#OnlyTogether can the transatlantic partners deliver peace and security

#OnlyTogether can the transatlantic partners deliver peace and security

By Ms Iana Maisuradze, MA candidate in Transatlantic Affairs at the College of Europe in Bruges and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

The transatlantic partnership has experienced an especially turbulent period since 2016. Nationalism and populism have erupted in both the US and Europe, weakening the partnership. The US under President Donald Trump has withdrawn from multiple multilateral agreements, threatened to abandon its European allies and weakened the belief in multilateralism. Authoritarian regimes continued to undermine democracies and threaten their security. The election of Joe Biden as the new US president has given fresh impetus to the transatlantic bond and bred the hope that this bond will once more serve to enhance and strengthen the system of rules-based order and multilateralism that constitutes its foundation. The EU and NATO are preparing for a new chapter in the history of transatlantic relations in which partners are committed to defend one another and the common values they share.

As the first step towards strengthening the transatlantic partnership, the EU has already issued an ambitious yet realistic new EU-US agenda for global change. This agenda must be approved as the roadmap for the EU-US Summit that is expected to be held in 2021. NATO is also setting its priorities with its NATO 2030: United for the New Era report, where burden-sharing among the transatlantic allies is more balanced and the partnership is strengthened. Both the EU and NATO expect President-elect Biden to be committed to the transatlantic partnership as the bedrock of peace and security for the transatlantic community. There is new hope and willingness from both sides of the Atlantic for much-needed and reciprocal friendship and support; however, this needs to be translated into action.

Dealing with internal challenges first

While the incoming administration in the US is enthusiastic about improving the transatlantic relations, several internal challenges need to be addressed before the Biden administration starts to rebuild the US relationship with the EU. Dealing with COVID-19 is the most immediate challenge to be overcome at the national level. However, if the US joins COVAX, as the EU offers in the proposed agenda, this will provide a space for cooperation. Whether the US Senate will be controlled by the Democrats or Republicans remains to be seen, and this will affect the new administration’s room for manoeuvre. President-elect Biden has been a strong supporter of NATO and the transatlantic bond, with a proven record from his previous roles as US vice president and chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He has proposed a Summit for Democracy, which sends the US’s European counterparts a positive message of interest.

Security: European and therefore transatlantic

This message has been received positively by the EU, which will join efforts to tackle authoritarian assertiveness, and deal with human rights and corruption issues. As a sign of a first US steps to recommit itself to democracy, transatlanticism and ultimately multilateralism, the EU will encourage the US to rejoin the Iran deal – the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the Paris Agreement and World Health Organisation. Strengthening transatlantic relations will ultimately strengthen the multilateral system, which, as Josep Borrell has emphasised, is a top EU priority.

NATO – the world’s longest-lasting military alliance – has been described as “obsolete” and “brain dead” on both sides of the Atlantic; nevertheless, its European members hope that the transatlantic partnership will be strengthened during the next US administration and beyond. NATO will also encourage the US to recommit itself to transatlantic security by retaining or even increasing its military presence in Europe.

The EU believes that Strategic Autonomy will be beneficial for both Europe and transatlantic relations, giving EU presence as a strong ally willing and able to play its part and lead when necessary. Borrell points out that Strategic Autonomy will not lead to the decoupling of the transatlantic alliance: “The one thing we should avoid is a sterile debate, premised on a false choice: whether we go either ‘Transatlantic’ or ‘European’. For me, investing in a strong and capable Europe also means investing in a revitalized transatlantic partnership.” NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg welcomes EU efforts to increase defence spending and echoes the same message. He notes that the “EU cannot protect Europe”, and that its efforts can only be complementary to those of NATO. An EU-US Security and Defence Dialogue would be the best step towards discussing this matter and clarifying any problematic issues surrounding Strategic Autonomy and its intentions.

What about Russia and China?

The rise of authoritarian states such as China and Russia poses threats to the transatlantic security  and international liberal order. Dealing with systemic rivals and competitors while finding common ground for multilateralism is not an easy task. Chinese assertiveness has proved to be greater than was initially thought. The US and EU have different interests with regard to their respective relationships with China; however, when common values such as upholding human rights are at issue, the two must play a prominent role in pressuring China to comply with the multilateral rules-based world order. The credibility of transatlantic support for democracy is being diminished as Russia continues its aggression in its near neighbourhood and its efforts to undermine young democracies. As the NATO 2030 report recommends, this might be the time to demonstrate the validity of the Open Door Policy, especially with regard to the aspirations of the countries in Russia’s immediate neighbourhood. The transatlantic partners should use this window of opportunity to enhance their ambition to be a geopolitical player and establish a common strategy to defend the international liberal order and multilateralism. The next NATO Summit should discuss these common challenges.

Although the transatlantic partnership has been turbulent recently, once the Biden administration has taken over, the EU, US and NATO will likely come together to strengthen the long-lasting transatlantic partnership based on commonly held values and interests. The transatlantic partners need to tackle common challenges and secure peace and prosperity by upholding the rules-based international order and multilateralism. When President-elect Biden takes office in the US in January 2021, the transatlantic partnership is expected to be strengthened. However, this in itself will not be a magic wand that resolves all the issues facing the partnership. The transatlantic partners will need to work on an ambitious agenda that includes a more balanced burden-sharing within NATO n and establishing a strategy to defend democracy from authoritarian regimes and the assertiveness of China and Russia. One thing is clear, though: the necessary political will is likely to be present on both sides of the Atlantic. EU-US relations are more important than ever to uphold democratic values. NATO remains the indispensable alliance to secure democracy, and now more than ever is the time to tackle common challenges and deliver peace and security.  

Only together can the transatlantic partnership play a vital role in upholding multilateralism, opposing authoritarianism, and securing peace and security.



As the world attempts to navigate yet another major disruption, we continue to look to one another to identify sustainable solutions and rebuild better. It is time for our world to take conscious steps towards unity and to work together so as to move beyond our preconceptions and challenge our stagnation. This #OnlyTogether blog series provides you with expert insights and the beginnings of a roadmap to a more peaceful and secure future. This blog series was launched to celebrate our 25th Anniversary, discover our 3-day event programme here.

Disclaimer: The views, information and opinions expressed in the written publications are the authors’ own and do not necessarily reflect those shared by the Geneva Centre for Security Policy or its employees. The GCSP is not responsible for and may not always verify the accuracy of the information contained in the written publications submitted by a writer.

Iana Maisuradze is a graduate intern at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy and an MA candidate in Transatlantic Affairs at the College of Europe in Bruges and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.