I gave a talk at the Bucerius Law School in Hamburg, Germany a few days ago and was impressed with the city and the quality of thinking demonstrated by the students.
While my talk was billed as one in a series looking at transatlantic challenges and America’s relationship with Europe, I focused on the foreign policy impacts of the election, blind spots of this administration — particularly in the economic arena, and pondered whether this administration would be able to proactively avert some of the crises visible ahead — or whether the U.S would be driven more by ad hoc responses to shocks. My comments about transatlantic relations were built around these three principle concerns.
I think that my talk was well-received, at least in the emails I have received from some as follow-ups. However, there was a yearning among some for greater commentary on the transatlantic relationship itself rather than on broader challenges that lie beyond the classic contours of EU-US relations.
I guess I’m one of those who is not overly sentimental about transatlantic relations and don’t try to prop them up for the sake of doing so — but think that strong EU-US relations make sense because of the myriad problems facing Americans and Europeans elsewhere in the world.
America’s blindspot about the current account deficit and generally poor economic policy management will harm European interests; our ability or inability to proceed in a new direction in the Israeli-Palestinian standoff after Arafat’s death is also of paramount European interest; Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapon systems is of major interest to both Europe and the U.S.; China’s emergence as a responsible global power that works collaboratively with other nations is of consequence to Americans and Europeans. I could continue to draw a very long list of challenges that we each face — but there is this demand frequently for navel-gazing at the health or lack thereof of transatlantic relations.
There are lots of folks out there who can provide better material on whether Europe will hold together or fragment, or whether it is in America’s interests to encourage or discourage European cohesion. I’m one who believes that Charles Kupchan is probably right and that European and American interests are incrementally diverging — and that Europe will ultimately spend time and political capital trying to constrain American power rather than to unite in common purpose with it to achieve noble ends.
This will take time though, and within the near to mid-term, Europe and the United States have far greater common problems to work on if they so choose — but few lie within the dynamics of the transatlantic relationship itself and really lie in challenges in the Middle East, in Asia, in global financial and currency policy, with international development policy, and so on.
I refer folks back to Brzezinski’s proposal on revitalizing the transatlantic relationship. He proposes three efforts that can give new purpose to the transatlantic relationship that involve establishing a Palestinian state, internationalizing (and de-Americanizing) troop presence in Iraq, and providing incentives to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
This is the kind of thinking that will pump up the current pathetic stock value of the US-EU relationship. Brzezinski’s plan is but one that does a worthy job of finding important tasks that American and European interests can become co-entangled and converge in common interest again. This kind of effort is probably the right kind of habit to re-learn.
Thanks to the students and faculty at Bucerius Law School, the only private law school in Germany, and particularly to the school CEO, Markus Baumanns and Transatlantic Forum advisor Michael Werz for inviting me.
Thanks also to Emily and Martin for the walking tour of Hamburg.
For those of you who can read German, if you scroll down a bit on this German web magazine, ChangeX, there is an article about think tanks in America and the New America Foundation written by Joerg Hackeschmidt.
— Steve Clemons