The ECFR Scorecard and the US (Part I)

Last week, the European Council on Foreign Relations published its third annual European Foreign Policy Scorecard.  While there are numerous areas analyzed in the Scorecard, I want to focus on the discussion about the US.  This post will cover just the introductory sections, and in my next post I will discuss the scores in the specific areas.

As a firm supporter of the necessity of strong transatlantic relations, I was pleased to see that two of the top four most successful policies in 2012 concerned the US.  What is perhaps more interesting to note of the most successful policies, is that of the four dealing with the US, three relate to cooperation towards issues in the Middle East/North Africa.

I was a bit concerned, however, at the lack of attention given to the US in the Introduction to the Scorecard.  The editors devoted a paragraph each to summarizing relations with Russia and China, but when I got to the paragraph with the US, there was only one sentence about the transatlantic relationship.  After that, they quickly moved on to multilateral issues.  I initially thought of two possible reasons for this lack of coverage. First, it could be symbolic of a European pivot away from the US.  After all, if the US were pivoting towards China, then why wouldn’t Europe focus on Russia and China?  Second, it could just be that since the US does not pose as big of a concern to Europe as Russia and China do, the editors felt more inclined to devote more attention to those two nations.  Or, perhaps it could be a combination of the two.

Overall, it appears that score for relations with the United States has improved; however, the grade, a B-, has not changed since 2010.  This seems problematic as one would hope to see greater improvement in relations between the two parties.  While the Scorecard focuses on European performance in the relationship, it should be noted that the US must accept some of the responsibility for lack of better relations.  Leaders on both sides of the Atlantic should be asking the same questions.  What can we do to improve our relationship, especially during this time of economic crisis?  What can we learn from each other to address some of our own internal problems?  What can we do together to address pressing transnational issues like climate change and nuclear proliferation?  (I bring up the example of climate change especially because European relations with China on climate change received a higher score than relations with the US on climate change.)

The Introduction to the section about EU-US relations brought up some provocative points.  First, the editors propose that “the G20 world is not yet a reality.” I find this to be an interesting choice of use of the word “yet,” as if to imply it is eventually going to happen.  Does this mean that the editors do not agree with Ian Bremmer’s argument about a G-Zero world?  If so, I wonder if we’re getting a glimpse of optimism from ECFR with the sense that both Europe and the US will pull through the crisis together and provide the world with much needed leadership.

Building off of that, we read that “Europe, with all its flaws, [is] the only dependable partner the US has.”  I agree that this is the case, but I’m curious to see how Europe might possibly use this information to its advantage.  Will the EU start asking the question posed by Jan Techau, “What is in it for us?”  Is this possibly the beginning for Europe to take more united stands against the US?  If so, can the US afford to ignore Europe if they differ on issues?  Conversely, can Europe afford to take a stand with the possibility that the US will merely shrug off any sort of disagreement?  I think what we have here is a situation where both sides need each other and must recognize that before the relationship deteriorates.

In my next post, I will discuss what I feel were some of the more interesting points within the scores.

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