Editor’s Note: This was excerpted from the March 25 edition of CNN’s Meanwhile in America, the daily email about US politics for global readers. Click here to read past editions and subscribe.
Biden will on Thursday join a virtual summit meeting of EU leaders in the most significant effort yet to heal the trans-Atlantic estrangement caused by Trump’s presidency. Meanwhile asked The Atlantic Council’s Nicholas Dungan in The Hague about Europe’s expectations for the Biden administration and for cooperation in dealing with China’s rise.
Are the Europeans ready to trust Biden when he says “America is back”?
“They want to trust him and they want America back. Europeans also know the US has a lot of work to do to put its own house in order. Biden has recognized, especially in his article in Foreign Affairs, that a strong America abroad requires a strong America at home, with a great deal of catching-up to do. His domestic policy proposals show that.”
Does Europe really believe the Trump era is over — or are there fears that the populist tide could rise again?
“Yes to both. The Trump era is over for four years but Europeans know that more people voted for Trump than any other US presidential candidate ever, except Biden himself. It’s obvious to everyone in policy circles in Europe that America’s divisions are deep and difficult. Biden isn’t doing ‘America First’ but his policy is ‘Americans First.’ That makes total sense. It’s why he was elected. Europeans get that.
“Europeans understand that Biden’s action in the world is going to be inspired as much by national security adviser Jake Sullivan’s ‘foreign policy for the middle class’ as by Secretary of State Tony Blinken’s ‘stronger with allies’ — which aren’t at all incompatible.
“Nothing would make the Europeans happier than a strong, reliable United States as long as it isn’t undermining fundamental European interests.”
That’s where China comes in – there’s been a lot of talk in Washington of enlisting Europe alongside America’s Asian allies in a broad front against Beijing. But the EU’s decision to conclude a trade partnership with China just before Biden took office didn’t go down too well in Washington.
“There is a view in Europe that some people in Washington would be happy to adopt a ‘new Cold War’ mentality because it makes life simpler. But it’s more nuanced than that. The EU policy paper on China — across a spectrum from cooperation partner to strategic adversary — as well as Tony Blinken’s policy statements, show Europe and the US can find common ground: You compete where you need to compete, you hold China accountable where you need to hold them accountable, which is what Biden did the other day, and you cooperate where you should cooperate — not least on climate change.”
What could fracture such a common approach?
“I don’t think there will be a structural divergence between the US and Europe on China. And most issues on which the US and Europe need to agree with China are multilateral, not bilateral. It would have to be an issue-by -issue divergence, which is usually solvable diplomatically.”