New Transatlantic?

Online Expert Chat, 2-3 February 2021

President Biden’s new US Administration seems to anticipate new Transatlantic dawn and a renewed geopolitical partnership. Before the inauguration day, the new US President stated, “The United States is back.” European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen replied, “Europe stands ready.”

Still, from the institutional rhetoric to the practical aspects of the relationship, a long road must be pursued. How can the transatlantic relation evolve notwithstanding the 2% of investment in defence? How to pursue common interests and values despite strategic dissonances regarding China or Russia? How does pandemic influence Transatlantic relations? And in general, how new will the Transatlantic relations approach be for both sides of the Atlantic?

Participants

Natalia Gumenyuk (Ukraine), Founder at Public Interest Journalism Lab, MMF’18

Esteban Villarejo (Spain), Defense Correspondent of Spanish daily ABC, MMF’19

Rickey Bevington (USA), Senior Anchor/ Correspondent, Georgia Public Broadcasting, MMF’14

Yannis Palaiologos (Greece), EU correspondent, “Kathimerini” newspaper and SKAI TV & Radio, MMF’16

Moderator Ana Isabel Xavier (Portugal), Associate Professor of International Relations in Universidade Autónoma de Lisboa and deputy director of OBSERVARE – observatory of foreign affairs, MMF’16

The event is organized by UA: Ukraine Analytica. This project is supported financially by the German Marshall Fund of the United States and implemented by alumni of its leadership programs



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Ana Isabel Xavier
Ana Isabel Marques Xavier
February 2, 2021 00:26

Welcome to our online experts chat! We will have plenty of time during these two days to discuss the details and specificities of out topic. But before we do so, let me start by asking you: in your opinion, how can we define today transatlanticism? What are the key features and main dimensions of this concept for you?

Rickey Bevington
Rickey Bevington
Reply to  Ana Isabel Marques Xavier
February 2, 2021 01:54

Beyond actively collaborating on shared challenges such as security, trade and the coronavirus pandemic, I think transatlanticism is an attitude. It often presupposes that the US and Europe have more in common than not. Even in the midst of disagreement, it’s an conscious or unconscious understanding that we each have a stake in the other’s future.

Esteban Villarejo Ceballo
Esteban Villarejo
Reply to  Rickey Bevington
February 2, 2021 09:02

Definitely, transatlanticism is a sharing of common values. It is rooted in democratic principles and a way to defend freedoms. Of course, the main alliance is about defence and security but nowadays those concepts are much wider than 30 years ago. For sure we must redefine what “trasatlanticism” is. And what not.

Esteban Villarejo Ceballo
Esteban Villarejo
Reply to  Ana Isabel Marques Xavier
February 2, 2021 09:07

Good morning to everyone from Madrid.

Yannis Palaiologos
Yannis Palaiologos
February 2, 2021 09:05

Good morning all! I’ll second Rickey’s approach. The EU and US do not lack for areas of disagreement, compounded these days by the trauma of the Trump years. Transatlanticism today can be defined as the shared belief that despite these disagreements and divergent interests, the values shared across the pond make cooperation essential for a functioning global order. As conservative US writer David Frum recently told me, paraphrasing Freud, the point now is to turn the hysterical neurosis of the last 4 years of the relationship back into ordinary unhappiness (and a shared desire to make it work).

Esteban Villarejo Ceballo
Esteban Villarejo
Reply to  Yannis Palaiologos
February 2, 2021 09:25

Of course, those divergent interests Yannis mentions are on the table at this moment. And I guess it has a main issue: China… and the relation EU and NATO countries themselves want to have from the technological and trading point of view. We saw at the last NATO London Summit, before the pandemic, that China was already on the table regarding to 5G tech above all. I guess it will keep up being a fundamental issue with the new Biden Administration.

Yannis Palaiologos
Yannis Palaiologos
Reply to  Esteban Villarejo
February 2, 2021 09:29

China is the nub. The Biden people were peeved that the EU (after 7 long years) concluded its investment agreement with Beijing less than a month before the new president took office. The EU points to the fact that the US made a similar deal with China a year earlier. Effective containment of the rise of China cannot be achieved without much closer transatlantic cooperation (and beyond, to include other major democracies).

