The EU as a target for US interests
First of all, as Riccardo Alcaro notes, "the hierarchical structure of Western power has consolidated, with the US at the center as the unchallenged leader and European countries revolving around it, part genuinely, part fatalistically, as committed followers." So, the US wants to continue its own hegemony over Europe and it isn’t in Washington’s interests, nor will it allow, any real sovereignty for European countries or the EU as an emerging bloc and political pole. However, the strategic culture of Europe itself is different from that of the US. Brussels has own vision and design for Europe and other regions with respect to human rights, diversity and social development. Following in the footsteps of Washington is not in Europe’s interest, but a discourse about shared values, a wider Europe, and other ideas which have been promoted by the Atlanticist agency have been used well as umbrella for political decisions. The 2014 introduction of anti-Russian sanctions demonstrated the deep difference between US and EU interests and may be described as a failed strategy (this doesn’t just apply to Russia, but to Iran as well).
In order to engage in the permanent correction and management of Europe’s collective behavior, Washington needs to monitor, influence and persuade European states. The best way for it to do so is to organize or co-opt an umbrella organization such as the EU and to build a huge network of different think-tanks, branches and institutions with a strong, previously unprecedented Atlanticist agenda.
The existence of the US depends on its continued economic strength for a number of reasons. The country’s manufacturing base is not sufficient to provide for its material needs, nor is its energy supply sufficient to sustain the American way of life and social structure, which is predicated on near-universal automobile ownership and the attendant consumption of fuel. America’s current mostly-suburban infrastructure is based on everyone owning a car; without oil, the country’s infrastructure would collapse. Although America could re-develop its manufacturing base, its purchasing power must remain significant enough for it to obtain fuel oil.
For these reasons, America must both engage in international trade and secure its energy supplies. Additionally, American corporations can only grow by expanding their operations abroad. The Transatlantic and Trans-Pacific agreements on trade and investments being pushing by Washington are serious instruments for economic expansion.
As Obama's economic adviser Jason Furman noted: “The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP), will put the United States at the center of integrated trade zones making up nearly two-thirds of the world economy.”
The US State Department’s 2015 Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review notes that 46% of US goods exports go to trade agreement partners. Exports supported 11.7 million jobs in 2013.
U.S. International Transactions data shows:
In the fourth quarter of 2014, the current account deficit rose to $113.5 billion from $98.9 billion in the third quarter.
The goods and services deficit rose to $127.0 billion in the fourth quarter from $123.9 billion in the third quarter.
A trade deficit signals that there are problems with a market and that it is unable to buy goods. If the US can’t make up for its deficit with an influx in investment money (such as for the purchase of debt considered “safe” by the world’s three US-based ratings agencies), the dollar loses value.
Additionally, many U.S. think-tanks are worried about the political and economic revival of Germany (inside and outside the EU) and Japan. Both countries have been labeled as implicit threats to America’s plan for world economic dominance and from an organizational point of view (Other states mentioned as source of possible troubles are: China, Iran and Russia).
As a result, many think tanks contend that the US must limit German economic power and organize trans-Atlantic pull with Berlin as a minor partner (client).
One may understand US policy with respect to future activity in Europe by assessing the State Department’s strategy for the next four years (as well as that of USAID):
US Secretary of State John Kerry has said that "with the international rules-based system now competing against alternative, less-open models, we will work to ensure that tomorrow’s global economy is defined by a race to the top, not a race to the bottom".
Given that the world is becoming increasingly multipolar, it is very clear that his message is directed against any attempts to form regional or international economic models based on principles which are opposed to the neoliberal agenda. The BRICS, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, UNASUR and CELAC, as well as the Eurasian Economic Union and so on threaten to rival the US for economic control in their respective regions. In the same respect, the US may also see the EU as a threat.
Two other points from the State Department plan are also connected with it and may be described as Washington's methods:
- Enhance economic leadership and expertise. The US will strengthen economic leadership in regional bureaus, better align our overseas economic assignments with the skills of own people, and increase opportunities for internal and external assignments that will deepen staff’s economic expertise.
