What is the advantage of being president

Global challenges : Joe Biden and the end of European excuses

The German-American relationship has recently been worse than ever - and not just because of the wandering President Donald Trump. Rather, the clouding over is also due to the fact that the geopolitical situation has fundamentally changed since the end of the Cold War: the USSR and Russia no longer embody the strategic challenge of the USA, but the emerging world power China. The Indo-Pacific has replaced the Atlantic as the central economic axis. 600 years of America's focus on Europe are definitely over.

That is why the US began shifting priorities at the expense of Europe long before Trump. In part, the conflict between Germany and Europe on one side of the Atlantic and the USA on the other has nothing to do with whether the American president is Donald Trump or Joe Biden. Instead, it is increasingly about different starting points and interests. The crucial question is: are there still sufficiently large overlaps between the US and Europe? Or will the rift deepen further.

Of course, Trump and the radicalized Republicans have contributed massively to the damage to the transatlantic relationship. Trump is the first US president to believe that he can do without alliances and partnerships. This is astonishing because the ability to form alliances as a multiplier of global American power marks the central difference between the USA and other great powers. Neither China nor Russia have allies or partners, they only know addicts. But from Trump's perspective, the “big boys” are making world politics with bilateral deals.

China's leader Xi Jinping and Russia's President Vladimir Putin are likely to see the world in a similar way. They have a kind of "Yalta 2.0" in mind, where the strong divide the world among themselves as in 1945. All that remains for Europe is the role of obedient squire. This “Darwinist” view is an essential reason for the division between Europe and the USA in the past four years: Trump's view that only the strongest should determine the rules of the game in the global arena is diametrically opposed to the European view. On the old continent, despite unmistakable authoritarian tendencies, the strength of the law applies and not the law of the stronger.

Under the democratic President Biden, the transatlantic conflicts will not go away because of the different interests. When it comes to China, Russia, defense spending, and trade disputes, there isn't much difference between Democrats and Republicans. The hope of many Europeans that “the good old days” would come back with Biden is an illusion. Nevertheless, it opens up the opportunity to renew old alliances. But that will demand a lot from the Europeans, because the previous transatlantic alliance was very convenient for us. We could focus on ourselves - for the rest of the world we had the USA.

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Those days are over. Even under Biden, US policy will be more Pacific and less European. What is mostly overlooked is that the concentration of the USA on the Indo-Pacific is in the European interest because only the USA can ensure a geopolitical balance with China there. We Europeans cannot do that.

But we will have to fill the vacuum created in the Middle East and Africa that the US withdrawal is leaving in those regions. So far, all sorts of forces have been operating here - Russia, Iran, Turkey or the United Arab Emirates; only not we Europeans. That should change, Europe must develop a power projection here.

The question is: what are the advantages of the partnership with the EU for the US?

That is not to say that we have to act militarily everywhere, but without a projection of military power one remains politically ineffective. In fact, our challenges are getting bigger than they were in the past. With a US President Biden we no longer have an excuse why we no longer exert ourselves. The past four years have also been very convenient for another reason. We had one culprit for everything: Donald Trump.

Europe is called upon to put more weight into the geopolitical scale economically, technologically, politically and also militarily. Because even a more Europe-friendly US president will ask himself what advantages a partnership actually brings him. Europe should see this question as an opportunity. Biden and his designated foreign minister Tony Blinken have promised to revitalize the alliances and partnerships of the USA - not out of transatlantic sentimentality, but because they know that Trump's game "bowling alone" endangers the interests of the USA. Both want to strengthen international cooperation because they want to strengthen the United States - not least with China.

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So why not start a transatlantic debate now about how we can reduce growing inequality, hunger and poverty and give globalization social and ecological rules? Joint initiatives in climate protection and the development of hydrogen technology could help defuse the dispute over the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. Why not a coordinated offer from the USA and Europe for the Chinese Silk Road Initiative to the countries of Central Asia and Africa? Last but not least, with Biden there are new opportunities to give the digital markets effective rules and finally to allow them to participate appropriately in the financing of the common good.

The almost 78-year-old Biden, whose domestic political leeway is likely to be limited due to the polarization of US society and who needed an unforeseeable two-thirds majority in the Senate for internationally binding treaties, is already being referred to as the “interim president”.

It is like rushing rivers: you need a knowledge of the terrain to cross

But to be honest, the United States now needs exactly that: a president who accompanies and leads his country in the transition to a geopolitically, economically and also ecologically completely changed world. That would be the complete opposite of Trump's illusory offer to go back to the past.

The Democrats now have to prove that they can make the transition economically, socially, environmentally and geopolitically better for as large a majority of the population as possible. It is like rushing rivers: you need a good knowledge of the terrain and have to correctly assess your own strengths and weaknesses in order to find the best crossing. It's a difficult task that requires experience, empathy and courage. President Joe Biden has these qualities. So it will be exciting years for Europe and the USA.

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