How Biden Can Improve European Relations While Shifting To Asia


Joe Biden in 2012, while serving as vice president, toasted Chinese President Xi during a state luncheon at the State Department. Credit: US Department of State. Accessible via Flickr.

In September, France recalled its ambassador to the United States for the first time in the alliance’s 243-year history. The wrath of Paris arose from the loss of a $ 70 billion contract, abruptly canceled by a competing agreement known as AUKUS. The deal brings together the United States and the United Kingdom to provide Australia with a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines. These are intended, in part, to counter growing threats from China. In the wake of the fiasco, President Joe Biden rushed to repair diplomatic relations with America’s foremost ally. Despite the United States apologies, France wants more. “Trust is like love“French President Emmanuel Macron told reporters.” Statements are good, but proof is better. “

France’s concern should serve as a warning to the Biden administration. The focus of the United States on East Asia continues to disrupt relations between Washington and its European allies. In shifting its strategic priorities to the Pacific, the United States cannot succeed alone. Integrating allies and partners, including those from Europe, into the planning, negotiation and implementation stages of its efforts to manage threats from China will be essential. The effort should also pay off. By restoring and reinvigorating damaged European alliances, the United States will be in a better position to manage threats in East Asia and elsewhere.

Emerging Fractures in American-European Partnerships. As the Taliban captured Kabul and US embassy staff rushed to the airport for evacuation last August, US allies around the world watched in dismay. The failed U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan has raised critical questions among members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) about whether reliance on U.S. policy making does hadn’t been too hesitant. United Kingdom, Germany, France and Italy complained on exclusion from the planning process and lamented the failed exit.

“We Europeans have become intoxicated to American leadership, ”said former NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.

“Did we just think we had to follow the United States and on a wing and a prayer, would everything be fine? asked former British Prime Minister Theresa May.

Commentators linked withdrawal to Biden’s goals in East Asia, and rightly so. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in April that a US withdrawal would be important to free up resources for “other very important items on our agenda, including relations with China. “Biden’s White House has focused heavily on East Asia, even recently opening a new CIA mission center to counter threats from Beijing.

The United States strongly pushed NATO to refocus its attention on China, a move that only added to growing concerns in Europe. Many Western allies of the United States see China as a secondary priority if not a distraction more pressing issues, like the threat from Russia, which are closer to us.

Germany and France have “stopped short to call China an adversary. Although NATO has officially declared China “global security challengeManagement sent mixed messages. In a recent interview, NATO Secretary General Jens Stolenberg stressed that NATO “does not see China as a adversary or foe. “Stolenberg stressed the need to”engage politically with China, ”even responding to the country’s maritime assertiveness and continued investments in disruptive technologies such as advanced weapon systems.

The U.S. focus on China is controversial, in part because it comes at a time when NATO-Russia relations are severely tense. NATO members in Eastern Europe do not want China to “overshadow” concerns about Russia. Several Eastern European states quarreled additional American forces – but without much success. Poland even proposed, in 2018, to name a military base named after President Donald Trump.

Now NATO waits for the US Global Posture Review, which will provide advice on how best to allocate US military resources in the future. The review will be closely scrutinized. If it realigns US military resources to East Asia, the cracks within NATO could continue to widen.

Restore trust and reduce threats. Can the United States meet the security challenges emanating from China while rebuilding its support in Europe? Yes, if it doesn’t work out on its own. The United States should better integrate European allies in foreign policy planning. Not only would this strengthen key U.S. alliances, but it could also help address acute global security challenges, such as those involving Russia and China.

Collaboration could be the key to engage Russia on arms control and reopening of the dialogue through the NATO-Russia Council. These measures could restore the balance at a time when the NATO-Russia relationship “has not been more difficult since the end of the cold war“, According to Stoltenberg. The United States strong and continuous NATO commitment should help. The American public widely supports the United States’ guarantee of nuclear security in NATO, even if cracks in European support have emerged. The United States could also reassure NATO allies that they will not be drawn into ill-advised conflicts in the Pacific.

Reassurance should not prevent US-European cooperation on threats posed by China. The Biden administration listed China as its main global threat-and for good reason. Chinese planes fly over Taiwan, as Chinese navy steps up efforts to control the passage of foreign ships by the South China Sea. China has taken a comprehensive approach to nuclear modernization that includes the construction of new missile silos and the recent hypersonic missile tests. These threats are pressing and mitigation efforts are faltering. At a recent virtual summit between Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, Biden asked, “some common sense guardrails. The talks, however, were concluded after little progress. The leaders could not even agree on a joint statement and no plans to continue the talks on strategic stability, like those promised after the US-Russian summit in June — were announced. Yet the Biden administration must find a way to ease tensions with China and help East Asian allies navigate peacefully their own relations with China.

There is good news: Revitalized US-European alliances could help improve the security environment in East Asia. The United States and its European partners could push China to sit on arms control next time Non-proliferation treaty review conference. The United States could deepen its collaboration to make progress with China on major global challenges involving climate change, Trade, and emerging technologies. These policies require strong multilateral cooperation to be successful.

European participation in the US security agenda for East Asia could also help repair the transatlantic partnership. By expanding consultations and cultivating transparency, the United States could improve its relations with France and other European allies, finally offering Macron his “proof” of American reliability.

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