- Improve use of data and diagnostics. Data and economic diagnostic tools will play a greater role in policy and decision-making, planning, monitoring and evaluation, and program development.
The so-called “soft power” methodology will be engaged and linked with other US strategic objectives:
- Increase engagement with diaspora communities, faith-based groups, and others.
- Reach students and civic leaders through the “Engage America” program.
Interest in European affairs is not limited by economics, but rather by spectrum of engagement. Victoria Nuland coined a new meme - "Transatlantic Renaissance – a new burst of energy, confidence, innovation and generosity, rooted in our democratic values and ideals.” There is no problem for the US that the idea of democracy and/or human rights is different from Greece to Norway and from Spain to Germany.
US leadership (neoliberal governments backed by Washington and transnational companies) also entails specific approaches to key issues. One example is cyberspace. A special CFR project entitled the Council of Councils notes very clearly that "Two competing visions of cyber-governance have traditionally pitted a group of countries led by the United States—which supports a multi-stakeholder model including governments, businesses, civil society, and technical experts—against countries (including China and Russia) that champion sovereign control (although a number of countries remain in the middle). Negotiations heated up in 2014 as world leaders devoted unprecedented attention to cyber governance in the wake of the revelations of spying by the US National Security Agency (NSA)."
US Internet policy reflects a very different set of interests from those usually seen in Eastern Europe. In the US, users are commonly flagged by their own internet service providers for engaging in file sharing, which is seen as occupying a legal gray zone in most East European countries, where file sharing is effectively ignored. Powerful US lobbies such as the Recording Industry Association of America have not only backed local anti-piracy initiatives but also international agreements such as the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), originally spearheaded in 2007 as a collaborative effort between the United States, the EU, Switzerland, and Japan. Protests only erupted five years later because the EU only discussed ACTA in secret; the initiative was revealed to the public by the hacktivist collective Anonymous.
Security issues may be described as an attempt to strengthen the old axis of military euroatlanticism presented by NATO. It maintains three main priorities:
- The strategic deployment of US forces in Europe and revitalization of NATO;
- Counter-terrorism activity;
- Non-proliferation issues connected with the narrative of strategic stability.
All of these more or less deal with homeland politics but are also key issues from a European perspective. For example, the policy of constructing anti-missile systems for Europe will help to provide a standard excuse for basing the alliance’s military operations in the EU as well as keep Europe satisfied that the alliance is focusing on its security and justify member states’ defense budget allocations (within NATO and in the context of bilateral relations between the US and any European country).
For the US, drone policy and cyber security are also high-priority issues. The latter is very critical for Europeans because of various spy scandals and concerns that foreign and domestic security agencies are intruding into their private lives.
The intrusive, large-scale analytical involvement of US agents into European affairs features in different RAND Corporation reports, especially those published by RAND’s European Department. They primarily deal with such issues as:
- Social and health care, public service transformation;
- Defense and security, especially problems with terrorism and the growth of Islam;
- Migration and Integration. Minorities and the politics of tolerance;
- Illicit markets.
One study issued in January of this year reports public preferences for security, surveillance and privacy across 27 European Member States; these are measured using a stated preference survey. It focuses on three real life contexts: train/metro travel, internet use and the storage of health records — each exploring different dimensions of privacy.
The study was initiated in January 2012 and observations were made across the EU27: 60,472 public transit observations, 74,306 Internet observations, and 94,606 health record-keeping observations.
The study indicated that people’s security priorities differ by country. Respondents in more than half of the EU27 countries exhibited significantly different preferences for security checks.
Migration policy has become an emerging threat to the EU recently. A proposal has recently been introduced by the European Commission and European Parliament that would issue quotas on illegal migrants for every member state of the EU; each country would be obliged to take in a certain number of immigrants. This idea is opposed by many states, especially the UK and the countries of central Europe. US advisers and policy makers haven’t proposed any solution to this problem except a multicultural approach based on integration. The Swiss approach to the issue, which is based on democratic decisions at the community level, has been strongly criticized by politicians but supported by the population of the EU.
