Washington on Wednesday gave a series of pledges showing its willingness to rebuild the alliance with the European Union and to work in concert with its partners rather than against them, against Russia and China. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday launched this persuasion operation at NATO which will be concluded Thursday evening by Joe Biden during his speech during the summit of EU leaders.
The messages delivered by Washington are sweet music to Europeans because they allay many of their concerns. “There is no question of forcing the allies to make a choice between us and China,” Antony Blinken assured Wednesday during a meeting with his NATO counterparts. “We know that our allies have complex relations with China which will not always align,” he admitted.
Europeans have always shown their reluctance to embark on the conflictual relationship with Beijing desired by Donald Trump. At the end of December 2020, they concluded an agreement with China on investments demanded by Germany. But they came up against the limits of cooperation with Beijing when they called for commitments on forced labor and an end to persecution against Uyghurs. “There are very strong oppositions within the EU on this agreement and the political conditions for signing it are not met,” a diplomat said Wednesday before the European summit. Washington did not need to intervene.
Easier compared to Moscow
Harmony with the EU is easier vis-à-vis Moscow. “While we are working with Russia to promote our interests and those of the Alliance, we are also trying to hold Russia to account for its reckless and confrontational actions,” said Antony Blinken.
As in China, Washington has coordinated with the Europeans to sanction the condemnation of the opponent Alexeï Navalny and the repression against his supporters. President Joe Biden does not hesitate to offend certain allies. He blocked the completion of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, the construction of which is dividing Europeans. Antony Blinken made no concessions on this point during his interview with his German counterpart Heiko Maas.
But the United States has relaxed its stance on funding for military spending. As the EU’s largest economy, Germany is struggling to reach the 2% defense GDP target by 2024. “We recognize the need to adopt a more comprehensive vision of burden sharing,” Antony announced on Wednesday. Blinken to NATO. The rupture is total with Donald Trump, who bullied the Germans, accused of being “deadbeats” and of contributing to Russia’s war effort through their gas purchases.
The US Secretary of State also listened to and responded to the concerns expressed by many European allies about Turkey’s aggressive behavior. During his meeting with his Turkish counterpart Mevlüt Çavusoglu, he “urged Turkey not to keep the Russian S-400 air defense system, expressed concern over Turkey’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention (on the protection of women) and stressed the importance of democratic institutions and respect for human rights“, said his spokesperson Ned Price.
“Blinken has shown that Washington takes the measure of the stakes with its desire to revitalize the Alliance and the relationship with the European Union,” a European diplomat told AFP on Wednesday. “The fact that President Biden is addressing European leaders during their summit sends the right message about his sincere desire to consult the allies before any decision is taken,” he concluded.