When U.S. Vice President Joe Biden took to the podium at last February’s Munich Security Conference, he decided to err on the side of caution. Washington’s strategic shift toward Asia, Biden said, would have no impact on the thriving relationship between the United States and Europe.
This was music to the ears of Europeans in the packed banquet hall of the Bayerische Hof Hotel. Biden’s words were clearly aimed at reassuring Europe that despite some difficulties, the trans-Atlantic relationship was intact. Biden said that America and Europe had never been so close. The relationship was alive and well.
Nothing could be further from reality. The trans-Atlantic relationship is in a deep crisis for one main reason: The United States has come to see that this Cold War “institution,” which was centered on protecting Western European allies against the Soviet Union, has outlived much of its usefulness. For Washington, it’s time to move on, time for both sides to define their mutual interests and values as they stand today.