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Due to extensive cooperation on a wide range of issues, the relationship between the United States and Europe is often called the transatlantic partnership. In many areas, the two sides share common values and overlapping interests, and have grown increasingly interdependent in terms of security and prosperity.
The majority of Europeans warmly welcomed President Barack Obama to office, and his popularity suggested opportunities for the United States and Europe to address the common set of global challenges they face. In dealing with this difficult agenda, however, observers note that the constructive tone of the relationship does not necessarily translate into tangible foreign policy results. Overall, transatlantic cooperation is strong on many key issues, but some concerns and points of tension also persist. As the United States and Europe deal with changing geopolitical realities, some new anxieties are surfacing about the future of the transatlantic partnership.
The list of issues representing significant areas of shared interest is long. This report selects five major issues to illustrate the nature of the transatlantic relationship and cooperation:
Despite the substantially increased commitment of troops and resources during 2009-2010, the likely outcome of the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan is a subject of debate. Afghanistan continues to pose a test of alliance cohesion, and Europe's commitment to maintaining its participation will be an important tone setter in transatlantic relations.
Europe remains both a primary target of radical Islamist terrorists and a potential base for those seeking to carry out attacks against the United States. Transatlantic counterterrorism cooperation has been strong since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, but challenging differences exist over issues such as data privacy that could hinder or complicate efforts to jointly combat terrorism.
The current global financial crisis has affected the transatlantic economic relationship and challenged the political relationship. Promoting financial stability and restoring economic growth are major priorities for leaders on both sides. The United States and Europe have the largest trade and investment relationship in the world. While some disputes persist, most of the relationship is mutually beneficial, and efforts are ongoing to reduce non-tariff barriers and increase regulatory convergence.
The United States and the European Union (EU) continue to seek a way to halt Iran's nuclear program. After the approval of UNSC Resolution 1929 in June 2010, the EU applied strict new sanctions against Iran. While the new measures bring U.S. and EU sanctions into broad alignment, differences remain over issues such as the sale of refined petroleum products.
Lastly, relations between the West and Russia have grown increasingly tense in recent years. While the Obama Administration's "reset" initiative appears to have contributed to an improved atmosphere, common approaches to Russia--among U.S. policymakers, within Europe, and across the Atlantic--have proven difficult to formulate.
This report examines the current state of the transatlantic relationship and discusses the key issues outlined above, which are likely to have implications for U.S. interests during the 112th Congress.
Contents The Current State of U.S.-European Relations The Ties That Bind An Evolving Relationship The EU and NATO Selected Key Issues in U.S.-European Relations Afghanistan Counterterrorism Economic Relations Iran Russia Acknowledgments
December 8, 2010
The Current State of U.S.-European Relations
The Ties That Bind
Common values, overlapping interests, and shared goals are the foundation of what is often described as the transatlantic partnership between the United States and Europe. By almost any measure, the institutional pillars of the Euro-Atlantic community--NATO and the European Union (EU)--have proven successful in promoting prosperity, security, and stability in Europe. The U.S. Congress and successive U.S. Administrations have strongly supported both institutions as means to foster democratic states, reliable military allies, and strong trading partners.
Many observers stress that in terms of security and prosperity the United States and Europe have grown increasingly interdependent. Both sides of the Atlantic face a common set of challenges, including economic concerns, terrorism, weapons proliferation, energy security, climate change, environmental degradation, and the destabilizing effects of failing and rogue states. Both sides are proponents of democracy, open societies, human rights, and free markets. A full survey of global issues that are important for U.S. and European interests would also include relations with countries such as China, India, and Turkey; concerns about stability in the Balkans and the countries of the former Soviet Union; the Middle East peace process; development assistance and humanitarian aid to the countries of Africa and elsewhere in the developing world; and many more. Supporters of close U.S.-European cooperation argue that neither the United States nor Europe can adequately address such an agenda alone, and that the track record shows the two sides can accomplish much more when they work together.
An Evolving Relationship
Passionate differences over the invasion of Iraq pushed transatlantic and inter-European relations to an historic low point in 2003-2004. For many Europeans, Iraq was the unforgettable defining element in their perceptions of President George W. Bush--too unilateral, too reliant on military force, and too …