Europeans who believe that a Joe Biden victory in next week’s US election will restore the transatlantic relationship to its former glory need to think again, according to Sigmar Gabriel, the former German vice-chancellor.
Gabriel said, in a conference call with a few foreign journalists including Yahoo Finance UK, that in terms of US foreign policy, it makes little difference whether Donald Trump or Joe Biden wins the White House, as “America is today, and will permanently be less European and more Pacific.”
“What we are seeing today under Donald Trump is perhaps an exaggerated form of this development, but he is not the trigger — it was Obama who said ‘America is a pacific nation,’ and Obama talked about a pivot to Asia,” he added.
“And to be honest, this is in the European interests, we Europeans will not be in a position to balance out this weight shift towards Asia alone.”
Gabriel is now the chairman of the non-profit Atlantik Brücke organisation, which was founded in 1952 to develop political and business ties between the Germany and the US.
“Right now we [the EU] are the last vegetarians in a world of carnivores, and I don’t mean we should become carnivores, but potentially we have to become flexitarians,” he added, referring to people who eat meat on occasion.
Like many geopolitical analysts and European leaders, Gabriel believes that Europe must work on its sovereignty and start, as one, defending its own interests.
Merkel’s former deputy supports French president Emmanuel Macron’s suggestion to create a European Security Council — and thinks the UK should definitely have a seat on it. But first, before EU attends to defence, it needs to develop one united foreign policy view as a bloc.
The global power axis has shifted to Asia, and Europe must adapt to that if it is to have any geopolitical clout.
Rift versus rebuild
While a Biden administration may be keen to build alliances with Europe again, and Biden will certainly value partnerships and alliances, Gabriel says “this won’t solve Europe’s problems and conflicts—this will depend on Europe beefing up its geopolitical weight so that we can become a partner to be taken seriously in the US, as well as in China and Russia.”
Trump has pulled the US out of a number of global alliances since taking office nearly four years ago. The US exited the Paris Climate Accord, the Iran Nuclear Deal, and announced it will withdraw from the World Health Organisation by mid-2021.
Trump thrives on creating division, Gabriel pointed out. He actively supported Brexit, and has constantly slammed Germany, for example, over the country’s insufficient NATO contributions, its trade surplus, and Berlin’s refusal to nix Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project with Russia.
“This whole concept of a European Union, where 27 member nations work together without a boss, where the small one has the same amount of say as the large one, is not a concept that Trump can abide,” Gabriel said.
A European Council of Foreign Relations survey of those involved in foreign policy in 27 EU states found that only France, Germany, and Malta see a need to prepare for long-term disengagement from the US if Trump wins a second term.
ECFR head Jana Puglierin told journalists on Thursday that people may think that if Biden is elected, the US-EU relationship will go back to the way it was — after all Biden said a lot of nice things about Europe and the transatlantic ties earlier in his campaigning.
“However, I believe that even he will be bound by structural processes, and I think a majority of Germans fully recognise this” Puglierin said.
However, Germans are hopeful of having a partner in Washington again. “From a German perspective, in the last four years we haven’t had a partner in the White House,” she said.
WATCH: Biden on how ‘US cannot afford four more years of Trump’