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Support for the Transatlantic Partnership on the Rise

The German Marshall Fund released its 2008 transatlantic trends poll yesterday, which shows a thaw in transatlantic relations. From the press release:

“Based on common values and shared interests, the survey shows that Americans and Europeans want closer relations,” said Craig Kennedy, president of the German Marshall Fund of the United States. “Whether it’s the result of world events, a new U.S. administration on the horizon, or insecurity on several fronts, a new American president will have the opportunity to not only improve the United States’ standing in the world, but perhaps also to ask more of European leaders.”

However, despite perceived common values and a general interest in the same topics, Europeans generally feel that Europe should act more independently, although the number of Europeans who want closer relations with the US is increasing. Interestingly, though, few Europeans think that Europe should take a 'go it alone' course, with the majority favouring partnership with the US in addressing threats. This could be taken to mean that Europeans want Europe to be more assertive in such a partnership, or simply that the general population hasn't thought this through and exhibits a well-known but surprisingly extreme differential response to differently phrased questions (31% want closer relations, 67% want to address international threats in partnership).

Some further findings:

  • Europeans generally (47%) expect relations to improve under Obama, and to stay the same under McCain
  • Fewer Americans (40%) think relations will approve under Obama, but most agree with Europeans on McCain
  • Europeans view American leadership unfavourably, but disapproval of President Bush is even higher
  • Fewer Europeans think that relations have gotten worse in the past year compared to 2007, more think that they have improved, but the plurality thinks they have stayed the same.
  • In contrast with Europeans, a slight majority of Americans want closer relations with Europe, and even more (75%) want the US to address international threats in partnership with Europe.
  • The largest differences on 'issues' between Americans and Europeans are on fighting the Taleban (76% of Americans support it, 43% of Europeans), on nuclear weapons in Iran (69% of Americans think they will be affected, 52% of Europeans), and on climate change (67% of Americans think it will affect them, 82% of Europeans).

What might be the most significant result for transatlantic relations is that there is a considerable increase of support for NATO in Europe. In the past few years, there had been a slow downward slide, but this year support went up nearly across the board, and in all major countries. In France, support shot up 7 percentage points, to 62%, the highest since 2002. And this poll was taken prior to the South Ossetia war.

SPIEGEL online has some more thoughts on the findings: "Europeans Back Obama but Not Necessarily His Policies"

Related posts on Atlantic Review:

Transatlantic Foreign Policy Attitudes and Threat Perceptions
Rupert Murdoch: Alliance Based on Shared Values, not Geography


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Kevin Sampson on :


Don S on :

Ummm, I'm not quite as sure about the meaning of the survey. I suspect that people in the EU and the US do feel good will toward each other, but that the definition of the phrase 'transatlantic cooperation' differs hugely between the two. For people in the US the phrase means that Europe shoulders more of the burden of NATO's security committments, beginning with a substantial reinforcement from continental EU countries in Afghanistan. Now or soon, not in a decade. For people in continental EU I suspect the phrase means somnething like no increased committment and quite possibly withdrawal from Afghanistan. The US pays attention to the EU allies and does nothing which they do not freely approve of. One can see evidence of rapproachment if one overlooks the details, but details like this can cause disillusionment....

Nanne on :

As you see, 43% of Europeans support engaging in combat operations against the Taliban. Which is a bit of a higher number than I expected. Europeans do generally support 'providing security for reconstruction'. Though how that can be done without fighting the Taliban is unclear to me. Generally, I think the poll shows that there is support for the existing division of labour on the European side, in which some countries (the Anglo countries and the Dutch) do the fighting, and the rest is engaged in peacekeeping. As the recent attack on French troops showed, though, the Taliban is - most curiously - not going along with that settlement and will try to literally blow a wedge when it gets the chance.

Marie Claude on :

I suppose the Talibans wanted to "punish" Sarko "the Americaner" and with this spectacular attack on the french paratroopers, to make a huge impression on the french population ; this is a part of their propaganda war that aims to mobilise the anti-war opinion movements to change our government implication in Afghanistan. Though, I think that the contrary is happening : the french population discovered that we are at war like in the old days in Algeria, and supports our soldiers there, that this is a "right" war against the "true" middle-aged jihadists, that still kill women and girls for honnor.

