President Trump’s Warsaw speech was so important: he declared the willingness to defend the Western world, but did not present any dangerous concepts such as the division between the new and the old Europe.
* Marcin Kędzierski
The Transatlantic partnership constitutes a vital fundament of the European integration. There was an obvious coincidence between the Truman doctrine and the beginning of European integration. One of the reasons that explains this coincidence might be the fact that after 1945 Germany’s foreign policy, an engine of that integration, has changed significantly. In the past, the Second Reich’s foreign policy followed the Prussian tradition represented by Otto von Bismarck. His basic aim was to maintain an equal distance towards European powers and to become an ehrlicher Makler (an honest broker). Furthermore, he followed the rule of “Russia first” in his policy towards Central-Eastern Europe. After the Second World War Konrad Adenauer, owing to the Cold War order, reshaped considerably the foreign policy of the “Bonn Republic”. Thus, since 1949 Germany has been a follower of Atlanticism. The second reunification of Germany in 1991 further strengthened the transatlantic linkage through the so-called American-German “Partnership in Leadership”.
Unfortunately, the US-centric world we used to live in does not exist anymore. Washington has been systematically losing the privilege of being the global economic and military hegemon. Beijing started to question its economic position, and Kremlin did the same in terms of military power. As a consequence, Washington has had to redefine its foreign policy objectives. The pivot towards Asia, announced by Barack Obama, was a turning point in American foreign policy. It concurrently meant a symbolic withdrawal of the US from Europe. The annexation of Crimea and the Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine might be seen as a consequence of that geopolitical shift. Although the US decided recently to deploy for the first time a slightly larger contingent in Central Europe, it is more of an ad-hoc attempt of rescuing stability rather than a strategic move. The economic interests of the US as a maritime power lie in the Pacific, not the Atlantic.
The emergence of new world order must have had an influence on Europe. Germany, which after the global financial crisis became EU’s “reluctant hegemon”, had to redefine its foreign policy as well. The emergence of a multipolar world has brought back the Bismarck heritage, as Frank Walter Steinmeier announced. No doubt, history does not repeat itself identically – we live in a different world than Bismarck did. It is definitely far more complex and multidimensional. However, it is getting more and more visible that Germany is trying to find its new (old?) Sonderweg. From the Polish perspective, the most important element of this new approach is a return to the “Russia first” rule through the Nord Stream 2 project. However, the current tension in the relations between Berlin and Washington is even a more momentous issue for Poland. Despite the geopolitical shifts, the membership in the EU and NATO and good relations between Europe and America still constitute the Polish fundamental raison d’etat. Therefore, nothing is worse from Warsaw’s perspective than the deepening cleavages within the Transatlantic community. That is why president Trump’s Warsaw speech was so important: he declared the willingness to defend the Western world, but did not present any dangerous concepts such as the division between the new and the old Europe.
Despite the geopolitical shifts, the membership in the EU and NATO and good relations between Europe and America still constitute the Polish fundamental raison d’etat. Therefore, nothing is worse from Warsaw’s perspective than the deepening cleavages within the Transatlantic community.
There are certainly a few differences and tensions between the EU and the US which exceed the American-German relationship. The major long-running issue – often neglected – constitutes the future of the global trade. Washington supports sea trade while the EU might be interested in the development of new land trade routes such as the Belt and Road Initiative. However, despite tensions between Poland and Germany and the latter and the US, Berlin and Warsaw should go hand in hand towards a reestablishment of the transatlantic community. There are several strong arguments for that cooperation. Germany has become a Zivilmacht and needs American military support. It does not mean that Europeans do not have to spend 2% of our GDPs on defence or create our own military capabilities. However, the Western European societies are mentally demilitarized and will not become “militarily independent”. Moreover, Germany (and the whole EU) are global ambassadors of liberal democracy. This idealism has brought tensions between Berlin and Trump, but in the long run these will probably be reduced. After all, Trump is definitely far more liberal than Vladimir Putin. Moreover, taking into consideration the recent voting in the Congress, it seems that the heritage of value-based foreign policy pursued by neoconservatives may remain influential for many years in the Republican Party. Thus, despite the geopolitical interests, Washington will at the end of the day rather propound the defence of democratic, Western values over deals with illiberal, authoritarian Kremlin which only at the first glance looks as an indispensable partner of the US in global governance. For the same reason, Germany should not try to strike their great deal with the Kremlin ignoring Poland and hopefully it will resign from the Nord Stream 2.
Germany (and the whole EU) are global ambassadors of liberal democracy. This idealism has brought tensions between Berlin and Trump, but in the long run these will probably be reduced.
The economic interests with America are still too important for Germany which in the recent months has already entered into an economic dispute with China. Therefore, after the German parliamentary elections, Berlin will probably unfreeze its relations with Washington. Eventually, Angela Merkel cannot be satisfied with Trump’s glorious visit to France just after the Hamburg “failure” and will probably not let Emmanuel Macron replace Germany as America’s main partner in Europe. Therefore, we should not even exclude a scenario of return to the negotiations of a new TTIP. Paradoxically, Donald Trump can surprise us by his modus operandi being predictably Transatlantic.
*Marcin Kędzierski – Director of the Centre if Analysis of the Jagiellonian Club