ISSN 2330-717X

Ukraine Crisis And Its Impact On Transatlantic Relations – Analysis

By

By Vivek Mishra and Sameer Patil

Advertisement

The changing Transatlantic ties are at the core of the fundamental restructuring of the global order in the wake of the Russia–Ukraine war. The relations between the United States (US) and the European Union (EU) had reached their nadir during the Trump administration, with increasing protectionism and an inward-looking approach to foreign policy from Washington. Whilst the Biden administration had underscored bettering Euro-Atlantic ties as one of the core agendas of his administration, even he would not have anticipated its scale and speed of recalibration catapulted by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. As the war in Europe has continued, the transatlantic alliance has consolidated further. Albeit, this consolidation has not come without its risks, most prominently a Russian retaliation. Perhaps, the most detrimental aspect of strengthening the transatlantic relations in its current context is that it is inversely proportional to stability in Europe, especially eastern Europe.

Essentially, there are three prominently foreseeable ways in which the changing transatlantic relationship may change the strategic landscapes of the Euro-Atlantic and the Indo-Pacific theatres.

First, the US’ better relationship with its European partners sits well with Biden’s political design, and his administration’s goals and objectives. However, coming on the back of the Trump administration’s policies which sought to fundamentally reconfigure the foundations of the US relations with not just its transatlantic partners but its allies across the world, the Biden administration’s support to Ukraine has received bipartisan support, perceived as essential to restoring US influence abroad. This sense of restoration in America’s relationship with its important allies has provided political steam to President Biden back home, both from the perspectives of Congressional approval for funding to sustain US help to Ukraine as well as for his political fortunes in the approaching mid-term elections in November this year. Whilst this may be good for the great power politics of the US, it may not have the same significance for the stability of Europe. As such, bettering the relationship between the EU, the United Kingdom (UK) and their most important partner, the US is principally stacked against Russian interests given the former’s political, diplomatic and security assistance to the Ukrainian government, better transatlantic relationships may be working at cross-purposes with the stability in eastern Europe.

Second, the crisis in Europe and recalibrations in the transatlantic relations are enforcing a new energy order with new partnerships based on energy demands, and new supply chains being established. For instance, Washington’s efforts to secure new energy supplies to make up for reduced energy flow from Russia to its European partners are already compelling recalibrations in the US relations with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Venezuela, and Colombia.

Third, because the strengthening of the transatlantic relations relationship is being enforced by Russian actions in Ukraine, this change is likely to compel a new power dispersal from the Indo-Pacific, which has received asymmetrically high strategic attention in the recent past. For the US, the opening of an active front in Europe with Russia will shift resource commitments away from the Indo-Pacific. From a transatlantic perspective, these changing commitments would also mean that there will be more European stakes in matters Indo-Pacific, something that the Biden administration’s Indo-Pacific policy has already hinted at.

Advertisement

There are two sides to the evolving debate on the ability of the US to compete on two strategic fronts simultaneously: Europe and the Indo-Pacific. Whilst the first focuses on the idea that the US is still the predominant military power and is capable of competing with both Russia and China in Eurasia and the Indo-Pacific simultaneously with equal or matchable capacities, the second school of thought argues that despite the overwhelming military and economic capacity, the US is incapable of competing with both China and Russia on two fronts, primarily because of greater Chinese capabilities as compared to Russia. Besides, the US’ ability to compete with China in the Indo-Pacific will require coordinating with a plethora of countries each having different sets of interests and agendas, quite unlike the European continent where the transatlantic alliances have over the years headed towards mutuality of interests.

Beyond these three mega trends, the changing nature of transatlantic ties has substantive repercussions within Europe. One of the most important components of the strengthening of the transatlantic relations due to the crisis in Ukraine has been the strategic and diplomatic turnaround by Germany. From a tenuous relationship between Angela Merkel and Donald Trump to a turnaround between Olaf Scholz and Joe Biden, Germany’s strategic reorientation has been perhaps the most unexpected element of a newfound Euro-Atlantic era. Germany’s sudden turn towards rearmament, the increase in its defence, and its decision to lessen energy dependence on Russia despite difficulties are being seen as leading examples of the steps taken by Europe to present a united front in resetting ties with Russia.

As for the security of Europe, the transatlantic recalibration has led to many questions. The manner in which the transatlantic relations will shape is likely to influence other states’ behaviour in positive or negative ways. One of the questions now amid a debate is whether the US remains the chief security guarantor of European security? Much of the future of the transatlantic relationship will ride on how the conflict in Europe is likely to impact US military presence and influence in Europe? There are two ways in which this change is being anticipated: directly and indirectly. Directly, the increase of US presence in smaller countries like Lithuania is a possibility, albeit distant and laden with risks. Lithuania has invited the US to position its forces on the ground to boost the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation’s (NATO) deterrence posture vis-à-vis Russia. Any direct US military expansion in Europe, through any NATO country, will invite Russian aggression as a response centred on western expansion and lead to more militarisation. Indirectly, the expansion of combined transatlantic military capacities through institutional mechanisms in Europe such as the NATO could lead to continued tension in Europe with Russia, leading to a perennially unstable eastern Europe. One of the early signs of such developments inflicting Europe is Finland and Sweden’s bid to join NATO. The inclusion of newer members in NATO perpetuates conflict in Europe by essentially diluting deterrence, both conventional and nuclear in Europe.

More importantly, the strengthening of the transatlantic ties also poses a dilemma for Europe. The European NATO allies were always sceptical of the US when the latter insisted the former take a larger share of the budget and responsibility within the NATO. But now the strengthening of the US military presence in Europe and aid to Ukraine would reassure the European NATO allies that the US isn’t abandoning them. But it also puts a question mark on the EU, which had been intending to play a greater role in the security domain, post-Brexit by carving out a defence posture independent of the US. This dilemma is sure to increase divisions between pro-NATO and pro-EU voices. Reconciling these two will be a major challenge for Europe as it is likely to shape the continent’s policies on other equally significant questions of determining the approach towards China, strengthening democracy in eastern Europe and post-war reconstruction of Ukraine.

As the graph shows, through the first year of his term, President Biden has been seen favourably by western Europe, as his image rebounded in the transatlantic relations coming on the back of the disruptions caused by Donald Trump in the transatlantic relations.

How the ongoing war in Ukraine ends, how NATO consolidates itself in Europe as a stronger organisation, and how the US extends assistance to Europe against Russia could all shift the numbers one way or the other, impacting the transatlantic relations in the coming months.

Observer Research Foundation

ORF was established on 5 September 1990 as a private, not for profit, ’think tank’ to influence public policy formulation. The Foundation brought together, for the first time, leading Indian economists and policymakers to present An Agenda for Economic Reforms in India. The idea was to help develop a consensus in favour of economic reforms.

One thought on “Ukraine Crisis And Its Impact On Transatlantic Relations – Analysis

  • June 19, 2022 at 2:30 pm
    Permalink

    In 2 world wars the lower 48 states in America did not have as much as a broken window or a single civilian death. Time for America to toss out its cabal of neocon war mongers. Make peace with Russia. War with Russia will be nuclear.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.