Biden’s european partners: Just useful idiots?

US President Biden has travelled to Europe. It is his first trip abroad. After the G-7 in Cornwall, it will also take him to the EU in Brussels. But EU politicians should not get their hopes up too high.

For despite all the symbolism, Europe no longer plays first fiddle for the USA. Not even the permanent crisis between Russia and Ukraine has changed that.

The main focus has long been on China. For Washington, the Middle Kingdom is not only a “partner, competitor and systemic rival”, as they say in Brussels. No, it is the new adversary that must be contained, perhaps even more so.

In this world view, the EU has only a secondary role. It is supposed to watch the Americans’ backs and, where possible, play the sweeper.

According to an article in the US edition of “Politico”, the EU Europeans are little more than useful idiots in the “great new game” of geopolitics.

Here are some particularly “nice” quotes (emphasis mine):

  • Allies, Biden officials often say and even seem to believe, are America’s key advantage in the struggle against China. European allies are an important part of this nascent anti-Chinese alliance network, but, unlike during the Cold War, Europe is no longer the central front. It can play at best a supporting role in America’s struggle against Chinese authoritarianism. – At best still a supporting role, good to know.

  • Beyond all of the summitry and diplomatic attention, the Biden administration’s early actions show that it doesn’t believe Europe will ever be vital to this new geopolitical struggle. A president known as a longtime transatlantic champion has de-prioritized European policy. – Our transatlanticists should let that roll off their tongue!

  • More broadly, the Biden team has established a pattern of working with Europe in which, beneath the surface politeness, they pay fairly little attention to European concerns. – See Afghanistan, the Middle East or the Corona patents. The Europeans are often no longer even consulted!

  • Biden’s reasons for de-prioritizing the European allies extend beyond geography. There is considerable skepticism in Washington that a divided, self-interested Europe will ever manage much support for U.S. efforts against China. (…) U.S. officials have largely concuded that Europe will never even be able to take care of itself, much less contribute to security in other regions. – EUrope can’t even take care of itself, thanks for the compliment.

  • As a result, Europe has mostly become a place to give speeches and conduct diplomacy in scenic locations. American officials will continue to show up and to intone the ritual incantations of transatlantic solidarity. (…) But U.S. policymakers no longer believe in Europe’s capacity to contribute much beyond maintaining transatlantic economic ties (which remain quite important).

Europe is the place to make big speeches and do diplomacy in front of a beautiful backdrop. Nothing more needs to be said about the upcoming summit, at least not from the American point of view…

This post was first published on the Blog “Lost in EUrope”. More English posts here