As a politician with his eye on the midterm congressional elections, “Biden will focus like a laser in his first year on the pandemic, on reopening the economy, on unemployment, on infrastructure, on health care, on an economic stimulus,” Mr. Kupchan said. “There will be much less time, energy and money for foreign policy.”
Sophia Besch and Luigi Scazzieri of the Center for European Reform argue in a new paper that “many Europeans will want to forget Trump’s presidency ever happened.” But they add, “Europe cannot continue to look to the U.S. to answer key questions on what its interests are and how it should pursue them.”
That’s particularly true for defense, on which most European leaders agree more must be spent.
Germany’s defense minister, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, asserts that Europeans cannot replace America as a security provider, as do Central and Eastern European leaders. But others, especially President Emmanuel Macron of France and the E.U. foreign-policy chief, Josep Borrell Fontelles, argue that Europeans cannot be sure of America’s reliability.
Mr. Biden’s victory should not distract or discourage Europeans from a goal of a more independent defense and more strategic autonomy, they say, even in the context of NATO.
There are particular issues, like terrorism, instability in North Africa and migration, where Europeans feel they need to be able to act more effectively on their own.
“Where we Europeans need to be careful about our expectations from the Americans is in our neighborhood,” said Nathalie Tocci, director of Italy’s Institute of International Affairs. On issues including Belarus, Ukraine and the Balkans, “coordination with the U.S. is important, but we can’t expect the U.S. to step up its engagement,” she said.