Since the U.S. elections, there have been optimistic analyses about the future of trans-Atlantic relations. Leaders of the European Union were among the first to call President-elect Joe Biden to congratulate him on his victory. They expressed hope of reviving the partnership between allies on opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s term in office was considered by many of these leaders as one of the most destructive periods of trans-Atlantic relations. Of course, the skepticism toward the U.S. and questioning of its reliability did not start in Europe during the Trump presidency.
The discord between the U.S. and European countries before and during the Iraq War led to one of the most critical crises in their relations. Former U.S. President George W. Bush’s administration divided Europe in two, namely “old Europe” and “new Europe,” during its push for the war.
Barack Obama’s presidency was welcomed by European leaders; however, soon after, the unilateralism of the Obama administration generated a new set of questions among the Europeans about the future of their relations.
Later when Trump came into office, his attitude toward NATO as an organization and rather sour relations between the U.S. and some of the countries in Europe made many analysts speculate about the end of these special relations.
Biden’s election will likely create a honeymoon in relations in terms of messages and rhetoric. Biden’s promises and the Democratic Party’s foreign policy platform foretell an improvement in economic and strategic relations between the EU and the U.S.
Members of his foreign policy and national security teams are also known to be sensitive about the protection and development of these relations.
The first phone calls that Biden started to return after his election were congratulatory messages and calls from European leaders.
The EU demonstrated its readiness to pursue this trans-Atlantic agenda by taking a proactive stance and putting forward a proposal to repair and revise the relations. The proposal states that “with a change of administration in the U.S., a more assertive Europe and the need to design a post-corona world, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to design a new trans-Atlantic agenda for global cooperation – based on our common values, interests and global influence. This should be the linchpin of a new global alliance of like-minded partners.”
The report provides three guiding principles of this new partnership: providing a solid base for stronger multilateral action and institutions, pursuing common interests and leveraging collective strength to deliver results on their strategic priorities, and respecting the common values of fairness, openness and competition – including where there are bilateral differences.
In the meantime, NATO also released its own recommendations to strengthen the alliance. A group of experts, also known as the “Reflection Group,” appointed by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, suggested some major policy initiatives and reforms within NATO, including “strengthening NATO’s role, cohesion and consultation” and “strengthening NATO’s political role and tools with regard to emerging threats and challenges.”
It is clear that these missions and recommendations also necessitated closer policy coordination and cooperation in trans-Atlantic relations.
The new administration seems invested in the relations with Europe, but it is not clear if this will bring about long-term results or fizzle away just like the optimism during the Obama administration.
However, it is crucial to remember that Turkey will be one of the key actors in this process. In critical periods of the previous century, Turkey demonstrated the importance of the trans-Atlantic relations in standing against common threats and attaining common interests.
Trans-Atlantic relations need Turkey in order to gain a strategic advantage and geopolitical relevance in one of the most critical regions of the world.
The security of the alliance, human security in the Middle East and energy security do and will continue to depend on Turkey.
Without Turkey, it would be difficult for the Biden administration and European governments to achieve the aforementioned goals.
[Daily Sabah, December 12, 2020]