By Ankita Dutta
After the tenuous Trump presidency, the Biden administration brought stability to transatlantic relations with its clear intentions to strengthen ties with its European allies. This is evidenced by the US recommitment to multilateralism and President Biden’s visit to the continent in 2021. However, the unilateral withdrawal from Afghanistan and the declaration of AUKUS (Australia, UK and US) have sparked concerns about the health of the alliance. The year 2022 has opened a new chapter for the transatlantic alliance with an unprecedented series of political and economic upheavals. The crisis in Ukraine has become a critical test of resilience for allies. This has led to the emergence of a host of issues, including military and humanitarian support for Ukraine, debates around Europe’s security architecture, the economic impact of the war, among others. This article examines some of the critical tendencies that were present and emerged in transatlantic relations in recent months. It also examines the recent publication 2022 Transatlantic Trends analyze public opinion on issues important to the alliance.
Here are some of the main trends in transatlantic relations:
Perspectives towards Russia and reaction to the Ukrainian crisis: One of the most critical outcomes of the Ukraine crisis has been the revitalization of the alliance and its coordinated response to Russia. Transatlantic unity has been remarkable in this crisis, which has been exemplified by the broad sanctions against Russia; military, economic, humanitarian and political support for Ukraine; and efforts to reduce European energy dependencies. As allies roll out their new round of sanctions, support for much stronger economic sanctions (71%) as well as a ban on oil and gas imports at the cost of rising prices (62%) is visible in the recently published transatlantic trends. 2022. Similarly, public support for Ukraine remains high, particularly regarding its membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union (EU). While there is a general consensus on increasing economic (69%) and military support for the country (66%), the idea of NATO in Ukraine does not find an optimal echo in public opinion. These opinions highlight the public’s general positive attitude towards their national government’s response to the crisis.
Renewed security debates: The Ukrainian crisis has emerged as a critical moment for the European security architecture. While discussions on European security are not new, this crisis has changed the strategic outlook of many EU Member States.
It has been seen in recent months that many European allies have significantly increased their defense investments, Germany being the most important example. He not only established a A fund of 100 billion euros to modernize its armed forces but also re-committed to meeting the 2% of GDP target that allies set after the Crimean crisis in 2014. Similarly, several other member states have also declared their intention to increase their defense spending , as Belgium has increased its spending by 0.9% to 1.54% over the next eight years; Poland and Latvia plan to increase their budgets by 2.5-3% respectively. As national governments recommit to contributing more to European defence, debates over security in the aftermath of the Ukraine crisis have strengthened public support for greater US involvement in European defence, with 72% wanting whether Washington is “somewhat (38 percent) or heavily involved (34 percent)”, according to Transatlantic Trends 2022. The inclusion of the United States in the European security architecture can be perceived in two ways: first, to through the American military presence on the continent, which was requested by the Baltic countries as good as Poland; and second, by building transatlantic military capabilities through NATO.
Similarly, according to Transatlantic Trends, NATO has become more supportive with 78% of respondents rating the alliance as “important”, up from 68% in 2021. However, one of the most critical trends that has emerged is the prospect of NATO enlargement to Sweden. and Finland – making all Nordic countries part of the alliance. The crisis in Ukraine has changed the discourse on security in the two Nordic countries. The inclusion of these two countries marks the end of the neutrality that Sweden and Finland have followed for a long time. There is also increased support in Europe (73%) for both countries to join NATO.
Perception of threat: In terms of threat perception, there is a fundamental difference in what is perceived as a threat among allies. Initially, some European Member States such as Poland and the Baltic States saw Russia as the main threat, while others, mainly France and Greece, were concerned about threats emerging from the Mediterranean, and Germany was more concerned about climate change. On the other hand, the United States was mainly focusing on China and Asia, which did not necessarily correspond to the threat perception of European countries. This trend has changed with the crisis on the continent. According to data published in Transatlantic Trends, climate change (18%), Russia (17%) and war between countries (17%) emerged as the top three, followed by immigration (14%) and cybersecurity (7%). . However, the severity of the threats varied from country to country – for example, 34% of Italians perceived climate change as the most serious threat due to the extreme weather conditions the country has faced over the past last summer ; and 27% of Romanians perceive interstate war as the most significant threat given its proximity to Ukraine. Likewise, as they are closer to the Russian borders, for 42% of Lithuanians, Moscow is the most important security threat and immigration is the main challenge for 37% of Turkey, which has been at the receiving end of migration following the Syrian crisis. crisis. For American respondents, climate change (14%), war (13%), immigration (11%) and Russia (10%) were the main challenges.
Relations with China: Relations with China remain one of the most important agendas for transatlantic relations. The Biden presidency is expected to take a tough stance against China, as the EU has done in recent months with the implementation of several safeguards against acquisitions of strategic assets by Chinese companies in Europe. . In addition to China’s questioning of economic practices and technology transfers, issues related to security law in Hong Kong, human rights issues in Xinjiang and the debate on 5G technologies should come first. plan. President Biden’s idea of China as “special challengealigns with the EU’s idea that China is a “systemic rival, competitor and partner”, providing allies with common ground to formulate a cohesive transatlantic approach to the country. The Ukrainian crisis has not changed opinions about China too much; instead, there is a transatlantic consensus to take a tougher approach to Beijing. The complexity of relations with China was highlighted in the public opinion in Transatlantic Trends, which pointed out that 29% of respondents said that “they don’t know if China is a partner, a competitor or a rival of their country”. While 25% viewed China as a partner, 29% and 18% viewed it as a competitor and rival respectively. In Taiwan, in the event of a Chinese invasion, the majority of respondents preferred that their country take only diplomatic steps. According to the survey, 35% of respondents supported only diplomatic measures, 32% favored sanctions and 12% wanted their country to take no action. Only 4% and 2% respectively wanted their country to send weapons or troops to Taiwan, highlighting the lack of appetite for further conflict.
Turkey in the Transatlantic Alliance: While its relations with the EU have soured in recent years, notably due to problems in the Eastern Mediterranean, Turkey has found itself in a unique position in the Ukraine crisis. Ankara and Moscow have become close partners in the field of energy and security. On the other hand, it has developed a partnership with Ukraine, including in the defense sector. So far, Turkey has managed to preserve its partnership with Moscow and Kyiv and has avoided joining Western countries in imposing sanctions on Russia, thus assuming the role of a mediator between Russia and Ukraine. An independent approach (56%) to the conflict and the management of relations with Russia is also visible in public opinion. The majority of Turkish respondents are also reluctant to take action against Russia; 70% were against banning Russian oil and gas while 58% were against prosecuting Russians for war crimes. Likewise, while there is increased support for the Nordic countries joining NATO, this sentiment finds no resonance in Turkey where 49% disagree, pointing to grievances with Sweden and Finland for having supported Kurdish militant groups, which she considers to be terrorist organisations. This may also be the reason why Ankara is still to be ratifiedCandidacy of Sweden and Finland to NATO.
The year 2022 promises to be a difficult year for the transatlantic alliance. The above analysis summarizes the main trends in transatlantic relations and how strategic thinking is evolving in Europe on issues of immediate and fundamental concern. One of the most important results of the Ukrainian crisis has been the revitalization of the alliance. Transatlantic unity was further exemplified by the renewed debate on the ability of alliance members to meet their strategic aspirations, to coordinate their positions on Russia and China, to consolidate and implement the enhanced presence of NATO and, above all, to end the crisis. While transatlantic unity has shown resilience so far, these trends will impact relations in the months to come.