Natalia Gumenyuk
Nataliya Gumenyuk
February 2, 2021 13:09

I think there is a challenge to explain the term today, since the whole geographical concept of ‘Western values’ (by which in fact we mean transatlantic values) had been partly misused by the oppressive governments around the globe. Since they try to explain the Western/Translatlantic values as something imposed, something foreign, not genuine, etc. Yet I think we mean basic human right values and rule of law by transatlantism, the idea of co-operation based on those values. So maybe we need to broaden the term and make it more inclusive, less based on geography. E.G. last few years it was… Read more »

Rickey Bevington
Rickey Bevington
Reply to  Nataliya Gumenyuk
February 2, 2021 17:02

Nataliya’s idea of re-framing “transatlanticism” beyond geography is interesting. Transatlanticism represents a set of “western” values of human rights and rule of law, which also fall under “democracy.” These values and political systems can flourish anywhere in the world. But to Yannis and Esteban’s points about China, geography also matters especially in the contexts of trade and defense/security. And I’ll bring up two other contexts that will challenge how we define transatlanticism – climate change and nuclear proliferation. Two vital global issues that our generation must tackle aggressively.

Natalia Gumenyuk
Nataliya Gumenyuk
Reply to  Rickey Bevington
February 3, 2021 13:24

The term transatlantic was critical during the Cold War, but back then it was still mainly the talk about government relations. The whole story of Eastern Europe and also Latin America showed that things really changed when local civil societies were considered as partners. Back then as also in the 1990s civil societies in the Middle East, many parts of Africa and Asia (of course there are cases like the Philippines, Indonesia..) I am afraid there is still tendency underestimate civil societies as a concept outside of Western Hemisphere – including China, including Russia, a whole bunch of countries in… Read more »

Ana Isabel Xavier
Ana Isabel Xavier
February 2, 2021 17:40

With Biden’s administration, a new transatlantic dawn is expected. But in his inauguration speech no references were made to the foreign policy. Obvioulsy we can agree that usually those are the matters to be spoken in the state of the union. Still, do you honestly think we will witness a major transformation in the transatlantic relation? If so, in what areas? If not, in which areas Biden and Trump will be similar?

Yannis Palaiologos
Yannis Palaiologos
Reply to  Ana Isabel Xavier
February 2, 2021 18:03

There will be continuity, though in less harsh terms, between Trump and Biden on China (as witnessed already by statements of secretary of state Anthony Blinken in his confirmation hearings) and also on trade. There will obviously be a great deal more transatlantic cooperation on climate and there is hope that there can be a meaningful common on regulating Big Tech (including taxing it). But the key will be the ability of the EU and the US to work together on China. If Beijing succeeds in dividing them, it will conquer – with major and unwelcome medium-term consequences for the… Read more »

Esteban Villarejo Ceballo
Esteban Villarejo
Reply to  Ana Isabel Xavier
February 2, 2021 18:17

We expect a different approach, of course. And if not a major transformation, a better understanding finally. Let’s say we are looking forward to recover a normal relation. At the end of the day it is a matter of manners. And those manners were very hard to understand during the last 4 years by European leaders like Angela Merkel or Emmanuel Macron. This was evident in the two Summits of Brussels (it was a “shock” for all the allies) and London (even Trump left before the official statement). European countries also expect a more multilateral willingness: Trump tried to bond… Read more »

Rickey Bevington
Rickey Bevington
Reply to  Ana Isabel Xavier
February 3, 2021 15:49

Other commentators have raised excellent aspects that I agree will be themes for US-EU relations under a Biden-Harris administration. I think the new administration is also more willing to consider, if not confront, Russia’s points of leverage in Europe and around the world. We have a White House that believes Putin is a threat. Whether it be Nord Stream pipeline, Moscow’s militarization of the Arctic, Crimea, or Putin’s warming relationships with leaders of some NATO countries etc., the United States will once again start taking a holistic and practical view of Russia’s many entry points of influence that will inform… Read more »

Ana Isabel Xavier
Ana Isabel Xavier
February 2, 2021 20:06

The 3 C’s – China, Climate Change and Covid – will surely demand a new approach for the transatlantic relation within Biden’s administration. In what extent do you perceive this agenda for the US and for the EU?

