As much as many Americans are looking forward for policy change, Europe is hoping for a multinational foreign policy under a new administration in the United States. In an article addressed to our "Dear Americans", former German chancellor Helmut Schmidt asks (in German; following translation and editing by Sonja Bonin) what Europe can expect from the next US president:
How do you intend to end the war in Iraq and what should Iraq look like afterwards?
What is your goal in Afghanistan? Eliminating just Al-Qaeda or the Taliban as well? Establishing democracy?
Should Al-Qaeda evade to Pakistan for good, perhaps even gaining access to nuclear weapons, would you military intervene?
What is your strategy for a peaceful solution of the decades-old conflict between Israel and its Arab neighbors? Will you support the establishment of a Palestinian state?
What is the future US policy regarding Iran?
Given the fact that one fourth of all states in the world are predominantly Islamic, will you try to prevent a "clash of civilizations" with the Muslim world?
Are the planned anti-missile systems in Poland and the Czech Republic meant to secure those two states and the US, or rather to pose a threat to Russia?
Do you accept Russia's political and economical position in the world?
Do you accept China's political and economical position in the world? Will you finally invite China to the world summits?
Will you re-establish the anti-ballistic missile treaty (ABM) that your predecessor has unwisely revoked, and will you finally sign the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty (CFE), which your predecessor has refused?
Will America commit to a global treaty to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases?
Will your budget and fiscal policy strive to balance the high trade deficit? Do you support regulation of the highly speculative global markets?
Do you consider the Charta of the United Nations legally binding in the United States of America?
As previous discussions on this platform have shown, it's not that easy to find out about the most promising presidential candidates' answers to theses questions or their general attitude towards the European allies. On Germany's foreign broadcast service, Deutsche Welle, expert Stormy-Annika Mildner speculates that a Democratic candidate "could tend to be easier to cooperate with".
I would say that the Republicans' motto is "Going together where we must, but going alone where we can." For the Democrats, it would be the opposite: "Going together where we can, but going alone where we must." They put a greater emphasis on multi-lateral institutions, while the Republicans emphasize unilateralism a bit more, as we have seen in the past.
As far as trade is concerned,
with McCain, I think that the trans-Atlantic economic partnership would have better prospects than under Obama or Clinton. [...] They have a more protectionist rhetoric; they favor free trade less than McCain.
Like most of the candidates, John McCain has promised to "revitalize the transatlantic partnership" (in Foreign Affairs):
As president, one of my top foreign policy priorities will be to revitalize the transatlantic partnership.
But that's basically paying lip service, just like Mike Huckabee has done it in his respective article in the same paper, Foreign Affairs. Put on the spot in an interview with Der Spiegel, though, McCain's statements were highly evasive and non-committing, at least on foreign politics.
Asked whether "America [will] attempt to go it alone less frequently in the future", he answered vaguely: "Well, we all hope that America will be multilateral again in the future."
Would he support a permanent seat in the UN security council for Germany? McCains answer: "Germany does play a very influential role around the world, and I value the relationship that we have shared for many, many generations. I believe Germany will continue to play a very influential and important role in the world." (By the way: Did he actually mean to say the Americans have been friends with the Germans for many generations, including Nazism and the Kaiserreich?)
Would he be willing to talk to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? McCain: "As long as Iran continues to announce its dedication to making the state of Israel extinct and as long as the country continues to pursue the use of nuclear weapons, I will continue to say that is not an acceptable situation. I will work with other democracies in order to find incentives and punishments for the Iranians."
For an interesting conservative perspective on "John McCain, the Anti-Conservative", see the Weekly Standard. (abridged online version, not covering other Republicans nor the Democratic candidates.)
On the Democratic side, leading candidate Barack Obama looks back in anger a lot:
Too often we have sent the opposite signal to our international partners. In the case of Europe, we dismissed European reservations about the wisdom and necessity of the Iraq war. In Asia, we belittled South Korean efforts to improve relations with the North. In Latin America, from Mexico to Argentina, we failed to adequately address concerns about immigration and equity and economic growth. In Africa, we have allowed genocide to persist for over four years in Darfur and have not done nearly enough to answer the African Union's call for more support to stop the killing. I will rebuild our ties to our allies in Europe and Asia and strengthen our partnerships throughout the Americas and Africa.
Obama then adds a plea for continued international engagement rather than isolationism:
America cannot meet the threats of this century alone, and the world cannot meet them without America. We can neither retreat from the world nor try to bully it into submission. We must lead the world, by deed and by example.
Most room is given to America's alliances by Hillary Clinton. Repeatedly, she stresses cooperation and multilateralism: "U.S. foreign policy must be guided by a preference for multilateralism, with unilateralism as an option when absolutely necessary to protect our security or avert an avoidable tragedy."
Her take on the recent transatlantic frictions adequately describes most Europeans' perspective on the situation:
The tragedy of the last six years is that the Bush administration has squandered the respect, trust, and confidence of even our closest allies and friends. At the dawn of the twenty-first century, the United States enjoyed a unique position. Our world leadership was widely accepted and respected, as we strengthened old alliances and built new ones, worked for peace across the globe, advanced nonproliferation, and modernized our military. After 9/11, the world rallied behind the United States as never before, supporting our efforts to remove the Taliban in Afghanistan and go after the al Qaeda leadership. We had a historic opportunity to build a broad global coalition to combat terror, increase the impact of our diplomacy, and create a world with more partners and fewer adversaries.
But we lost that opportunity by refusing to let the UN inspectors finish their work in Iraq and rushing to war instead. Moreover, we diverted vital military and financial resources from the struggle against al Qaeda and the daunting task of building a Muslim democracy in Afghanistan. At the same time, we embarked on an unprecedented course of unilateralism: refusing to pursue ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, abandoning our commitment to nuclear nonproliferation, and turning our backs on the search for peace in the Middle East. Our withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol and refusal to participate in any international effort to deal with the tremendous challenges of climate change further damaged our international standing. [...]
It is important to engage our adversaries but even more important to reassure our allies. We must reestablish our traditional relationship of confidence and trust with Europe. Disagreements are inevitable, even among the closest friends, but we can never forget that on most global issues we have no more trusted allies than those in Europe. The new administration will have a chance to reach out across the Atlantic to a new generation of leaders in France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. When America and Europe work together, global objectives are within our means.
In the end, though, we Europeans might have to understand, that even under dire circumstances and faced with global threats like climate change and terrorism, foreign politics doesn't make presidents in the United States. It's not Europe, stupid!