told the audience and pledged: “I promise you (…) we will be back. Don’t have any doubt about that.” Translation: Trump could be a hiccup in the American political system, he is not here to stay forever.
It will take time to heal the cracks, for sure. But on the other side, academic, scientific and cultural exchange is at the highest level ever. It is the political level that needs mending.
The Atlantic bond between the US and Europe may be strained, but it is not broken.
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Lawmakers in the European Parliament’s environment committee have voted for a reduction in subsidies going to intensive farming under the common agricultural policy as of 2021.
Look out for….
EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini meets US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi in Brussels; EU Council President Donald Tusk travels to Ukraine for five years anniversary of the Maidan revolution.
Views are the author’s
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]