by Xinhua writer
Zhang Xin BEIJING China (Xinhua) --
Since the end of World War II, the transatlantic alliance
between the United States and Europe has been the cornerstone of
the Western world.
Over decades, the European allies
have habitually relied on Washington for security guarantee
within NATO so Europe can develop its economy and proceed with
However, the U.S.-Europe romance has been fading away as it
seems Washington now wants to ditch such a tradition, and
recalibrate their roles in the partnership.
Under "America First" banner, the alliance skeptics in
Washington accused the EU of taking "advantage of the United
States," deemed the NATO alliance "as bad as NAFTA," and pressed
the European nations to grow their defense expenditure.
On trade, though, the two sides have technically been in a
detente since U.S. President Donald Trump and European
Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker agreed in July to work
toward "zero tariffs" on industrial goods, yet the truce is like
a house built on sand.
Earlier this month, U.S. ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland
accused Europe of disregarding all the goodwill built up since
the Marshall Plan and of frustrating U.S. efforts to redress the
He warned that unless the EU gives ground, Washington will
employ a "multitude of tools available ... to make it more
difficult for Europe to sell its products to America."
Washington’s decision to quit the Iran nuclear deal is
another stab to the transatlantic bond, as the hard-won pact is
very important to Europe.
Brussels believes the nuclear deal can play a key role in
helping promote peace and stability in the Middle East. Also,
investors from Europe have begun to swarm into Iran after
signing the deal in 2015.
Now that Washington has walked away from the nuclear pact in
which the European countries have invested so much to bring to
life, and reinstated the sanctions against Tehran, the unity
across the Atlantic has been deeply eclipsed.
In the face of such a capricious Washington, the Europeans
have been trying to handle one peak of frustration after
"With friends like that, who needs enemies?" EU Council
President Donald Tusk complained in May at a gathering of
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is more explicit.
She urged that "Europe can no longer rely on the U.S. ... It
must take its fate into own hands."
Merkel’s appeal may be a judgment call Europe has to make
Yet it is not a turkey shoot as the EU is now at a historic
The rise of populism and protectionism in the continent has
triggered the excruciating Brexit process, helped elect
right-wing politicians in Italy and Germany, and led "Yellow
Vests" protesters onto the streets of France.
For now, the cold, hard fact for the EU is that it may still
need to scramble to maintain such a thorny alliance.
But in the long run, it needs to introduce necessary reforms,
defense ones in particular, so that it can not only stand on its
own feet but also on an equal footing with the United States.
While marking the centenary of the World War One Armistice
last month, French President Emmanuel Macron has called on the
Europeans to have their own army.
Macron’s proposal may not happen in the near future, it could
be seen as a sign that the bloc of nations have begun to
confront the reality of a post-Atlantic era.
For both sides across the Atlantic, neither can now return to
the old days.