By Finian Cunningham
November 27, 2020 “Information Clearing House” – “RT” – The EU is trembling in anticipation at the prospect of a Joe Biden administration, like Ana Steele in Christian Grey’s Red Room of Pain, despite the policies he espouses being precisely the cause of their problems.Their rushing to congratulate him, even before the presidential result is certified, speaks volumes of their delight that ‘daddy’ is back in the White House.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen could barely contain her joy over what she said was a “new beginning in EU-US global partnership.”
Charles Michel, the European Council president, said it was time to “rebuild a strong EU-USA alliance” and he hastily invited Biden to a European summit in Brussels in the new year, even though the American election has not yet been formally concluded.
Other European national leaders had already congratulated Biden two weeks ago, only days after the November 3 ballot, despite the controversy of incumbent Donald Trump vowing legal challenges over alleged voting fraud.
European elation grew this week with the unveiling of Biden’s would-be cabinet picks. Which seems incredible, given that the incoming White House team is made up of people associated with the Obama administrations (2008-16) for which Biden had served as vice president. Incredible, because several of Europe’s contemporary pressing problems stem from wars in North Africa and the Middle East that the Obama administration fomented.
Appearing defensive about that, Biden in his first in-depth interview as president-elect asserted that “this is not a third Obama administration.” The fact remains, though, that his cabinet nominees are Obama-era holdovers, with names like Antony Blinken for Secretary of State and Jake Sullivan as national security adviser who advocated wars or destructive interventions in Libya, Syria and Ukraine. These conflicts and others in Iraq and Afghanistan, which Biden personally endorsed as a senior senator or exacerbated while vice president to Obama, have led to myriad problems in Europe, from blowback jihadist terrorism to racial tensions with Muslim communities, to straining of resources dealing with a massive influx of refugees from war zones.
This week, while European leaders were cooing over the next Biden administration, French police caused shocking headlines by brutally forcing hundreds of mainly Afghan refugees from a makeshift encampment in the heart of Paris. Such problems stem directly from the illegal wars that were the handiwork of Obama, Biden and his reprised team of warmongers.
Thus, the question is why are European politicians so craven in welcoming the return of conventional American imperialists? Forget all the Biden team hype about “working with allies” and “multilateralism is back”. The Europeans will be treated as they always have been: adjuncts to Washington’s pursuit of its own “interests.”
It’s the political equivalent of “Who’s your daddy?” The European leaders are rolling over for more abuse and gladly doing so, too.
There are several factors. A deluded nostalgia for “normalcy” after four years of fraught and nerve-fraying relations with maverick Trump. The personal umbrage of Germany’s Angela Merkel, France’s Emmanuel Macron and other European leaders from being antagonized by boorish Trump over NATO expenditures and trade tariffs is part of the relief they are feeling at getting rid of him. Also, European politicians and diplomats will see Biden and his team as people they are reconnecting with in career paths going back several years. Unlike the shambolic and confusing Trump administration, a Biden one will bring coherence and continuity – regardless of the legacy of wars – which makes for smoother personal, political interaction. Better the devil you know.
Don’t forget, too, that there are plenty of European Atlanticists who, from an ideological conviction, truly believe in the strategic benefits of an US-EU axis. These kind of European deep-state politicians and bureaucrats are credulous believers in NATO and American claims of “leading the free world” against, formerly, the Soviet Union and Red China, and now Russia and Belt & Road China. So, when they hear Biden declaring “America’s back” and “renewing alliances” it is music to their ears.
One specific upside is talk from President-elect Biden of returning the US to the Iran nuclear deal. Trump’s trashing of the 2015 accord cost European states a lot of business and investment hopes with Iran. Also, their image of presumed independence was dented from Trump wielding secondary sanctions against Europeans doing business with Iran, humiliating them to toe his line. With Biden, the Europeans see an opening for resuming economic interests in Iran. That remains to be seen, however.
Another possible upside under Biden is his seeming willingness to enter into arms-control talks with Russia. In particular, renewing the New START treaty curbing strategic nuclear weapons. Trump’s reckless walking away from arms-control conventions, including the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty and the Open Skies Treaty, caused much anxiety across Europe of a new arms race and a threat to continental security. Biden, therefore, may bring some stability on arms control, even though he and his team have made numerous aggressive sounds towards Russia.
But perhaps the most appealing thing that European leaders see in Biden is that the removal of Trump from office is a harbinger for countering the rise in European populism which has been gravely undermining the EU project. The European liberal establishment refers to the various movements as “far-right” which is an unfair broad brush. Some are rightwing, some leftwing, but generally there is a popular sentiment of alienation from the EU and national political establishments over issues related to neoliberal capitalist failure and seemingly uncontrolled immigration which is connected to endless American wars aided and abetted by European NATO powers.
Former European Council President Donald Tusk expressed this view: “Trump’s defeat can be the beginning of the end of the triumph of far-right populisms in Europe. Thank you, Joe.”
Trump was detested by European establishment politicians because they saw him as a mentor for populist, nationalist parties across Europe. His outspoken support for Brexit rankled the EU. Trump’s former ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, openly advocated for Germany’s Eurosceptic AfD party. Steve Bannon, Trump’s former political aide, tried to rally a populist revolt across Europe.
In short, Trump and his America First policy was seen as a malign influence corroding the pillars of the EU bloc.
Biden, however, is a return to conventional trans-Atlanticism, where European nations are at least treated with a modicum of respect – albeit in reality subordinates who will be told by Washington when, where and how high to jump. That’s a degrading relationship but, for the European establishment, they see it as the best way to preserve their order by taking the political oxygen away from populists. Never mind the wars, the refugees, the multicultural tensions, the economic austerity, being a sub for Uncle Sam is a comfort of sorts.
The tragic irony is this not-so “new beginning” in EU-US relations will inevitably lead to more internal contradictions down the road because Biden’s politics are predicated on more interventionism and imperialism under the banner of “leading the free world,” which is the root cause of Europe’s instability.
Finian Cunningham has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. He is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in newspaper journalism. He is also a musician and songwriter. For nearly 20 years, he worked as an editor and writer in major news media organisations, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent.