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Obama Redux – EU-U.S. Relations for the next four years

Obama Redux - EU-U.S. Relations for the next four years

Picture: Ralf Hirschberger dpa +++(c) dpa – Bildfunk+++

Almost a month after the reelection of Barack Obama at the presidency of the U.S., its implications on the EU-U.S. relations should be reviewed. In a conference organized by the EU Center of Excellence at the University of Miami counting the French Consul to Miami, Gaël de Maisonneuve, Jean Monnet Chair Jaoquin Roy, Ambassador Ambler Moss, and myself, we discussed and reflected on the future implications of the second presidency of Obama on the U.S.-EU relations. Dr. Roy did present and underline the degree of interdependence and interconnection culturally, politically, economically, and financially between the two sides of the pond. Despite emerging political disagreements on both sides of the Atlantic, the degree of interdependence is so high and should be seen as the backbone of the transatlantic relationship. Ambassador Moss’ argument was focusing on the strategic differences between the U.S. and the EU — from the Bush to the Obama doctrine compared to the European Security Strategy of 2003 and 2008. His presentation underlined as well the challenges facing Obama for his second term namely human rights and the use of drones. The Consul General of France offered a very interesting presentation from the perspective of a French official on the next four years, which included a reflection on political and economic connections between the U.S. and France. My presentation was based on growing need for further transatlantic cooperation in order to solve international crises, such as Syria and Iran, and permit the U.S. to fully implement its shift to Asia, the so-called “pivot.”

This commentary is based on my article published by the EU Center Paper Series. The introduction of the article reads:

The week following his reelection, President Obama traveled to Asia – Thailand, Myanmar, and Cambodia –, while facing at home a fiscal cliff, the need to select the next Secretaries of State, Defense, and Treasury, and the resignation of one of America’s most senior and respected generals and Director of the CIA, David Petraeus; all this at the moment wherein the Middle East is burning in flames due to another round of violence between Israel and Hamas. On the other side of the pond, the EU is currently trying to solve or at least contain several crises: the Eurozone, agreeing on the Multiannual Financial Framework 2014-2020, or MFF 2014-2020,2 and saving France.

 For both giants, the American and European priorities are domestic; they both need to do some ‘nation-building at home.’ The threat of the fiscal cliff in the US and the one of the Eurocrisis in Europe are too important to be ignored and so visceral that they will affect the way both actors behave internationally and interact with one another.  

The big question since Obama’s reelection has been what will the EU-US relations look like under his second mandate? And will there be any differences from the first one? This paper argues that the US-EU relations will remain quite similar as it was under the first Obama presidency. Nevertheless, with the current shift to Asia, the ‘pivot,’ the EU will be required to increase its contributions to global politics and international security. This paper is structured in three parts. First, the economic and political climax of the EU and the US will be presented. In a second a part, the EU and US strategies and foreign policies will be laid out. Last but not least, several core issues facing the Euro-Atlantic community, such as the Asia pivot, Iran, climate change, and the economy will be addressed. Other issues such as Syria, Afghanistan, and the Middle East and North Africa will not be addressed in this paper.

The overall argument of the article is that Obama won’t, most likely, increase the degree of cooperation and interaction with Europe from the 2008-2012 standards. Despite a high degree of attraction for Obama in Europe, Europe needs to understand that Obama embodies a new class of American leaders raised in the post-European world. However, Obama needs the EU in to implement the ‘pivot’ to Asia and address vital international security issues such as nuclear non-proliferation, terrorism, global warming, and so on. The EU ought to find a solution to the Eurocrisis, and step up its foreign policy and contribution to global peace. NATO may very well be a vehicle for such platform.

Several issues are clearly threatening the two sides of the Atlantic: climate change; the future of the Arab world; international terrorism; and Asia. However, if there is one additional, but major, threat to the influence and power of the West – U.S. and EU – it ought to be the economy. As underlined in his influential 1987 book, “The Rise and Fall of Great Powers,” Paul Kennedy demonstrated that weak economic foundation is one of the main variables leading to the decline of a great power. The foreign policies of the U.S. and EU will have to take seriously into considerations domestic politics and foster “domestic nation-building.”


Reference: Larive, Maxime. (2012). “Obama 2: Future Implications for EU-US Relations.” EUMA. Vol.12. No. 8. November.



Maxime H.A. Larivé

Maxime Larivé holds a Ph.D. in International Relations and European Politics from the University of Miami (USA). He is currently working at the EU Center of Excellence at the University of Miami as a Research Associate. His research focus on the questions of the European Union, foreign policy analysis, security studies, and European security and defense policy. Maxime has published several articles in the Journal of European Security, Perceptions, and European Union Miami Analysis as well as World Politics Review.