Polarized opinions regarding this problem have the potential to lead to a cascade of conflict inside the EU, driving a wedge between the voting populations and the eurocrats. The Brussels establishment tends to welcome immigration due to their predisposition towards ‘race-blind’ multiculturalism, their socialist and egalitarian concern for the well-being of impoverished refugees and black Africans in general, and their budgetary concern for the funding of the Union’s pension systems in the face of low birth rates and an aging population. Their outlook contrasts with that of their constituents, who are worried about encroaching cultural Islamization, a potential increase in terrorism and violent crime, and the social costs of providing for hundreds of thousands of asylum-seekers annually. This gulf in opinions between the governors and the governed can be and has been used to strengthen populist movements in Europe.
The same logic applies to gender policy: from simply advocating equal rights for women, Brussels has gone on to call the entire notion of gender into question, with interest groups in many member countries introducing aspects of the LGBT agenda. Politically this could prove to be advantageous for right-wing populists in the near future. Gender policy is interconnected with many other issues, such as economics. One of the reports provided by Obama’s economic advisers was titled "Gender Pay Gap: Recent Trends and Explanations." However, while the so-called gender gap, glass ceiling, and other such issues have been addressed in nearly every European country, recently there has been a focus on the introduction of gay culture throughout Europe. Like migration, this is another critical issue for Europe and Western society itself.
Also interesting is the role of the US in the process of engaging in the restitution of property and cultural heredity inside of Europe. The image of an independent broker disappears after one has taken time to address and deeply analyze this topic. Examples include Washington’s backing of Kiev, where its use of the sovereignty discourse reflect its double standards in international relations.
European energy issues also may be described as tool of manipulation from abroad. This happens via NATO and it manifests as Brussels’ attempts to create a unified energy policy.
“We must make energy diversification a strategic transatlantic priority and reduce Europe’s dependency on Russian energy,” NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen stated in March 2014, in the context of the Ukraine crisis. He was expressing what few NATO officials had ever said in public: energy security is becoming a truly strategic issue, with numerous implications for Allied security.
However, Russian supplies remain essential for many European countries. Even during the Cold War, cooperation existed between the USSR and some NATO members in the energy sector (This can be said of sanctions as well). Now the pro-US idea of diversification and the introduction of “alternative” methods like shale gas are nothing more than unrealistic projects. The German Institute for International and Security Affairs – SWP, in its paper "Limits of an ‘Energy Union’", notes that "The debate over an energy union has gained significant momentum since 2014, creating the impression that the EU is on track to achieving substantial progress on integration. But a closer look shows, that most of the Member States are still openly resisting the convergence pressure they created for themselves through their jointly adopted energy and climate targets for 2030, and that they are still insisting on the primacy of national sovereignty over energy policy. The energy union discourse should thus be interpreted mainly as a symptom of an EU integration crisis."
In short, energy policy may lead to a collapse in Union energy policy and long-term political effects.
We must add the many political projects that were proposed over the course of many years on paper which were never realized. For example, the European Strategy for the Western Balkans (Thessaloniki declaration 2003) still hasn’t become a reality. The idea of introducing peace, stability and prosperity to the western Balkan states remains a dream. Meanwhile, the level of crime and corruption in the region is growing. The Albania-Kosovo-Macedonia-Serbia-Montenegro-Bosnia region generates many unresolved problems. The EU has many similar “ghosts”.
There is an important need for a realistic strategy for the European community, which would be based on a balanced approach and include but not be limited to an adequate neighborhood policy. The US cannot be the center of world politics anymore due to current problems and new emerging markets, especially in the Asia Pacific region. Europe can and must propose to Washington that they remain partners, but without clear priorities in terms of security, economics and other issues. The US will continue to influence the EU through the European Parliament, NATO and via bilateral relations (its own agents in every country). These contradictions present a serious dilemma for Europeans, but a decision must be arrived at, and better sooner than later.