The Beijing News Recently, the website of War on the Rock published an article “Biden an Europe’s Dilemmas”. The article believes that although Biden’s election has been hailed as a fresh air in Europe, Biden is also interested in repairing relations with the EU and promoting multilateral cooperation.
However, this does not mean that Biden will support European strategic autonomy, which is still in the dilemma of maintaining Atlantic relations and pursuing strategic autonomy.
Two months before the inauguration of the new president of the United States, the European Union put forward a new vision for European-American relations, premised on repairing the seriously damaged multilateral system. The latest NATO 2030 report calls for a more politicized global alliance.
However, in addition to celebration, Biden’s election rekindled the old discussion of strategic autonomy in Europe.
Under Trump’s pressure, Europe has to go its own way.
The author points out that Trump has been publicly and constantly denouncing the European Union and Germany, criticizing NATO, and even threatening to withdraw from NATO; he criticizes Europe for calling China as a “partner of multilateralism” naive and dangerous.
In fact, the Trump administration is trying to ensure that Europe will not actively help China’s technology and economy take off. To this end, Trump officials asked Europeans to cut their relationship with China, especially in key areas such as 5G.
In response, the author believes that European political support for the concept of “strategic autonomy” has increased due to concerns about the reduction of contact with the United States, the deterioration of Trump’s attitude towards Europe and the erosion of the multilateral order.
In addition to security and defense, the discussion of supply chain, data privacy, technology and trade has increasingly become the core of the European strategic autonomy debate, and the EU has begun to support its own industrial policies to help Europe’s technology industry rise.
However, the author emphasizes that the relationship between Europe’s strategic autonomy and stronger transatlantic relations is not clear, and Trump hopes that Europe will increase defense spending at the requirements of the United States, that is, to buy American goods and accept American political and technical leadership.
Europe, on the other hand, insists on ensuring the priority of the European defense industry and gaining greater autonomy in foreign and security policy.
The author analyzes that despite previous pressure from Trump, European officials still define China as a multilateral partner, economic competitor, etc.
This means that Europe does not take a neutral position, but completely rejects the dual framework of Sino-US competition formulated by the United States, believing that a liberal and rules-based order should be established.
This is what Joseph Borrell, the High Representative of the European Union, called Sinatra doctrine – follow your own path, not China or the United States.
Biden’s election, Europe’s “kiss of death”?
The author pointed out that the Biden administration may still adhere to the strategic priority of spending more defense in Europe and keep them in line with the United States on all things related to China, but Biden may adopt a different strategy from Trump.
The authors believe Biden and his team have, at least in words, started the campaign to repair transatlantic relationships. He warned of the danger of Brexit, talked about the need to revive the European-American partnership, and overturned Trump’s statement that NATO was outdated.
It is not clear how much the Biden administration will accept the EU’s demands for autonomy in industry and technology, defense sectors, because these threaten the interests of American technology companies in continental Europe.
Moreover, due to the failure to win a Senate seat, American technical and industrial protectionism may further intensify.
On the defense side, Biden may push for a revitalization of NATO, which is likely to spur greater transatlantic collaboration in areas such as technological innovation and industry, the authors argue.
Therefore, it is not considered necessary to promote strategic autonomy in Europe. However, those who have a stronger and harder attitude towards European autonomy, such as French President Macron, regard Biden’s election as a “kiss of death”.
The author also said that the Biden administration intends to portray the United States as Europe’s preferred partner in multilateralism. However, despite the measures taken to win over Europe, the results may not be much different.
For example, the result is still that Europe and China are on the same side. In addition, European and American differences on trade, data privacy, digital taxation or extraterritorial jurisdiction of sanctions may continue.
However, the author also stressed that Biden accepts the need to cooperate with China in areas such as climate change, which is in line with European practice.
Biden’s call for a revitalization of the World Trade Organization, rejoining the World Health Organization and the Paris climate agreement, and reassessing the Iran nuclear agreement mark a shift to a more favourable position for Europe and provides an important opportunity for Europe to advance its global goals.
The essence of Europe’s transatlantic dilemma
Trump and Biden look like one bad cop and one like good cop when it comes to winning European support in the competition with China, the author comments. Europeans have seen the appearance of bad policemen.
He plays with the political skills of “divide and rule” and threatens that unless Europeans follow the American route, the United States will use security guarantees.
Now, the good police still want Europe to support the United States. But Biden would borrow normative terms such as “democracy and despotism” to carry out multilateral efforts instead of naked power competition.
Will Europe be fooled? The authors believe that it depends on whether Europe is willing to lower the idea of autonomy in exchange for the status of a first-level partner to renew the multilateral order they deeply love. This is the essence of Europe’s transatlantic dilemma.