US-EU relations: Setting a new tone with some humility

 In EU Presidency, In Focus, News

Addressing the American Club of Lisbon on the 101st day since the new Joe Biden Democratic administration took office at the White House, Molly Montgomery, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of European and Asian Affairs says the new administration is “passionate about its relationship with Europe” and the need to rebuild the strategic Atlantic Alliance.

Despite the partisan rhetoric from Democrats and Republicans for the internal domestic market audience in America, when it comes to US foreign overseas relations much policy remains stable and alters little over time whoever sits in the Oval Office at the White House.
Molly Montgomery, whose bureau is responsible for relations with Western Europe and the European Union, and who leads the bureau’s policy formation on global issues, says there is continuity but that the new administration now has a huge opportunity and indeed necessity to cooperate with Europe on the wide sweep of joint challenges that are faced by Europe and the United States and the world, wether Covid-19, climate change, Russia, China, and others; or in just making sure that “our democracies and economies work for our peoples”.
“This is a really exciting time to be working in government and on European issues especially,” says Molly Montgomery.

Shared concerns

According to Montgomery, the main differences in the Biden administration’s foreign policy, particularly regarding Europe, compared to both the Biden and Obama administrations, boil down to continuing to value the relationship with Europe and seeing it a cornerstone to everything so far accomplished in the 21st century.
“We are in a different moment than we were when the president was vice-president to the Obama administration in terms of the challenges which we do see as global (climate change and Covid-19), where we have no choice but to partner together around our shared values (democracy), and work through the differences that we do have in some areas (notably trade) in which we are probably an inch apart, unlike some authoritarian regimes where we are a mile apart,” she says.
Montgomery points out that there is certainly a “difference in tone” with a desire to engage and “work with our allies on all of the challenges.”
She stresses that there is continuity in a lot of policy areas from administration to administration and that the bedrock foundation of the US-EU policy hasn’t changed a lot from the Trump to Biden administration.
Other issues, like defence spending, have also seen a change in tone, but even in Obama’s time the share of NATO countries’ spending had been a “core issue” for the US, with a feeling that some countries in Europe were not paying their fair share.


But if the Biden administration is likely to focus attention on its relationship with China, where does that leave Europe and will it become a junior and subordinated partner for the US?

“There really is a sense that we have to work with our allies because we’re facing so many challenges simultaneously that we have to stick together with our them and our partners which share our values to forge common solutions to all of these issues, including the China challenge,” stresses Montgomery.
The specialist government advisor says that the Biden administration recognises that its relationship with China will be multi-faceted, as with Europe, with aspects that will be competitive, aspects that at times may be adversarial, but also aspects that will be cooperative.
“We really appreciate that on some of those cooperative areas Europe has been a leader over the past four or five years, and this administration has really expressed a lot of gratitude and appreciation for the leadership that Europe had demonstrated on climate issues while we were ‘away’. (during the Trump administration) said Molly Montgomery.
“I think it is going to be about finding ways of leading together and to support each other when we have shared challenges, and we recognise that we come to this moment with some humility as well,” concluded Molly Montgomery, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of European and Asian Affairs.