Outside of the AfD, there is no parliamentary group in the Bundestag that does not urgently want Donald Trump to be voted out and Joe Biden to win on November 3. But would everything be okay for the EU and Germany if the Democratic candidate won? At least Matthew Karnitschnig, a connoisseur of both the US and Germany, has a clear answer. The hope of many in Berlin that transatlantic relations under Biden would somehow return to the old patterns is “not just an exaggeration, but a pure illusion,” the German correspondent for “Politico” wrote recently.
Now Karnitschnig is one of those journalists who likes to accuse Germans of their real or perceived mistakes with a certain aggressiveness. But German foreign policy experts and MPs with knowledge of the US can also benefit greatly from his thesis. Most of them are convinced: Biden’s dealings with the EU and Germany will be much smoother than Trump’s – but many serious points of contention will remain, although Biden will initially put a lot of effort into solving domestic political problems and reducing social unrest.
“The relationship is getting harder”
It is therefore expected that things will be different, but not easier, if the Democrat moves into the White House. Precisely because, unlike Trump, Biden is a staunch transatlantic and multilateralist seeking to bolster his country’s influence through international cooperation, he could demand more European and German contributions that the addressees would be hard pressed to avoid. In terms of both security and economic policy, “the ties between the EU and the US would be stronger than we have been used to in recent decades,” predicts Vice President Johann Wadephul (CDU) of the Union Group President.
Donald Trump (here with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg) has repeatedly expressed doubts about his loyalty to NATO. Photo: dpa
Under NATO, the Berlin Democrat will demand “more money, more commitment”. “More money” means higher German defense spending. Trump had often flogged excessively (“they owe us billions”) for the Germans’ failure to meet the two percent target. But even under its predecessor Barack Obama, the US had exerted tremendous pressure – and would continue to do so under Biden. “More dedication” means taking on more responsibility and expanding Germany’s military contributions. As Biden is likely to remain cautious about military interventions, especially in the periphery of Europe, there may be more tasks for the EU and Germany.
In an article in Foreign Affairs, the former vice president stated that the systemic competition between democracies and autocracies is the defining topic of his foreign policy. He wants to strengthen the cooperation of the Democrats to reduce the influence of autocracies. China is likely to be at the center of this dispute, as well as tightening the US course towards Russia. Biden has also announced that he will return to both the Paris climate protection agreement and the Iran nuclear deal.
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Also in terms of economic policy, the EU and Germany cannot rely on the fact that sending Trump away would ease all tension regarding Washington. Observers describe the challenger’s economic agenda as “national economic”. “I don’t think the danger of protectionism will be over if Biden is elected,” says Wadephul – after all, he is under tremendous pressure in difficult times to promote his own economy. But Biden is in any case a ‘discussion partner’. The CDU man agrees with Jürgen Trittin. The United States’ withdrawal on its own is likely to continue under a Democrat, the Greens said recently, “It will only get more civilized.”
If you believe American political scientist Daniel S. Hamilton, transatlantic relations under Biden will be completely different – if the EU has the will and Americans have the patience to dare to try something new. “If it succeeds, the partnership will be more equal, more global and more effective,” Hamilton wrote in “International Politics,” adding, “Failure to do so will jeopardize the security, prosperity and democracies of America and Europe.”
Note: Scientists Konstantinos Tsetsos, Carlo Masala and Frank Sauer from the Metis Institute for Strategy and Foresight at the Bundeswehr University in Munich recently presented a study that very clearly, comprehensively and plausibly analyzes the effects of Biden’s choice on the transatlantic relationship: “Biden / Harris 2020. A preview of the safety implications ”.