The US Department of Defense is playing a predominant role in US foreign policy due to expanded mandates, large budgets and the disparagement of diplomacy by the Trump Administration. Defense relations may be the steadier foundation for transatlantic cooperation.
Headlines are rife with stories about political turmoil in transatlantic relations, and bitter disputes over trade and defence spending. Yet for the US Intelligence Community, ties with transatlantic partners have remained insulated against political differences. History shows that intelligence relationships follow their own logic.
In July 2018, the Council on Foreign Relations’ Center for Preventive Action convened a workshop to examine areas of cooperation between the United States and the European Union. The workshop was made possible by the generous support of the Carnegie Corporation of New York. The views described here are those of the workshop participants only and are not CFR or Carnegie Corporation positions. The Council on Foreign Relations takes no institutional positions on policy issues and has no affiliation with the U.S. government.
On May 17, when NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg met with President Donald Trump at the White House, part of Stoltenberg’s agenda was to insulate NATO from the political winds whipping through the transatlantic relationship. It’s too early to tell if he succeeded, but it is now entirely possible that when the United States and its allies meet at the NATO Summit in Brussels in July, transatlantic relations will be at their lowest ebb since the 2003 Iraq War. Will the NATO alliance, buffeted by disputes not directly related to its mission, feel the chill of this deep freeze in transatlantic political relations, or be insulated from it?
The launching of the EU-US trade and investment agreement negotiations could be the best news coming out of the West for a very long time. If there is something for which the EU leaders will wait anxiously in President Obama‘s State of the Union address in early February, it is a green light for the process to begin. Given the depth of the eurozone crisis, the widespread understanding has been that it is the US who will be giving Europe a much-needed boost of confidence and morale. In reality, however, President Obama has higher political and economic stakes in getting the round started. It is not without a reason that his economic policy advisor speaks of sealing the deal on „one tank of gas“.
An important reason is that the US trade policy is in tatters and urgently needs to be revived in the current presidential term. The domestic political consensus has moved anti-trade almost to the point of no-return. The Democrats are ready to crucify anybody who says trade is good for the country. The Republicans are more open but in their perception there are free riders such as China who are abusing the system and need to be punished. Hence the threat of naming China a currency manipulator which was key part of Mitt Romney’s armoury in the presidentials.