Europe and the U.S.: Cooperation or competition? (2)

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Under the title ‘Europe’s Illusions,’ the reply of American professors from prestigious American universities or leaders of institutions – Dan Hamilton, Jackson Janes, Peter S. Rashish, Stephen F. Szabo, Lily Gardner Feldman, Steven Sokol, Jeffery Anderson – was published on the March 31st issue of ‘Die Zeit.’ The American experts’ strategy of devising the answer was to shift the emphasis on demonstrating the need for the Trans-Atlantic link/alliance on the issue of interests, hence beyond the sphere of values with which this reality was formed at the end of the Second World War.

This emphasis is openly stated from the very start, being underscored that “now is the time to assert shared U.S.-German interests” and that “We are not making a sentimental case for transatlanticism; rather we assert that we have shared interests.” Of course, the issue of values is not absent from the overture, on the contrary, it is constantly resorted to, being basically explained that without their joint defence there is the danger of their disappearing, more exactly of their replacement.

Firstly, it is said that Germany is for the U.S. the most important European state, whose alliance is mutually beneficial. It is economically grounded, through mutual exchanges and investments, through coordination in foreign policy in this field – the recent case of sanctions on Russia after the annexation of Crimea.

And this was stated long ago, the Obama administration saying it openly and acting in line with this reality. And Germany must not have failed to understand the fact that Washington’s recognition of its leadership role in Europe took place precisely because there was the fear of strategic decoupling, which is not in the interests of the two sides.

But, between the lines it is obvious that the American authors allow it to transpire that Washington was the starting point of the realisation of the fact that a strategic decoupling is being foreshadowed, and immediate preventive action was taken, at first through a concession of calibre.

Moreover, based on the conviction that the alliance between the two states is vital for the existence of the current global liberal order, the authors state that “in contrast to how Lau and Ulrich argue, Trump is not America and perhaps does not even speak for his own administration on the vital issues of foreign policy. The so called ‘adults’ in the Administration remain committed to the Atlantic alliance and to the U.S. commitment to NATO.” Jorg Lau and Bernd Ulrich are reproached with ignoring the fact that the German-American relationship has a much wider basis, in the civil society of both states, including in the private sector and the world of academia, being outlined that around 50 million Americans have German origin/roots (17 percent of the U.S. population).

In other words, Trump (he himself having ethnic German roots) and his policy aside, there are factors that should be assessed at their full weight, starting from Congress and down to the local level across the U.S., which can act favourably in the interest of the bilateral alliance.

Similarly, the American authors outline another joint interest that U.S. and Germany have, overwhelming for the world of today and tomorrow, namely the challenge that China’s exponential economic growth is projecting to the Western model and to the liberal global order established in the last seven decades. Germany on its own or even together with the EU cannot handle this Chinese challenge, and the negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreement between the United States and the European Union have shown that efforts are needed to attain the West’s unity of action. And in this case – the American experts point out – Germany has its share of the blame, because it invokes the imaginary “evil” of American-type capitalism, which is unreal, the U.S. being very far from distancing itself from liberal values.

For the authors of this American response to Die Zeit’s manifesto, it is obvious that there will not be a “post-American” West but a “post-liberal” one. They do not forget to point out that the alliance between the two states has influential and robust – in terms of philosophy of action – partners even in the current American administration, who favour the existence of the EU, the relaunch of the TTIP negotiations, and in general the approach of a common agenda with positive content. In what concerns the issue of immigrants for instance, it is shown that the trends are following a quasi-similar course in both countries – as also shown by the latest German legislative elections, in which anti-immigration orientations performed – so that Germany’s stance of blaming the U.S. in what concerns the control of immigration seems groundless.

It is stated that “The fabric of society is fraying on both sides of the Atlantic. How we come to terms with social change—which comes as a result of the movement of people as well as factors such as rapid digitalization and the changing nature of work—will define how we as societies continue to thrive and grow. Here, too, Germany and the United States can benefit from greater collaboration.”

At the end of the response, its American authors do not shy away from issuing a warning full of negative assessment for the joint future in the absence of a U.S.-Germany strategic coupling: “There is no post-American West, there is an unfortunately post-liberal West which includes more of Europe than they concede.”  The authors consider that “the illusions of Europe” are quartered here, in this future danger.