Paris, under the lockdown of the pandemic, looked particularly deserted in the gloom. Pompeo silently boarded the plane and left France to continue his trip to Europe and the Middle East.
This may be his last visit as Secretary of State of the United States. Compared with the infinite glory when he accompanied Trump to the French National Day military parade three years ago, the situation at this moment is slightly bleak.
On November 16, French President Macron met with Pompeo, but the Elysee Palace was very low-key. The French side stated that the meeting was arranged at the request of the United States, and that the content of the two people’s talks will be made public to the Biden team, which makes people inevitably feel a little bit of “helplessness” like a routine.
Since the United States withdrew from the Paris Agreement and the Iran Nuclear Agreement, the relationship between the United States and France has gone from “close and friendly” to “continuous differences.” Now that France has gradually turned its attention to Biden, there are fewer issues for Pompeo.
It is even more ironic that French President Macron recently sent a telegram to Biden to congratulate Biden and said that he is ready to cooperate on major issues, while Pompeo insisted that “the Trump administration will smoothly transition to the second term.” French media unceremoniously pointed out that Pompeo’s trip was an “awkward journey.”
American expert François Dulbair pointed out that Macron was one of the first national leaders to recognize Biden’s “victory”, but he received the Secretary of State who is about to step down as President, and Pompeo does not recognize it. Biden “wins the election.” The visit was unreasonable, but France could not say no to Pompeo diplomatically.
The European Union’s High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy Borelli recently published an article stating that he expects Biden to bring changes and open a new chapter in European-American relations. Even the “EU Foreign Ministers” have expressed this attitude, which shows that there is not much difference between Pompeo’s coming or not.
European-American relations have entered an “embarrassing period”
The deadlock in the US election remains unbroken, and Washington has fallen into political paralysis. During Pompeo’s visit to France, Macron’s “routine business” is a microcosm of the current European-American relations.
The past four years have been very difficult for European and American relations. Since Trump came to power, there has been constant discord between Europe and the United States, and the differences and even conflicts between the two sides have been exposed.
From imposing tariffs on the EU without hesitation, to unilaterally withdrawing from the Iran nuclear agreement, to unilaterally lowering the EU’s diplomatic level, under the guidance of the “America First” policy, the rift in European-American relations continued to deepen.
What’s even more troublesome is that the uncertainty of the Trump administration has made EU leaders very distressed. They know that the United States may attack the EU again at any time.
Not long after Biden announced his “election victory,” the leaders of the three major EU institutions and the leaders of EU member states congratulated them at almost the same time, showing their expectations for improving European-American relations.
French political science expert Nickel Bakarin said that Europe will discuss many issues with the Biden administration in the future, including climate change, economic and trade relations, security issues, NATO and many other issues.
It can be seen that EU leaders hope that the next administration of the United States can restart transatlantic relations, but given that the United States has entered a power transition period, they still have to maintain contacts with the Trump administration. In the next two months, European-American relations will enter an “awkward period.”
Can US-European relations go back to the past?
So after this “embarrassing period”, can transatlantic relations return to the past?
Almost all European and American public opinion believes that this is unrealistic.
Mick Mulvaney, the former director of the White House General Office and the current U.S. special envoy for Northern Ireland, pointed out in an interview with “EU News” that trade and defense issues will be the two major stumbling blocks to European and American relations.
Mulvaney believes that pursuing a fairer trade agreement with the EU while allowing NATO allies to share more military expenditures has now become a bipartisan consensus in the United States. This cannot be changed because of Biden’s coming to power. This means that there are still outstanding conflicts of interest between Europe and the United States.
Undoubtedly, Europe still considers the United States to be its closest ally, but the EU is also seeking to become a more independent political force on the international stage. German Chancellor Merkel once said that Europe is willing to continue to cooperate with the United States, but cannot rely on the United States anymore.
In the past few years, the swings in European-American relations have left Europe at a loss. The current tearing of internal politics in the United States adds to this uncertainty. McNamara, a professor of diplomacy at Georgetown University in the United States, pointed out that under the tremendous changes in the international order, no matter who is elected president of the United States, European-American relations will not be able to go back to the past.