Until recently, relations between the European Union and the United States seemed almost completely destroyed and beyond recovery. However, Joe Biden, in just six months of his presidency, managed to restore them not just to their original state, but in fine fashion, especially through the lens of American interests.
In March, for instance, the Europeans were quick off the mark to impose sanctions against China and to virtually freeze ratification of the investment agreement signed with Beijing the day before. And recently, Germany sent its frigate to the Indo-Pacific region to display the flag, tighten links with allies and protect еру freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. It's easy to figure out whom exactly this freedom is supposed to be protected from – the West deems Beijing as the key troublemaker in the South China Sea and the entire region, as it claims the Paracel Islands and the Spratly Archipelago.
All of this is happening amid an almost complete unanimity that has prevailed in the past few months at various meetings between the Europeans and the Americans, including the G7, EU-US and NATO summits. A major issue in the course of all these negotiations was also China, and in June, the North Atlantic Alliance actually recognized Beijing's present-day policy as a "systemic challenge" to its own security.
In its turn, Berlin, which has once again become Washington's main ally in Europe after a four-year break, has concluded sort of a "big deal" with Joe Biden's administration. In exchange for close renewable energy partnership with the United States and waiver of claims against Nord Stream 2, the Germans took a common course with the Americans in relation to China and Russia. In the Washington Declaration signed on July 15, Merkel and Biden stipulated their intention to jointly protect the freedom of navigation and resist attempts to create spheres of influence around the world, as well as attempts to annex territories, control digital infrastructure, oppress other countries or use energy flows as weapons.
The "collective West" now looks more united than it was under Barack Obama. Back then, the Europeans were still heatedly debating among themselves and with Washington about the Russia policy, while being loath to get involved in any conflicts with China. But everything has changed a lot over the past four years, and the current renaissance of transatlantic relations seems largely an achievement of Donald Trump, not Joe Biden, incredible as it may seem.
Trump managed to make it abundantly clear to the Europeans what it feels like to live an independent life without America, or even in conflict with it. Europe has adopted the lesson. Germany, for instance, began preparing for a "big deal" with the new administration even before the US presidential election, drawing up a list of issues to be resolved, if only at cost of serious concessions. Nord Stream 2 was certainly on the list either. According to the German media, Berlin embarked upon its first meaningful consultations with Biden's team short after the electionж and on the new president's inauguration day, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas positively declared readiness to negotiate, partcularly relations with China.
As a matter of fact, Trump and Biden perfectly handled the classic "good cop, bad cop" scenario, at which point the United States got what they desired, but were unable to achieve from the European Union and Germany – decisive and most importantly real and tangible support in sustaining Pax Americana.
However, one should make a point of the international situation's having played a part in this unintentional performance. European politicians have long been talking about the impending meaningful changes in world politics, but the last few years saw them experience those not just in principle, but literally in practice. The pandemic has added a bit of spice to this.
Brussels, Berlin, Paris and other European capitals have realized that the role of a passive observer in the events taking place may entail not only losses, but also dangerous consequences; and now they are quite ready to assume a direct role in international affairs. However, this European activity, which the Americans have been seeking for so long, may eventually backfire.
Under Trump, Europe both felt how difficult it is to live without America and realized that sooner or later it will be left to its own devices, which Angela Merkel has been reiterating over the past four years. And the fact that the Germans managed to achieve the most favorable terms in the Nord Stream 2 dispute is probably a manifestation of this brand new European independence. The extent it will eventually grow to is still unknown, but there is a good chance that present-day unanimity within the West may be replaced by a tough internal struggle for interests.