Biden’s victory in the American elections will surely bring a series of changes. A wind of renewal is ready to blow not only on US domestic policy but also on foreign one.
Trump’s isolationist policy created several tensions, in particular, between the USA and its traditional allies. And among these are undoubtedly the European countries, with which the relationship came down to the historical lows in the last four years.
But the forty-sixth President is ready to change the route. During the election campaign, Biden said that “America first made the country more alone” and that it’s necessary to “restore American leadership”.
Donald Trump’s heritage
This, however, promises a mission much more complicated than expected. The previous President, with his reckless and inconsistent moves, cracked relations with many of the traditionally friendly countries. Surely the members of OTAN didn’t appreciate the approach of Trump to characters like Kim Jong-Un, Putin, Bolsonaro and Erdogan.
Transatlantic relations started to wear out long before the advent of Trump. In recent decades, almost all American Presidents have complained that European countries spend too little on their armies, and are therefore not reliable allies. Even Obama, who tried to improve relations with Europe, later shifted his focus from the USA-Europe axis to a USA-Asia axis.
Indeed though the four years of Trump’s government worsened the situation further. No President of USA since World War II showed such contents for European leaders and questioned the commitment to OTAN.
During his mandate, the tycoon supported populist and eurosceptic leaders and movements, and openly advocated Brexit.
In 2018 Trump even called the European Union a commercial “enemy”. He included it among the targets of the sanctions introduced by the White House on steel and aluminium imports.
Joe Biden’s plans
Donald Trump’s legacy, especially in foreign policy, will be challenging to manage for Joe Biden.
One of the priorities of the new democratic President will be to “get the band back together”. During the first months of his mandate, Biden will try to bridge the differences created in recent years with Europe. The issues to work on are climate, multilateralism and relations with sovereign countries. He always argued that the USA needs its allies. For this reason, the EU must remain an indispensable partner in a long list of regional and global challenges.
On the other hand, on several issues, the situation could remain unchanged.
For example, like his predecessor, Biden will try to stop the construction of the pipeline Nordstream2, which will connect Russia to Germany. Then he will insist on the OTAN allies to increase military expenditure and to use their armies in sensitive scenarios.
The new President intends to create a permanent group of democratic countries, among there will be EU members, to oppose populism globally. But before this critical step, he will expect that the European countries decided on which side being, especially in the relationships with Russia and China.
A complicated rapprochement
It’s quite clear, however, that relations between Europe and the USA will improve significantly in the coming years. But it’s useful to remember some things to try to understand how this relationship will evolve.
First of all, we must remember that Biden will above all seek to safeguard American interests in the world. As a result, those who expect an America always ready to support their European friends will inevitably be disappointed.
Another essential fact to keep in mind is that the European region is no longer fundamental in the international scenario. The most important theatres of the geopolitical clash are others, and the American attention will focus on them.
In essence, Europe, whether it is an ally or a rival of the USA, will have to learn to manage on its own.
Even from the European side, there isn’t the desire to resume dialogue with Washington where it stopped four years ago. European leaders learned a fundamental lesson during Trump’s term: in the USA, you can trust, but not entirely.
Despite the initial disorientation due to the sudden change of course of the USA in the last years, the European countries were able to react to this test. Trump’s mandate forced Europeans to a sharp but useful awakening. After 2016, Europe learned that the world created during the Cold War, where the Americans were always ready to run to aid their allies, now no longer existed.
The EU, despite many divisions within itself, began to manage its foreign policy autonomously.
The most likely scenario
In the light of all this, what there will be ahead in the future concerning relations between Europe and the USA? Indeed there is a resumption of cooperation, but certainly, with great caution. Relations between them will be undoubtedly friendly again. But certainly, we will not see again that binding and almost toxic relationship that linked European countries to America in the second half of the XXth century. Europe is learning to walk alone, with the hope that it can move in the right direction.