By: Laetitia Garriott de Cayeux, security fellow of the Truman National Security Project.
Transatlantic relations are at their lowest point since the end of the Cold War. A Biden victory could provide a much-needed reset in three important ways.
The transatlantic relationship could return to being a pillar of European security.
For over 70 years, each American President has understood the importance of European security as a foundation for stability and prosperity for the United States until President Trump took office almost four years ago. Early in his term, his public comments gave rise to doubts about future US commitments to NATO, including Article 5 and its “collective defense” — the cornerstone of Europe’s defense. In sharp contrast, Joe Biden has consistently reaffirmed his commitment to NATO as Vice-President, and his four words at the 2019 Munich Security conference, the world’s preeminent gathering of national security leaders, were: “We will be back.”
A Biden administration would restore U.S. leadership of a strong NATO alliance, work with European allies to draft a new strategic concept for NATO that shores up deterrence against Russian aggression, revitalizes the transatlantic community of free and secure democracies, and puts disruptive technologies like artificial intelligence front and center.
A Biden administration would review Trump’s controversial decision to withdraw 12,000 troops from Germany. He would also continue to support the European Deterrence Initiative which the Obama-Biden administration started in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to fund the deployment of U.S. and NATO troops to the Baltic States. Trump has radically reduced this funding, thereby degrading the mission-readiness of U.S. forces in Europe, and undermining U.S. security.
As we look beyond European borders, the Biden administration would support drawing down troops in the Middle East. It would favor an approach of selective engagement in the Middle East and North Africa to keep ISIS from recapturing territory in Iraq and Syria and defeat its ability to threaten the U.S and our European allies.
The transatlantic relationship could also return to playing a role in preserving the liberal international order.
Given Joe Biden’s focus on an ambitious domestic agenda, a U.S.-EU trade agreement is unlikely, at least in the first year or two. A Biden administration would, however, work to address agricultural trade imbalances with Europe. And it would also end President Trump’s “artificial trade war” against Europe which has cost US jobs, increased costs for US consumers, and worsened transatlantic economic relations. A Biden administration could also work with the EU to lead a coalition to reform the World Trade Organization (WTO) which President Trump has weakened and threatened to withdraw from.
This effort to work with European allies to promote common global objectives would extend beyond a rules-based trading system, to include global issues such as arms control, climate change, public health, development, human rights, and technology. For example, while Trump broke with European allies over his decision to exit the Iran nuclear deal, a Biden administration would look to return to a joint approach toward Iran. If Iran moved back into compliance with its nuclear obligations, a Biden administration would re-enter the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and work with our allies in Europe and other world powers to extend the deal’s nuclear constraints. A Biden administration would also rejoin the Paris Climate Accord and the World Health Organization from which the U.S. withdrew under President Trump.
At a time when the transatlantic relationship’s support for the liberal world order came to a halt with the advent of the Trump’s “America first” and isolationist approach, a Biden administration would also partner with Europe to defend the multilateral organizations that constitute it, including NATO, the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the International Monetary Fund, the WTO, the World Bank, and the OECD.
The transatlantic relationship could ultimately help address the China challenge, the rising role of technology in geopolitics, and ensure the future of democracy itself.
Ensuring the liberal international order continues to prevail as China’s power grows would be a strong focus for Joe Biden. The Biden administration would look to promote an integrated transatlantic strategy encompassing technology, trade, and security, and built around shared democratic values, which is a pillar of Joe Biden’s approach to foreign policy. In his first year in office, the Biden administration would host a global Summit for Democracy. Under these new auspices, the transatlantic relationship could become an asset to help push back against China’s subsidies of its state-owned enterprises, forced technology transfer policies, intellectual property theft, and artificial intelligence in the service of the state, and to promote human rights.
Joe Biden would also recognize that technology will be the platform upon which the geopolitics of the 21st Century will play out. He would look to work with our democratic allies from Europe and Asia to leverage diplomacy and development finance, to address the foundational challenge posed by China’s increasing influence over digital infrastructure through the Belt & Road Initiative and beyond. These democracies would work together to provide countries and individuals with an alternative based on shared democratic values to China’s Orwellian system of surveillance and censorship.
In short, the transatlantic partnership revival from a Biden victory would be a cornerstone of ensuring nothing less than the survival of democracy itself.
Laetitia Garriott de Cayeux is a technology entrepreneur and investor, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Economic Club of New-York, and a security fellow of the Truman National Security Project.