Joe Noory on :

No, the Taliban as an affiliate of the Jihad would want to eventually punish Sarko or ANY Frech leader of any political stripe for living in the present time. Tacid "deals" like Zapatero's don't work with a headless hydra for long. Realisitcally, there IS no-one to negotiate with, and even if you did find them, cells and branches of cells might reject the resolution out of hand and change allegiances to a 'dissident' leader. The way to deal with it is to attach consequences to acts of terror, bankrupt and disrupt the networks that support it, degrade the ideology behind the violence, and reinforce a positive world-view that the adherents can turn to while saving face. More than anything, is the need to attack the secondary and terciary leadership forcefully: take away the best successors before decapitation. When they secondaries, the ones who plan and direct terror operations are replaced with those with some hutzpah, but a descending level of skill, sooner or later they reveal their leadership, and start to fail miserably. The terciaries and below would then hopefully lose faith and give up in greater numbers, or the mechanism would only draw in the least experiences and least trained. Before the fire would smolder, there might be one last attempt at a bang, but that's exceedingly better than the follow the tack that believes that to understand them only means wanting to reach a concensus with ther Jihad. The world understands them well enough.

John in Michigan, USA on :

Joe, "More than anything, is the need to attack the secondary and terciary leadership forcefully: take away the best successors before decapitation." An interesting idea, take out the successors before taking out the head. Problems: 1) Intel. It is hard enough identifying the heads, locating them, and taking them out while minimizing civilian casualties. Identifying and locating the secondaries and tertiaries is even harder, particularly in informal organizations. 2) Loss of initiative. When his secondaries and tertiaries start to die, it alerts the primary that he is being targeted, which will give up the element of surprise and allow the primary to take defensive measures (go underground, change his security arrangements, etc.) Also the larger problem with targeted assassinations as a main strategy is, it risks creating martyrs, without addressing the conditions or beliefs that permit the Islamists to portray themselves as martyrs, rather than failures. For example, rather than just targeting the heads of cells, we should create conditions that require the cells to claim and hold territory. This is possible because the Islamist ideology, particularly the Taliban and al-Qaeda varieties, call for the creation of a new Caliphate as soon as possible. Even better, the existence and success (or not) of the new Caliphate is taken as direct evidence that they are fulfilling God's will. This type of evidence, in turn, is what permits them to convince themselves that their dead are martyrs instead of failures. We could attack the various Caliphates that pop up from time to time with traditional military force, but that risks validating the Islamist position that, since the Great Satan is attacking the Caliphate, it must be the real thing. Far better is to help local Muslims defeat these Caliphates. This is possible because, unlike the real Caliphate during the golden age of Islam, today's Islamist Caliphates are miserable places (even without our attempts to disrupt them). Many Muslims who experience these new Caliphates, realize they have very little to do with Islam as Muslims understand it, and quickly grow to hate these pretender regimes. The compulsion to declare Caliphates in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the failure of these attempts, [i]at the hands of local Muslims[/i], has produced far more disruption to the Islamist movement than simply targeting the leadership of Islamist cells. OK we're way off-topic now...

John in Michigan, USA on :

"their propaganda war that aims to mobilise the anti-war opinion movements to change our government implication in Afghanistan." Agreed, they are trying to mobilize the anti-war movements in the hope they will help the Taliban win their war. "Though, I think that the contrary is happening" I hope so. Another element of their propaganda doesn't focus directly on the anti-war movements, but instead attempts to drive a wedge between the US and Europe. They think that if they can do that, they will have a better chance of defeating Europe alone, via demographic growth if not via asymmetrical warfare. Only after that would the return focus on the US. This is a repudiation of bin Laden's strategy (decapitate the US and the rest will fall) but a continuation of his goals (defeat of the lesser and greater Satans, global Caliphate, Messiah's arrival, etc.) Of course, even if the Islamist movement succeeds, it will almost certainly self-destruct in the long term, due to its nature. This self-destruction could be incredibly violent and oppressive before it happens. Therefore, it seems to me it is much, much better for us in the West, if it is defeated, rather than being permitted to self-destruct. Finally, "middle-aged jihadists" This made me smile. Are they loosing their hair and gaining weight? English and French have these wonderful ambiguities. I think the German language does not have this "problem"?

John in Michigan, USA on :

Polls like this one are the reason why I insist "we are all Atlanticists" regardless of what we think about NATO, G8, Afghanistan, etc. And I do not simply mean "we are all Atlanticists" due to some disaster that brought us together, but whose sense of unity will inevitably fade. I mean it in a more enduring sense. We are all Atlanticists because of shared values and shared heritage. Particularly: openness; freedom and individual autonomy (we don't always agree on the limits to these, but we believe in the concepts nevertheless); accountability; empiricism (meaning science, not Empires!); skepticism; loyal opposition; love of technology; the list goes on. Can anyone name two regions, roughly comparable in size to the US and Europe, anyplace on the globe, that have so much in common? I don't think anyone can. But of course it shouldn't be limited to geography.

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