Biden and Europe | Opinion

President Joe Biden with the first lady, Jill Biden, yesterday in Washington about to embark.
President Joe Biden with the first lady, Jill Biden, yesterday in Washington about to embark.Evan Vucci / AP

The president of the United States, Joe Biden, has chosen Europe as the destination for the first major international tour of his mandate, which represents the reunion between the great democratic blocs on both sides of the Atlantic. On a strategic board in which authoritarian powers gain ground via great growth (China) or refinement of asymmetric defiance capabilities (Russia), it is a priority that the democratic field close ranks after the tear represented by the Trump stage. There will be multiple topics on the agenda in the tight series of meetings and summits that the US leader has planned. But the most important one is to ensure that democracies and their values ​​can continue to project influence in the 21st century, especially against Beijing. The only possibility of achieving this is through coordination.

The timing is right. The arrival of Biden has represented an important turn from the previous Administration and opens up new perspectives. Trump’s turbulent mandate (2017-2021) was characterized above all by a breakdown in multilateralism and by sympathy for many authoritarian leaders. Biden – who will attend the G-7 summit, visit NATO and meet with EU leaders – has a very different view of international relations and has embraced the concept of “assassin” in reference to Vladimir Putin. Both the Alliance and the EU project were never understood by Trump, who considered them in strictly accounting terms, and although it is not possible to speak of a rupture, it is true that Washington’s distancing from Europe has caused a loss of time precious. A period during which some authoritarian powers have gained positions.

It is also timely because Europe is in a phase of reconsideration of its relationship with China. Two recent developments confirm this: the European Parliament has blocked the ratification of the investment pact signed with Beijing at the end of 2020 after an exchange of sanctions triggered by the Chinese repression of the Uighur minority; and in Italy, which until recently had been very receptive to closer cooperation with China, Mario Draghi has signed a decree vetoing Chinese capital from taking control of a strategic Italian semiconductor company, symbolizing a profound turnaround. On the other hand, awareness of Russia’s dangerousness is also high and shared.

There is therefore a dynamic of strategic alignment, but this does not mean perfect harmony. The EU officially qualifies the Asian giant as a systemic rival, its position hardens, but different sensitivities remain within the bloc. In Europe, Germany continues to push in a direction that avoids the risk of an escalation of confrontation and takes advantage of commercial possibilities, sponsoring the investment agreement with China or betting on a new gas pipeline with Russia.

The Biden era is more favorable for Atlantic tuning, but it does not mean that there will not persist – or new ones emerge – discrepancies in this and other areas. But in any case, both the US and the EU should internalize that China’s rise is taking the world into another phase, with enormous consequences. Against it, Europe will do well to cultivate its autonomy, but without ever losing sight of the logic of the democratic common denominator.