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What Europe Must Do

Europeans have long known that the global balance of power is shifting rapidly to Asia, and America's attention with it. With the transatlantic alliance only barely surviving Donald Trump’s presidency, this may be the last chance to repurpose it for the twenty-first century.

BERLIN – The first months of US President Joe Biden’s administration have raised Europe’s hopes tremendously – but perhaps too much. For all of our shared values, the United States and Europe each has its own interests and perspectives, and these can sometimes take us in opposite directions. If the transatlantic alliance is to be revived, following its near-death at the hands of Donald Trump, such divergences will need to be accepted and managed. The alliance must make its core interests far more coherent, and its outlook must become more global and comprehensive.

Europeans face a stark choice. If we want the US to return to its previous role of stewarding global rules and norms, we must at least do everything we can to lighten its burden by enhancing stability in our own neighborhood. And to do that, we must develop a common foreign and development policy for the Middle East, Africa, and Eastern Europe – one that offers a real alternative to China’s all-too-enticing Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) of infrastructure construction and investment across Africa and Eurasia.

NATO’s Double Vision

As matters stand, Biden will find it difficult to forge a common approach to China when the G7 meets in Cornwall this June, for the simple reason that Europe doesn’t agree with the US about the nature of the challenge that China poses. Europeans – and we Germans especially – do not see China as an existentially threatening strategic competitor, but rather as a kind of “frenemy”: an indispensable economic partner with a rival (and ultimately incompatible) political system.