Within days of Joe Biden’s inauguration as the 46th president of the United States, America’s European allies are preparing for the new administration. For European leaders, Biden’s return to the White House, which he left four years ago as Barack Obama’s vice president, along with familiar faces in key foreign and security positions, is reassuring.
And it is even more so in the wake of last week’s violence against Congress by agitators supporting the president of the United States, Donald Trump, focused on deep-state conspiracy theories, who sought to reverse the result of the victory of Biden in the presidential election. It is an assault that has left the Europeans as disoriented and shocked as the Americans.
Europa: Biden-Harris Celebration
Reactions to the Biden-Harris binomial from Europe. From London reports the correspondent of the Voice of America, Sabina Castelfranco.
At a security conference two years ago in Munich, European leaders were tugging at Biden’s sleeves on the sidelines of the meeting, urging him to run for office. After enduring a loud and harsh “America First” speech from US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Biden, now seen as the most pro-Atlantic president since George HW Bush, joked in his speech: “This too will pass. We will be back.”
Biden and his team of top advisers, his nominee for U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken, and his choices for top positions in the CIA and the National Security Council, including Jake Sullivan and Amanda Sloat, are well-known figures across the Atlantic, having served in the Obama administration. Sloat, a former senior State Department official, will head the NSC’s European office. “Amanda is a great professional who knows Europe well,” says David O’Sullivan, a retired Irish diplomat and former EU envoy in Washington.
Lawmakers on both sides of the Atlantic are now determined to repair deteriorating relations and stabilize democracies shaken by unprecedented domestic political turmoil and challenged by authoritarian powers. There will be a swift agreement on a variety of issues with Brussels and Washington eager for close collaboration, according to analysts. Biden has already pledged to rejoin the Paris climate accord and says he will reverse Trump’s decision to withdraw from the World Health Organization.
Washington and Brussels are likely to move quickly to shape an initiative on how the moribund World Trade Organization can be reformed and how rules-based multilateral global governance can be strengthened, analysts say. They are also waiting for an offer to resolve trade disputes. Last month, the European Commission called on the United States and the EU to “work closely together to resolve the irritants of bilateral trade.” There is some hope in Brussels that Biden will lift the Trump-era tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from the EU.
That could pave the way for resolving a long-standing dispute over subsidies to jet makers Boeing and Airbus. The EC also presented a wish list for cooperation, including on the pandemic, climate change, technology, security and defense. The list was designed to show how well Europe is in tune with some of Biden’s priorities. However, it was also an early launch of the EU positions where there are differences, preparing for negotiations.
Furthermore, individual European countries have been courting the new administration. Biden has said he wants to convene a world summit of democracies to forge common goals that serve the cause of freedom and unite democracies to counter authoritarian alternatives. Victoria Nuland, a veteran diplomat slated for a senior post at the State Department, recently said: “It’s time to stand up and defend her. [la democracia]”.
He added: “We have problems not only dealing with autocracies… we have repeat offender countries around the world that may have elections, but they are not behaving like democracies in terms of protecting the free press and free judiciary and defending the state of law. And we have problems within our own societies. ”
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Saturday: “We are ready to work with the United States on a joint Marshall Plan for democracy,” referring to the American campaign launched in 1948 to rebuild 18 devastated Western European nations. for the war. Maas said that “there were no better, closer and more natural partners in the 21st century than the United States and Europe.”
Europe hopes to reach an agreement with Biden on tax to digital companies
This is an old European intention: to impose a tax on the big American digital firms that operate in France. The Trump administration opposed such a tax and in June withdrew from negotiations due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Europeans hope to reach an agreement with a Biden administration.
Britain is also increasing its outreach to Washington with four high-level cabinet ministers scheduled to visit the US capital in the coming weeks. With his sights set on the possibility of Biden defeating Trump, Prime Minister Boris Johnson began advocating in June for the establishment of a D-10 group of leading democracies.
