President-elect Joe Biden has promised to mend strained relations between Europe and the United States, but he faces a difficult task. The strife between the European Union and the United States grew before President Donald Trump took office and will not go away when he leaves. Real leadership is needed to create a new base for trans-Atlantic cooperation, especially since Britain is no longer a helping member of the EU.
Repairing relations at the level of mutual communication and friendly words will not be difficult. But that won’t be a problem in discussing the reasons behind the split between the European Union and the United States.
Germany, the leading country in the EU, and the United States have fundamental differences in defense and relations with Russia and China, issues that touch the heart of the Atlantic alliance. This divergent view was evident during the Obama administration and has only developed over the past four years.
For example, Germany has continued to work on Russia’s new Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline despite objections from the United States and even Germany’s EU neighbors closer to the Russian border, who fear Berlin will make it easier for Russia to control the critical path. energy supply to Europe.
As a result, says George Mason University author Colin Dueck, Germany’s energy goals “hinge on Putin’s rule in Russia.”
The EU recently concluded a trade agreement with China, largely at Germany’s insistence, which was carried out without consulting other trading partners, including Biden’s upcoming team. The trade pact is seen as dangerous to US interests in stopping China’s predatory trading practices.
Germany’s desire to find an independent foreign policy in which it can maneuver between the United States on the one hand and Russia and China on the other goes back to the end of the 20th century.
On the plus side, Germany has increased its defense spending significantly, along with our other European allies and Canada. However, it still lags behind NATO guidelines that set 2% of GDP as a target for NATO defense spending. In taking a more tolerant approach to the Russian threat, Germany has downplayed the security needs of Eastern European NATO members.
Britain’s exit from the EU will complicate security dialogue with Germany; Britain is a moderate voice in EU discussions. France remains closer to Britain than to Germany about the need for strong defense, and Biden should encourage dialogue between London and Paris on security issues.
The concerns of Poland and other Eastern European members of NATO and the EU mean that the United States will still have an important voice in European security, something Germany appears to want to continue. Progress in NATO defense spending in recent years provides Biden with something to build on in strengthening Atlantic security.
On the economic front, the EU tariff barriers imposed by Germany hurt US exports, particularly cars. This has been a long-term problem that shows no signs of abating.
The third area where Mr. Biden should try to make progress is in creating an Atlantic free trade area with no or very low tariffs.
In short, he must do everything possible to strengthen trans-Atlantic security, trade and political relations. Given Germany’s desire to develop markets in Russia, China and Iran – other areas with different US-EU objectives – it will not be an easy road.