Europe needs a strong American partner!
No matter whom the American voters elect on Tuesday, a radical change in American foreign policy towards its European allies is unlikely. Both John McCain and Barack Obama would generally continue to follow the multilateral course pursued by President Bush in his second term of office and before him by President Clinton. Both will, if elected, seek to further intensify transatlantic relations. The new US President will give Europe greater opportunities to participate, without, however, abandoning America's claim to leadership. But this also means that the European side will be expected to contribute more than in the past. There is a real need for this, whether in policy towards Russia or Iran, regarding climate protection and energy security, in the Middle East or Afghanistan. If, in the words of the coalition agreement, we are committed to "effective multilateralism", then the United States must be willing to take a multilateral approach, but we must also be willing to take effective action. Fears, however, that one of the first decisions taken by the new US President will be to call for more German troops in Afghanistan are exaggerated and indicate a lack of self-confidence. We should seize this opportunity for closer cooperation, because we need the United States to be a strong partner – but the United States also needs us Europeans as a strong partner.
Although US power is likely to decline in relative terms in view of the rise of emerging countries, primarily in Asia, the United States will remain the leading Western power and force for international stability for a long time to come. Its military dominance will continue in the coming decades. Despite the current financial crisis, the US economy will continue to lead the world for many years to come due to its great potential for innovation.
Despite the structural changes in the international system following the end of the Cold War, there are no two regions in the world which have so much in common as Europe and the US and which enjoy such close political, economic, cultural, strategic and historical links. The transatlantic partnership is also important for purely pragmatic reasons, since the strengths of both partners complement each other well.
Although the EU is prosperous and holds a powerful attraction for its neighbours, it is not yet a genuine strategic actor on the world stage. Strategic operations such as the current operation in Afghanistan can only be carried out under US leadership or within the framework of NATO. However, since the fiasco experienced by the US in the first few years following the Iraq war, it has become increasingly clear that the US cannot forgo the legitimacy and support provided by the major European nations. This is all the more true given that Europe enjoys a higher standing than the US in certain regions of the world, and involving Europe significantly increases the chances of joint success – for example in the Middle East. The EU possesses significant resources and expertise in the field of civilian crisis management and reconstruction. The current situation in Afghanistan and the Balkans, in particular, makes clear the importance of linking military and civilian measures. Transatlantic cooperation should not, however, be limited to Europe and the United States; other democratic and like-minded countries should also be involved, such as Japan and India, Australia and New Zealand, Brazil and Mexico.
Eckart von Klaeden is Foreign Policy Spokesman of the CDU/CSU Parliamentary Group in the German Bundestag.