Session Summary: The New Transatlantic Agenda: Trumped No More

General John Allen, President, The Brookings Institution  

Jim Lindsay, Senior Vice President, Council on Foreign Relations, Washington, D.C. (virtually) 

Thomas Bagger, Director of Foreign Policy, Office of the Federal President of the Federal Republic of Germany (virtually) 

Bruno Maçães, Non-Resident Fellow, Hudson Institution

Led by: Christine Ockrent, Journalist, France Culture, Paris


The public perception of the US has changed rapidly after the election of Joe Biden as introduced by Mr Wike. He says that Biden represents a different kind of personality than Donald Trump, not being considered dangerous and arrogant. People also welcome the return to multilateralism, however, in Europe, there is still concern about the level of democracy in the US and about the extent to which the US takes into account the interests and opinions of its European partners when conducting its foreign policy. According to Mr Bagger, these concerns are fuelled also by the doubts that something like the Trump administration can repeat. Thus, there is a strong need for Biden to repair the ruined reputation on competence internationally, but he also needs to connect the foreign policy to the domestic one and bring it to the American public, especially the middle class.  

When it comes to EU-US relations, Biden has reaffirmed the alliance, yet he needs to focus more on the strategic development while considering the strategic environment, says Gen. Allen. It is questionable what role the EU will play here. Mr Lindsay reminds us of the commitment of European countries to spend 2% of GDP on defence, which has still not been reached by some of the countries. Moreover, the strengthening of the EU's military and defence capabilities needs to be solved. As opposed to this US scepticism, the EU is sceptical about the effectiveness of the US foreign policy as underlined by Mr Maçães. The EU wants to be part of the debate, but it needs assurance that it will be heard and respected by the US.  

The most pressing issue Biden needs to deal with is China. Despite having a bi-partisan agreement on that in the US, there is a lack of agreement on what Biden has already achieved and whether the declared EU-US commitment will translate into concrete policies and steps. This will definitely be part of the debates between Biden and Merkel, who, as the first European leader, was invited by Biden to the White House.  The recent NATO communique is quite strict about the EU-US position on China, which is not typical for the EU. However, Mr Maçães says that it is rather a matter of language and rhetoric style as the EU policy-making is usually based on rules formulation that needs to be formulated impartially and objectively. He also warns against the narrative that the EU is not united on the China issue as the common position has been already set. Here, China has to be understood not only as a military threat but also in a broader context of economic challenge and challenge to liberal democratic order. That leads us to the most difficult task ahead of the transatlantic relations - to build the democracy of the future.