Last week, Johnson appointed a cabinet minister to take charge of the COP26 climate change summit, which Britain will host in November in Glasgow. The appointment came after Biden’s advisers warned London that it needed to speed up preparations for the summit or risk the new administration not taking it seriously.
The Johnson administration was quick to describe how well aligned it is with many of Biden’s key priorities, including strengthening NATO, especially in cybersecurity. It is also boosting its own defense spending. And it backed off last month from breaching parts of a year-old Brexit withdrawal agreement. That could have resulted in the establishment of border posts on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, a violation of the US-brokered Good Friday Peace Agreement.
Both moves were “responses to Biden’s victory,” says Lisa Nandy, a foreign affairs spokeswoman for the British Labor Party. She told the VOA: “It has been made very clear, not just by Biden, but by the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, and other high-ranking Democrats, that Britain needs to start repairing relations. with the EU. Britain has a lot of work to do to show that we are still relevant after Brexit. ”
While there is much to bring the two continents together, a simple return to how things were before Donald Trump’s presidency is unlikely, analysts and lawmakers agree. Major adjustments will have to be made due to domestic political developments in both the United States and Europe, and due to geopolitical changes.
Since Biden was last in the White House, China has become even more assertive and the Kremlin has amended the Russian constitution, paving the way for Vladimir Putin to remain in power in Moscow for the foreseeable future. Both China and Russia have been accused of waging a hybrid war against the West in an attempt to undo Western democracies by meddling in democratic elections, launching invisible cyberattacks against the United States and Europe, and conducting online disinformation campaigns.
As Americans and Europeans trade their to-do lists, they say there are many crossovers, but they also admit differences.
“Many commentators focus on how America has changed under Donald Trump. But Europe has also changed, ”says Hans Kundnani of Chatham House in Great Britain. He cites the growing debate in Europe about the development of the bloc of “strategic autonomy” with the aim of increasing the self-reliance and independence of the EU at a time of increasing geopolitical competition between the United States and China.
Biden’s advisers say they don’t fear a more autonomous Europe, saying that a marriage is strengthened when both partners are strong, as long as they don’t start going their separate ways.
But the EU’s ambitions to become a bigger global player are likely to expose some friction, especially when it comes to handling China. Kundnani says Europe is likely to get angry at Washington’s efforts to align the EU with the United States on China. He predicts there will be resistance to efforts for Europe to decouple from China and take the geopolitical and security implications of European companies trading with Beijing more seriously. “I’m thinking here particularly of Germany,” says Kundnani.
Biden wants a “united front” when it comes to China to increase influence over Beijing. But to the disappointment of Biden’s advisers, the EU last month struck an investment deal with Beijing, which on paper appears to open China to more European investment covered with fewer barriers.
Days before the deal was sealed, Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, urged Europeans to delay the deal, calling in a tweet “for early consultation with our European partners on our common concerns about the economic practices of China”.
Critics on both sides of the Atlantic say the deal will give China preferential access to European markets as Beijing continues to clamp down on Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement and maintain detention centers in Xinjiang province, where China’s communist government has interned. to more than a million Uyghurs, a Muslim ethnic group, according to rights groups.
Even before Trump was elected, there was a bipartisan consensus in Washington that Europe must take more responsibility for its own security, but several countries have been lingering. Biden will continue to push, his aides say, for an equitable distribution of the burden, but he will not engage in the episodic questioning of the very value of the transatlantic defense pact that President Trump made in tough meetings with European leaders. Europe’s slowness in rebalancing NATO may continue to be a source of transatlantic tension, experts say.
NATO aside, Biden has very ambitious foreign policy goals, which can stretch the EU’s ability to move fast and secure agreement among its 27 members.
“It will take a lot of tissue and a lot of coordination to deal with the many things that lie ahead of us, from healthcare to the economy and China and technology, all these kinds of things,” Nuland warned at a research group event last month. . He said the United States will hug Europe tightly, adding: “Maybe too tightly, so we’ll have to see how that goes.”