US President Joe Biden visits Europe. It is time to renew the alliance between the EU and the US. This is the only way for the West to master the challenges of China and Russia, says the German government’s transatlantic coordinator, Peter Beyer.
Joe Biden’s first trip abroad as US President has begun. In Cornwall, England, the G7 summit is due from Friday, then it goes on to Brussels to NATO and talks with the European Union. This is followed by a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva.
For us Europeans it is important to use this visit: We have to get out of the transatlantic sleeping car mode – and take a first step towards a powerful deepening of the alliance between the European Union and the United States on an equal footing.
Democracies are under pressure
Why is such an alliance of strength – what I call a New West – necessary? We live in Western and Central Europe and especially in Germany in a world of relative prosperity, peace and democratic liberalism. But this state is not a law of nature. We forget that too often.
Western democracies are under pressure. Internally, populist and nationalist forces are fighting against our cosmopolitan values. And the challenges are pouring in on us from outside: two powerful system rivals China and Russia, pandemic and migration, terrorism and failed states near Europe, especially in the Middle East and North Africa.
In addition, we have to bring climate protection and business together and put digitalization at the service of people in the long term – artificial intelligence and algorithms will determine our lives to a degree that we cannot yet imagine. The next months and years will be crucial in forging a new transatlantic alliance of strength. I outline what we should now get off the ground in the following five points.
Transatlantic Coordinator Peter Beyer (CDU) (Source: Frank Nürnberger)
Peter Beyer is the transatlantic coordinator of the federal government and CDU member of the Bundestag
First: We have to set up a transatlantic positive agenda. Our partnership is dominated too much by problems, such as Nord Stream 2. A cooperation in the fields of digitization and climate protection would be ideal. Close cooperation with Silicon Valley could help us reduce backlogs in the tech area. Politicians should support this cooperation with a generous state fund for start-ups in Germany and with a radical reduction in overregulation.
In this way, we would also inspire the younger generation for the transatlantic partnership. The collaboration between the German pharmaceutical company Biontech and the US group Pfizer to develop a corona vaccine is an inspiring example of what Europe and North America can achieve together.
Secondly: Europe and the USA need a common China strategy. The motto could be: cooperation where possible, confrontation where necessary. Beijing becomes more aggressive the stronger it gets economically. Xi Jinping, President for Life, wants to make the Middle Kingdom the economic, military and digital number 1. Inwardly, Xi acts with unbroken severity: Democracy is being abolished in Hong Kong, the Uyghurs are brutally suppressed, and their own citizens are digitally monitored almost completely.
The Chinese have hardly any allies, but we do: A close alliance with the democracies in the Indo-Pacific region, especially with Australia, Japan, India and South Korea, would give us more strategic leeway. At the same time, it is important to persuade Beijing to achieve full reciprocity and fair market access through the World Trade Organization (WTO). The WTO system is currently being abused by the Communist Party’s state capitalism. This will have to result in severe sanctions in the future.
Third: We also need a clear line in dealing with Russia. The basis for this is there: in Joe Biden, Russian President Vladimir Putin has a more serious opponent than in Donald Trump. At the summit in Geneva, Biden will again make it clear to the Kremlin chief that the US will defend itself and its allies.
Berlin is interested in a good relationship with Moscow, but after the intense cyber attacks, the illegal annexation of Crimea, the poisoning of Alexej Navalny and Sergej and Julia Skripal, the murder in Berlin’s Tiergarten commissioned by the Kremlin and the shooting down of the plane MH17 over the Ukraine with almost 300 deaths, we also have to find a clear language. Parts of the SPD (not to mention the AfD and the Left) are still in the Russia understanding mode. Moscow is also acting geopolitically unabashedly in Syria and Libya. We must not let the Kremlin get away with more military actions of this kind in the future.
Fourth: We need to strengthen transatlantic trade. It is necessary to dismantle all obstacles such as punitive tariffs and sanctions. The second step is to initiate a large, ambitious free trade agreement between the EU and the USA. Such an agreement would guarantee growth and jobs on both sides of the Atlantic. In contrast to TTIP, however, we should not negotiate the agreement as a whole, but rather quickly unite the chapters and then bring them into force. In this way, we also increase public acceptance.
At this point I appeal for the rapid ratification of the European-Canadian free trade agreement Ceta. This has been applied provisionally so far, and the first successes are already visible. In general, the more intensive Europe and North America trade, the more robust the West will be against China. Biden’s infrastructure plans, for which he wants to spend a lot of money, are also a good opportunity for German medium-sized companies – for example in the energy sector. In order not to block this restart for the economy, which is so important in the pandemic, we should – wherever responsible – work quickly to normalize the Corona travel restrictions between the USA and the Schengen area to some extent.
Fifth: Without security there is no prosperity – and also no democracy. The EU must finally learn to act strategically, i.e. to find a balance between values and interests. This also means that, if necessary, we intervene on the periphery of our continent, especially in the eastern and southern Mediterranean region. However, it does not help to dream of European autonomy. Rather, we should build European defense as a second pillar alongside NATO and also coordinate operations near Europe closely with Washington.
As far as NATO’s two percent target is concerned, Germany is on the right track. We shouldn’t leave this place even after the general election. More money for the Bundeswehr is not an end in itself – we owe these investments to our allies and our soldiers.
So my conclusion is: Together, Europe and North America are very strong. If we do not exploit this advantage in the next few years, we will bitterly regret it economically, ecologically and in terms of security. So let’s approach each other – and make the transatlantic partnership fit for the 21st century.
The views expressed in the guest post reflect the opinion of the authors and do not necessarily correspond to those of the t-online editors.