Rickey Bevington
Rickey Bevington
Reply to  Rickey Bevington
February 2, 2021 23:53

To pick up on a theme already mentioned, the issue of human rights in China and elsewhere in the world is going to be a more prominent, and complicating, factor for US foreign policy under the Biden-Harris administration. President Trump demonstrated little interest in calling out other countries on human rights, but in the final days outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused the Chinese government of “genocide” against Muslim Uighurs. Current Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US should still work with China on major shared issues because China is “arguably the most important relationship we have in… Read more »

Esteban Villarejo Ceballo
Esteban Villarejo
Reply to  Ana Isabel Xavier
February 3, 2021 05:13

Covid and Climate Change are absolutely situated as priorities in both agendas. We must say that these difficult days Covid is even the only priority. These two C’s are also the great opportunities to restart the US-EU relations quickly after the “shocking” years of Trump. The Climate Change and Covid demands a new jointly approach. Also we have to count on UK to develop it. Brexit will make this task more difficult as we are seeing with AstraZeneca vaccine fighting with EU institutions (just an example). The divorce between EU and UK is not finished yet.. Let’s say we have… Read more »

Natalia Gumenyuk
Nataliya Gumenyuk
Reply to  Esteban Villarejo
February 3, 2021 12:26

The most important for EU and the US to agree to speak together about the human right violations in China (uighurs, Hong Kong) and readiness to lose profits in trade, etc. That’s the policy where they are strong together.  Also one of the important tools could be joint foreign investments. China is ready to invest even inside the EU, but of course in Eastern Europe, Africa, LA, while the EU and US are cautious. However joint enterprise will be the best option. There is a recent telling example in Ukraine in one the largest engine manufacturers for airplanes and helicopters worldwide. China needs the… Read more »

Ana Isabel Xavier
Ana Isabel Marques Xavier
February 3, 2021 01:50

Imagine you are invited to advice President Biden on foreign policy and transatlantic relations. What should be the first official state visit abroad? What should be the priority in the first 100 days of the mandate?

Esteban Villarejo Ceballo
Esteban Villarejo
Reply to  Ana Isabel Marques Xavier
February 3, 2021 05:29

I would recommend president Biden not to visit just a country. I would recommend him to go to UK together with Macron and Merkel as a sign of a new restart of the transatlantic relations. Many issues to be discussed between these traditional 4 players in the transatlantic relation (France, Germany, UK and US itself). As a second stop of this trip: Brussels/EU institutions and Ursula von der Leyen (China as a priority). And third stop: Warsaw. We cannot forget the Russian threat for those countries of the Eastern Flank of EU/NATO. It could be name “the Transatlantic restart trip”:… Read more »

Esteban Villarejo Ceballo
Esteban Villarejo
Reply to  Ana Isabel Marques Xavier
February 3, 2021 05:37

Priority in the first 100 days of the mandate:

1st Covid
2nd Make America United Again
3rd Avoid an economic crisis in the US due to the pandemic.
4th Restart the Transatlantic Bond.
5th Design a balanced strategy for the relation with China: there is a geopolitical rivalry, a technological threat but also a commercial reality.

Natalia Gumenyuk
Nataliya Gumenyuk
Reply to  Esteban Villarejo
February 3, 2021 12:37

Esteban idea on ‘Transatlantic restart trip” is very bright. I think Brussels/EU is critical, but as well Germany/France. In terms of Warsaw, I’d rather think it’s critical to demonstrate his support for democracies. We know that Biden is considering Democracy Summit, which is not based on EU membership. Hungary or Poland cannot be considered democracies, as their leaders enjoyed Trump’s endorsement. Thus symbolic would be meetings with the leaders of the countries who are promoting democracies globally. For sure, the Baltic states are too small for the first 100 days, yet something of that kind. Slovakia had recently presented a… Read more »

Rickey Bevington
Rickey Bevington
Reply to  Ana Isabel Marques Xavier
February 3, 2021 16:13

