Us-europe re­la­tions strug­gle as uni­lat­er­al­ist diplomacy thwarts progress

Global Times US Edition - - FORUM - By Sun Cheng­hao Page Edi­tor: wang­wen­[email protected]­al­times.com.cn

Us-europe re­la­tions have taken an­other turn for the worse. Kim Dar­roch re­signed on July 10 as the British am­bas­sador to the US, be­cause of leaked doc­u­ments in which he said US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and his ad­min­is­tra­tion are “in­ept” and “dys­func­tional.” On the same day, Wash­ing­ton an­nounced it would launch a Sec­tion 301 in­ves­ti­ga­tion into France’s dig­i­tal tax ser­vice.

Since Trump took of­fice, a con­stant rift be­tween the US and Europe on spe­cific is­sues re­main ev­i­dent, af­fect­ing the foun­da­tion of their al­liance. Europe wor­ried about not only be­ing aban­doned by the US but also be­ing drawn into con­flicts it can­not af­ford.

Within the con­text of Us-europe ties, a new dilemma is not lim­ited to Europe’s fear of be­ing in­volved in Us-led skir­mishes, but is em­bod­ied in four pairs of con­tra­dic­tions, namely the col­li­sions be­tween “Amer­ica First” and “Euro­pean in­te­gra­tion,” swing­ing sen­ti­ment be­tween se­cu­rity re­liance and strate­gic in­de­pen­dence, the dilemma be­tween com­peti­tors and eco­nomic part­ners, and ri­valry over uni­lat­er­al­ism and mul­ti­lat­er­al­ism.

Dif­fer­ent from the 2003 Iraq in­va­sion, what Europe is wor­ried about has noth­ing to do with the US abus­ing re­gional hege­mony, but the con­tra­dic­tions that arise from ego­ism. Since the end of World War II, the US has ad­vo­cated Euro­pean in­te­gra­tion.

The US needs a stable, demo­cratic, and pros­per­ous Europe as an an­chor for Us-led in­ter­na­tional or­der. Wash­ing­ton’s sup­port for Euro­pean in­te­gra­tion guar­an­tees transat­lantic sta­bil­ity. How­ever, the con­sen­sus is en­coun­ter­ing chal­lenges on both sides.

With­out tak­ing into ac­count Europe’s ideas and history, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion un­der­stands Euro­pean in­te­gra­tion merely from the per­spec­tive of eco­nomic ben­e­fit. It does not like the EU’S low ef­fi­ciency, and thinks the EU was formed to beat the US on trade and is a ve­hi­cle for Ger­many. Trump up­holds Brexit and in­di­rectly en­cour­ages Euro­pean pop­ulists, which con­tra­dicts Europe that re­mains con­nected to free trade and glob­al­iza­tion.

In the se­cu­rity do­main, NATO is the core of transat­lantic re­la­tions and the most im­por­tant link in the US-EU al­liance. Europe de­pends on NATO. Wash­ing­ton has in­creased in­vest­ments in Euro­pean se­cu­rity through its sup­port of the Euro­pean De­ter­rence Ini­tia­tive and deep­en­ing mil­i­tary co­op­er­a­tion with Cen­tral and Eastern Euro­pean coun­tries, like Poland.

How­ever, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion re­peat­edly links se­cu­rity with the econ­omy, pres­sur­ing Euro­pean al­lies to boost NATO mil­i­tary spend­ing. Europe has en­hanced its ne­ces­sity for strate­gic in­de­pen­dence and taken ac­tions such as launch­ing the Per­ma­nent Struc­tured Co­op­er­a­tion and es­tab­lish­ing the Euro­pean De­fense Fund.

How­ever, it will be chal­leng­ing for Europe to avoid US over­re­ac­tion and main­tain al­liances.

In the sphere of econ­omy and trade, the US has uti­lized ro­bust diplomacy to achieve Euro­pean con­ces­sions, re­peat­edly pil­ing up pres­sure through new tar­iffs. Mean­while, Europe is re­luc­tant to dam­age co­op­er­a­tion ef­forts with China and Rus­sia. Wash­ing­ton hopes Europe will make ef­forts in geopol­i­tics by sup­press­ing both Bei­jing and Moscow, while Europe is not will­ing to get in­volved in the com­pe­ti­tion be­tween great pow­ers.

With mul­ti­lat­eral diplomacy and global gov­er­nance, US uni­lat­er­al­ism and Euro­pean mul­ti­lat­er­al­ism is tit-for­tat. Wash­ing­ton has dis­re­garded the in­ter­ests of Europe, declar­ing to quit the Ira­nian nu­clear deal and threat­en­ing to im­pose sanc­tions on Euro­pean firms that trade with Iran.

Europe doesn’t want the Iran nu­clear deal to col­lapse, nor does it in­tend to blame Wash­ing­ton. Si­lent re­sent­ment best de­scribes the con­di­tion of Useu­rope ties. Fur­ther­more, Europe and the US have a re­mark­able di­ver­gence on global gov­er­nance is­sues such as cli­mate change.

Al­though Europe and the US still be­lieve that the ben­e­fits of their al­liance out­weigh the draw­backs, the com­mon threat that once un­tied them no longer ex­ists, and their shared ben­e­fits and val­ues have since changed. If Europe and the US fail to ac­com­mo­date one an­other, their re­la­tion­ship could di­min­ish fur­ther. The au­thor is an as­sis­tant re­search fel­low with the In­sti­tute of Amer­i­can Stud­ies of the China In­sti­tutes of Con­tem­po­rary In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions. opin­[email protected] glob­al­times.com.cn

Il­lus­tra­tion: Liu RUI/GT

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