22 January 2013
The Eurozone crisis and the Obama Administration’s strategy of giving U.S. engagement in the Asia-Pacific region a top priority have made it necessary to adjust transatlantic relations. Europe desires deeper and more comprehensive cooperation, but on the American side there is a growing feeling of a lack of economic affinity with Europe.
In The Transatlantic Economy 2012–published by the Center for Transatlantic Relations of Johns Hopkins University–a chapter called “Turbulence: Fasten Your Seatbelts!” sums up the situation well. For after the excitement aroused by the election of Barack Obama, now is not the time for celebration. The euro crisis, cuts in the EU defense budgets, uncertainties regarding U.S.-Russia and EU-Russia relations, and the new phase the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is soon to enter following the withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan will force Washington, Brussels, and European capitals to make an objective assessment: the transatlantic relationship will not be as ‘passionate’ as before but it remains the bedrock of the Western camp. What remains in transatlantic relations for both partners is a marriage without sex. It is not always pleasant, but it can still work well to handle daily business.
NATO is one of the pillars in the transatlantic relationship, but it is a shaky one. The main reason NATO continues to be viable is American willingness to make a disproportionate contribution to the Alliance’s military capabilities. Americans have long criticized European members for failing to make a reasonable and proportional financial and military contribution to support the Alliance. The U.S. now accounts for between 20 and 25 percent of NATO’s overall budget, although the Alliance has a total of 28 members. Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense during the Libyan campaign in 2011, also criticized the Europeans in the strongest terms. He expressed his discontent in such undiplomatic terms that American diplomats in Washington had to work overtime to placate the outrage in some European circles.