I would advise President Biden not to appear to neglect problems at home as he works to restore international relationships. What the American people expect immediately from the Biden-Harris Administration is that he focus on domestic problems such as beating the pandemic and restoring people’s jobs and the economy. Americans are also about to watch Congress launch a second presidential impeachment trail. And the Republican party is in chaos over Representatives and Senators who challenged Biden’s election and others like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene who are QAnon conspiracy theorists and have called for violence against Democrats. To Esteban’s point, making… Read more »

Yannis Palaiologos
Yannis Palaiologos
Reply to  Rickey Bevington
February 3, 2021 17:00

One interesting question is whether Republicans will at least offer Biden support on foreign relations (little is expected on the domestic front), in restoring good relations with allies like Europe and taking a tough line on autocrats who act against US interests. Even under Trump, the Senate [incl. Republicans] acted as a restraint on his alliance-busting instincts and his desire to cozy up to people like V. Putin and R.T. Erdogan. So there is reason to be hopeful here – but a lot will depend on the outcome of the civil war that will convulse the party in the coming… Read more »

Yannis Palaiologos
Yannis Palaiologos
Reply to  Ana Isabel Marques Xavier
February 3, 2021 16:45

US foreign policy priorities related to Europe:

  1. Collaborate in trying to expand manufacturing capacity for Covid-19 vaccines, preparing for variants not responsive to the 1st generation of vaccines, etc.
  2. Try to get on the same page regarding China.
  3. Re-affirm US commitment to NATO, push back against Russian attempts to divide the alliance, incl. pushing Turkey away from Moscow.
  4. Work together with the EU on climate agenda, regulating (and taxing) Big Tech.
  5. Work together in pushing a pro-human rights, pro-democracy agenda globally – something that was of no interest to the Trump administration.
Ana Isabel Xavier
Ana Isabel Marques Xavier
February 3, 2021 15:01

Before I jump into the discussion again and share one more question, please review the previous ones and try to answer all of them please 🙂 thank you!

Ana Isabel Xavier
Ana Isabel Marques Xavier
February 3, 2021 16:54

“Americans and Europeans each have their illusions regarding new EU-US relations. Europeans hope to be able to revive the good old days of transatlantic harmony, while Americans believe that Joe Biden’s America will put the country back on track for Western leadership. In truth, neither of these will actually occur.” This is a quote from nicole gnesotto for the notre europe institute (https://institutdelors.eu/en/publications/132755/). do you agree?

Esteban Villarejo Ceballo
Esteban Villarejo
Reply to  Ana Isabel Marques Xavier
February 3, 2021 17:43

“Europeans hope to be able to revive the good old days of transatlantic harmony”: I don’t think Europeans hope so neither. I think the paradigma of “the Cold War” or even 11/9 solidarity changed after the crisis of 2008 that dramatically hit some countries. Of course, European countries expect to have a more predictable relation with the Biden Administration. Good old days are gone, and EU commercial interests can collide with the “Buy American”. Also there is a huge debate about how to tax “macrodigital companies”: Google, Amazon, Facebook, Uber,… This is a critical step European countries will take in… Read more »

Yannis Palaiologos
Yannis Palaiologos
Reply to  Esteban Villarejo
February 3, 2021 18:18

Beyond predictability, Europeans certainly pin high hopes on Biden, as a throwback to the Clinton era (who was arguably that last “transatlantic” president, with Bush Jr. disdainful of “Old Europe” and Obama much more interested in the Pacific region). But they realize that the appetite of the US for projecting its power overseas – this is true of both parties and of a broad swath of the electorate – is significantly diminished. And they retain their skepticism about the dependability of the US, given the massive support for the Trump, the large part of the population that is in thrall… Read more »

Rickey Bevington
Rickey Bevington
Reply to  Ana Isabel Marques Xavier
February 4, 2021 01:19

I agree that neither the EU nor US will return to pre-Trump Administration status. For better and worse, President Trump upended much of what we took for granted. This can be a tremendously positive opportunity. I would challenge Europeans and Americans to jump feet first into re-shaping the future in ways that were less possible four years ago. Find the open doors.

