With “Europe Day” fast approaching, Washington may not be focused on Transatlantic relations, but the same certainly can’t be said of Atlanta.
In his overview of the current administration and the U.S. Congress’ neglect of a “European strategy,” Harlan Ullman, a top strategic thinker, and senior adviser at the Atlantic Council, charged that “nobody in the administration is interested in Europe.”
Dr. Ullman was speaking at a conference of Georgia Tech’s Sam Nunn School of International Affairs‘ Center for European and Transatlantic Studies and the Atlanta Council on International Relations on April 13-14 titled “A Changing Europe in an Uncertain World.”
The conference attracted a blue-ribbon tier of European and Russian experts who plumbed U.S.-European relations. Their views coincided with the preparations and attack on Syria in which the U.S. was joined by French and British fighter planes in the airstrikes on the Assad regime’s chemical weapons facilities.
The Sam Nunn School’s two-day event followed on the heels of a World Affairs Council of Atlanta panel discussion held on March 20 titled “European Perspectives on the Current State of Transatlantic Relations.”
The World Affairs Council’s panel included members of the European Union’s Working Group of Transatlantic Relations, known by its French acronym “COTRA,” including high-level representatives of Finland, France, Spain and Slovakia.
In the wake of these discussions, French President Emmanuel Macron delivered a speech to the European Union Parliament in Strasbourg, France, on April 18, in which he pushed for a series of reforms to further integrate the bloc as part of his vision for a “profound transformation” leading to a future without Britain, post-Brexit.
With admirable foresight the World Affairs Council’s 2018 Europe Day luncheon on May 8 is titled “France Emergent” and is to feature an in-depth look at France’s role along with Germany as a driving force of the European Union.
The upcoming luncheon is to feature Louis de Corail, France’s consul general for the Southeast based in Atlanta; Francois Asselin, president of the French Confederation of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises, Helene Toure, director of the French Desk at the international recruitment agency YER and former executive director of the Alliance Francaise d’Atlanta. This discussion is to be moderated by Cyril Vanier, anchor at CNN International.
These panels all couldn’t be more timely in view of what is coming up on the Transatlantic agenda: the Tuesday, April 24, visit to Washington of Mr. Macron to be followed by the Friday, April 27, visit of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Europe’s exemption from the steel and aluminum tariffs is to end on May 1, unless a deal is reached earlier. U.S. President Donald Trump up to now has evaded the usual venue for settling trade disputes — the World Trade Organization — by citing security as a justification for his tariffs on steel and aluminum imports
Additionally, Mr. Trump continues his criticisms of the JCPOA (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), known commonly as the “Iran Deal,” in which Iran agreed to cut back its nuclear program.
His primary objections to the deal are its provisions to prevent inspectors from examining military sites, that it doesn’t address Iran’s ballistic missile program, its “sunset provisions that gradually allow Iran to resume advanced nuclear work and Iran’s support for terrorists.”
Mr. Trump has set May 12 as the deadline to reach an agreement with France, Germany and the U.K. to “fix” the nuclear deal and avoid U.S. withdrawal. If the U.S. fails to re-certify the deal the Trump administration might impose sanctions on Iran.
Michal Pavuk, the Slovakian diplomat who led the COTRA team, during the World Affairs Council’s panel discussion warned that a failure of recertification could provide North Korea an excuse for failing to reach agreement in its negotiations with the U.S.
With all these issues to resolve, the next NATO Summit is to be held in Brussels from July 11-12. Mr. Trump has had a rocky relationship with the transatlantic security alliance, calling on allies to spend more on defense and refusing until last June to publicly commit the U.S. to Article 5 of the NATO treaty, which ensures common defense.
The COTRA visit was held in Atlanta instead of Washington at the request of the delegation, which wanted to expose itself to Americans outside of the Beltway and visit a city which hosts a large number of European companies.
Antonio Millan, the Spanish representative to COTRA, was pointedly critical of the U.S. administration’s unpredictable policies.
“The U.S. is at the top of its game when it excels and is open and leading at the forefront in engaging with others,” he said.
He added that by turning inward it represents a retreat from Western liberal democratic values at a time when these values are under threat by authoritarian regimes around the world.
The theme of values was a centerpiece of the Sam Nunn School’s conference. Dr. Ullman stressed his concern about the United Kingdom’s decline as a military power and suggested that the U.S. should immediately help its longtime ally in rebuilding its navy.
He also called for what he termed “a porcupine defense” to counter Russian belligerence by strengthening the anti-air and tank missile defenses in the Baltics and Balkans as a deterrent to Russia.
According to Dr. Ullman, “The Atlantic is fogged over. Europe is not seen by the U.S.. There is political gridlock (in Washington) between the right and the left. There is the least qualified and least experienced president — and no coherent strategy.”
Yet ties with the continent could be revived, he said, with passage of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which others remarked was currently “in cold storage.”
“The liberal order is under assault,” Dr. Ullman added. “The U.S. has got to get its act together. There is an opportunity for the U.S. if we want it. We could do more with Europe…
Karen Donfried, president of the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF), outlined many of the problems Europe faces from an aggressive Russia to the immigration crisis, including “the witches brew at the base of populism.”
But all the panelists were far from negative about Europe’s current state. Mai’a K. Davis Cross, the Edward W. Brooke Professor of Political Science and associate professor of political science and international affairs at Northeastern University, challenged the view on the basis of Europe’s recovery from the financial crisis.
Evelyn Farkas, nonresident senior fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Future Europe Initiative, said that there remain people willing to die for the EU in the following countries that would like to join such as the Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, and even Armenia.
With this whirlwind of issues to be resolved between the U.S. and Europe, Sven Biscop, the director of the Europe in the World Program at the Egmont – Royal Institute for International Relations in Brussels, pointed out that the U.S. still has failed to appoint an ambassador to the EU.
To sign up for the World Affairs Council of Atlanta’ s Europe Day France Emergent Luncheon, click here.
To learn more about the Georgia Tech’s Sam Nunn School of International Affairs, click here.