The future of the U.S. relationship with Europe was the theme of a debate held at the Georgia Institute of Technology‘s Academy of Medicine that the university’s Sam Nunn School of International Studies hosted on Jan. 31 as part of a foreign policy series of the Brookings Institution and the Charles Koch Institute.
The face off essentially pitted the views of Victoria Nuland, a 32-year veteran of the U.S. Foreign Service, and Thomas Wright, director of Brookings’ Center on the United States and Europe, versus Massachusetts Institute of Technology political scientist Barry Posen and Joshua Shifrinson, an assistant professor at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University.
Before the arguments in favor of maintaining the U.S.’s dominant presence in NATO and engagement around the world versus a more inward domestic focus and more global foreign policy role, Gen. Philip Breedlove, who joined the Sam Nunn school after retiring as Supreme Allied Commander and the U.S. European Commander, shared his view that the U.S. should have “a serious dialogue dealing on bigger issues with Russia” in an effort to unlock the politically partisan preoccupation in Washington with Russia’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.
To underscore his view and perhaps as a means of interjecting a bit of drama into the event he added: “I would allow that Russia hasn’t done anything in our election anything more than what we have done in other countries’ elections in the past.”
He also said that it would be important to have a full disclosure of Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election so that it wouldn’t happen again, but he hoped that those “bigger issues” could be addressed.
He then called for rebuilding the trust of Europe’s NATO nations in the United States.
“We are doing good things in Europe,” he said, citing the support of U.S. troops in the Baltic countries, Poland and Romania. He also supported the efforts to have NATO members contribute 2 percent of their gross domestic products for NATO funds and that 20 percent of that be allocated to the recapitalization and modernization of their military resources.
In addition he said that the U.S. needs to exert greater leadership in dealing with Russia’s incursion into Ukraine and called for the U.S. to play greater role in the Normandy format in which a diplomatic group of senior representatives of Germany, Russia, Ukraine and France, seek to resolve the conflict there.
Once he had set the scene for the debate, Professors Posen and Shifrison immediately called for the U.S. to decrease its involvement in NATO and Europe generally, claiming that there was no need for its further involvement in view of the strength of the Western European economies and the many needs at home, which could be financed by the funds going abroad. They also diminished the threat posed by Russia in view of the size of its economy, which Dr. Shifrinson compared to that of Italy.
They claimed that a reduced U.S. role in Europe had a chance of forcing the Europeans to come together more actively to an extent that possibly would even strengthen the European Union.
Dr. Posen especially underscored that in coming years a multipolar world will be dominated by a few major countries including China and India and that the EU will need to be more united in this new global setting.
Meanwhile, Dr. Wright and Ms. Nuland stressed the successes of the post-World War II collaboration between Western Europe and the U.S.
“Why fix it if it ain’t fundamentally broke,” said Ms. Nuland, “and it ain’t making us broke?”
To see the webcast of the debate, click here.