Natalia Gumenyuk
Nataliya Gumenyuk
Reply to  Rickey Bevington
February 4, 2021 10:15

I will disagree, that it won’t occur? Why it should not. Biden, especially with his Climate Change moreless progressive agenda which matter so much will remind of transatlantic harmony. In fact, after turbulent 4 years, it’s enough for Biden just to be reasonable and polite. Again for the US, not abandoning and not bashing EU, NATO will look as Western Leadership. And again climate change matters. Moreover, I think now both parties are ready to co-operate more on how to deal with big tech. If earlier it was a huge issue since the US wasn’t supporting any government regulation and… Read more »

Ana Isabel Xavier
Ana Isabel Marques Xavier
February 3, 2021 18:57

One of the trigers that can balance or unbalance transatlanticism is energy, related with north stream 2. Biden will have to look strategically to Germany and Russia’s geopolitical relation, if he wants to have a voice in the eastern europe. Do you agree?

Esteban Villarejo Ceballo
Esteban Villarejo
Reply to  Ana Isabel Marques Xavier
February 3, 2021 20:03

We all heard much on North Stream 2 during the NATO Summit of Brussels (2018) when Trump pointed out Merkel about it. Energy should be treated apart from the traditional Transatlantic relation due to the fact that many countries have their own tradition of suppliers. Germany is “the example”. Let’s say that Biden should understand it and respect it. These days vaccines could be a “energy case” to study. I mean EU countries could begin to use the Russian “Sputnik V” after the last published studies on The Lancet. Should it be a case to be criticized by Washington? Of… Read more »

Natalia Gumenyuk
Nataliya Gumenyuk
Reply to  Esteban Villarejo
February 4, 2021 10:22

Nord Stream today is really the German issue. Yes, Trump was vocal, but the protest against Nord Stream 2 was and is bipartisan. While as well the attitude among the EU members and also neighbours had become more critical. Many countries do not support the pipeline, and even inside Germany, there are today different views. Ukraine was really involved in the campaign against Nord Stream, Germany is one of Ukraine’s closest partners in negotiations with Russia, and even Kyiv and Berlin are co-operating having this issue as something like ‘we agree to disagree’. So I do not think this is… Read more »

Ana Isabel Xavier
Ana Isabel Marques Xavier
February 4, 2021 00:48

Last question: in your professional life, how can you actually contribute to transatlanticism and what are your major expectations in the next few months to strenghten the transatlantic ties? We have concluded this night our online expert chat. Thank you so much for all your contributions. Please feel free to reply to any missing questions. I wish you all the best and looking forward to seeing you in a future project. Keep safe!

Esteban Villarejo Ceballo
Esteban Villarejo
Reply to  Ana Isabel Marques Xavier
February 4, 2021 00:54

I contribute by explaining how linked is the history, the values, the culture and the economy of US and Spain. Also with the NATO context and different geopolitical contexts.

The only expectation to strengthen that transatlanticism is fighting together against Covid. And then restart the most fruitful relation of the International Relations history in last century.

Thanks, Ana Isabel, for your interesting questions. Let’s be safe and regards from Madrid.

Rickey Bevington
Rickey Bevington
Reply to  Ana Isabel Marques Xavier
February 4, 2021 01:26

Thank you Ana for moderating this interesting exchange. And thanks to Esteban, Yannis and Nataliya for sharing your insights.
I’m currently co-founding a transatlantic network for women working toward climate change solutions. If you’d like to get involved, please connect with me via LinkedIn.
My major expectation for the next few months is that the US and EU can successfully inoculate millions of people against COVID and restore economic stability.
Sending all of you warm wishes and health from Atlanta.

Natalia Gumenyuk
Nataliya Gumenyuk
Reply to  Rickey Bevington
February 4, 2021 10:27

Thank you, Ana! I am covering foreign policy for the Ukrainian media for the last decade, as well to the foreign audience in English on what’s going on in the region. Yet what I also do with the field reporting, I try to focus not just on the international relations between leaders but show how similar are challenges for the general population like COVID, etc. Currently, the Public Interest Journalism Lab I run which unites media researchers and sociologists from Eastern Europe, but also the UK and the US is searching for the best ways to overcome polarisation – which… Read more »

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