A big year for transatlantic ties?
January 14th, 2013
10:16 AM ET

A big year for transatlantic ties?

By Bruce Stokes, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Bruce Stokes is the director of Global Economic Attitudes at the Pew Research Center. The views expressed are his own.

This year promises both challenges and opportunities for transatlantic relations. Afghanistan and Syria pose new tests for NATO. The looming confrontation with Iran over its nuclear weapons program could try Alliance solidarity. But 2013 may also be the year that Washington and Brussels begin the integration of the world’s two largest economies. Indeed, the next twelve months could prove key for both security and economic ties between Europe and the United States.

Why? After two decades of talking about it, the European Union and the United States may finally launch free trade negotiations this year. More than half of the American public thinks that increased trade with the European Union would be good for the United States, according to a Pew Research Center survey, confirming earlier findings in both Europe and the United States by the German Marshall Fund. And an EU-U.S. deal would actually prove more beneficial to the United States than the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement it is currently pursuing in Asia, according to separate studies by the European Centre for International Political Economy in Brussels and the Peterson Institute in Washington.

So the politics and the economics of such an accord seem aligned.

On the security side, however, there are challenges ahead.

Both Pew and GMF surveys show that Americans and Europeans continue to back NATO, but they want out of Afghanistan, currently the joint U.S.-European military operation. How that disengagement is managed may shape future public support for NATO.

The future European and American role in the Syrian quagmire may also test transatlantic cooperation. Publics on both sides of the Atlantic are clear; they do not want their governments to get involved. Almost a third of Americans say Uncle Sam has no responsibility to do anything in Syria, according to recent Pew survey. And an earlier GMF poll found 59 percent of Europeans said stay out of Syria completely. How European and American governments square their interest in stability in the region with their public’s antipathy for involvement in yet another war could prove a serious alliance challenge.

More from GPS: Americans say keep us out of Middle East turmoil

Iran could also try alliance cohesion. Europe and the United States have worked closely in ratcheting up economic sanctions on Tehran in recent years. But the day of reckoning on the Iranian nuclear weapons program may come this year.

More than half of Americans want the Obama administration to take a firm stand against Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, according to a recent Pew survey. And only 28 percent of Americans who oppose Iran’s nuclear program are willing to accept a nuclear armed Iran, according to a separate survey. Significantly more French, Germans and British would tolerate Tehran having nuclear weapons. U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out containment of Iran’s nuclear ambitions. But while the American public seems to agree, the European public is less convinced.

Complicating all these challenges are the domestic diversions facing both Europe and the United States. The euro crisis will continue to absorb both the time and energies of European leaders, while diverting public attention and complicating almost all governmental initiatives. On the other side of the Atlantic, the American public is increasingly isolationist: 83 percent say the country should pay less attention to problems overseas and more attention to problems at home, a sentiment up ten points in the last decade.

European leaders have long fretted about Washington’s declining engagement with Brussels. But the issues confronting the transatlantic relationship in 2013 suggest a possible reengagement on a range of issues. How those challenges get resolved – and if those opportunities are realized – could determine the trajectory of U.S.-European relations for years to come.


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Topics: Europe • United States

soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Sebastien Porsenna

    Dear Mr.President

    As you approach your second term I know the stress that will come with so many issues to resolve on your agenda. Those issues as we obviously know are nuclear iran, the transition from afghanistan, our nation's debt, but most importantly gun control. I am a freshmen student currently enrolled at Saint Francis College and I have an idea I hope you will definently take advantage of during your second term. My idea is based on the topic of gun control. I think Obama that you should as president set a tougher requirement for citizens to buy guns. Now what is this tough reqirement? Well Obama I think that citizens who want to buy guns should have to earn it by first volunteering their time doing a certain number of hours of community service and it should range dependng on age. Individuals age 16-40 should have to do maybe 500-1000 hours of community service to earn their right to get a gun and individuals 41 and older shoud do 100 hours to maybe 450 hours so that they can gain their guns. Many citizens never do communtiy service and I feel if they work hard to gain their guns and earn it through community service they will appreciate it alot more. And will be less likely to engage in crime that will have their hard earned weapons confiscated. Also Obama there should be a website for citizens to go see what volunteer opportunity's are available in their state and local community's. Another idea obama is that I feel citizens should have to renew their gun licenses every five years and take a safety test to maintain the possession of their weapons. The most important thing I feel is that after young adam lanza killed 26 victims in Sandy Hook young individuals between the age of 16-30 should have to take a rigorouse test which they can prepare for by buying a book on guns. The test should cover topics such as the history on guns, who made it possible for us to gain guns, and a range of topics on the second amendment. If young folks are educated on guns they would be less likely to want to go on phychotiic rampages trying to start massacres. As far as older folks they should be educated as well but there test should be shorter due to the fact that they work and have kids to care for. The books that will be brought by citizens who are serious about passing the test to earn their guns will also add to revenue and economic activity. Those are my ideas Mr. president I hope you take advantage of it and may your second term be the most accomplished term for you then it was for any president before you. Thank you, God bless you and may God guide you on your your goal to bless america and it's citizens financially, socially, spiritually, and lastly healthily in both mind and body.

    Respectfully yours truly Sebastien Porsenna
    Good luck in your second term I am a 100% behind you.

    January 14, 2013 at 11:57 am | Reply
    • USN Ret.

      Sebastien Porsenna

      If this is to be a requirement to own something that is protected by our 2nd Amendment.
      Why can't we require 500-1000 hours of community service to collect a welfare check, to qualify for a government student lone, to have a driver license, and to own a home, to have children?
      You see young man every freedom has a price. The question is what are YOU willing to pay for it? If for what ever reason you want to buy a firearm will you do 500-1000 hours of community service?

      January 17, 2013 at 12:57 pm | Reply
    • USN Ret.

      P.S. NEVER BE 100% behind any president that just makes you one of the sheep and him the wolf. Always question him always.

      January 17, 2013 at 1:00 pm | Reply
    • Hate Wins

      How about we do away with:
      The Right to Freedom of Speech
      The Right to Vote
      The Right to Freedom of the Press. “This Blog Site”
      The Right to Travel any where in the U.S.A. with out proper papers
      The right to Marry the Person of YOUR Choice
      The Right to Have AS MANY Children that you want "IE China"
      The Right to OWN a HOME
      The Right to Work and Receive Pay for Your Labors
      The Right to Own a Baseball Bat
      The Right to Own a Knife
      The Right to LIVE IN PEACE and raise you family.
      Nazi Germany restricted most of these rights and made people carry papers just to go see grandma.
      The USSR did the same thing until their fall in the 80s. China, North Korea, Iran just to name a few restricts their people today.
      Gun owner ship is a right not a privilege.
      Hate this right but to take it away is just as wrong as taking away those listed above.

      January 17, 2013 at 1:08 pm | Reply
  2. Lyndsie Graham

    This looks like another year for the right-wing thugs in Washington to further tighten their control over Europe. If things don't change, the whole of Europe will soon be firmly under U.S. control and that will not be good! In fact, since the Russians left Germany over 20 years ago, shouldn't we do the same? Of course nobody has the sense to think of it and we won't leave any time soon thanks to the ignorance of the general public!

    January 14, 2013 at 12:07 pm | Reply
  3. j. von hettlingen

    If European leaders fret about "Washington’s declining engagement with Brussels". Britain hopes to benefit from the situation, as it has always been America's oldest ally in the Old World. David Cameron and his Euro-sceptics have wanted to turn their backs on Brussels. Yet it's not clear whether Britain would be more interesting to the US as a bridge builder to the EU, if it's no longer in the Union. Nevertheless Angela Merkel had become the person Obama would speak to, should he pick up the phone and want to call somebody in Europe.

    January 15, 2013 at 10:29 am | Reply
  4. Brent

    Europe and the US have the annoying habit of forgetting that they are still far more similar, and closer, to each other than they are to the rest of the world. Euro/American values should be defended and promoted by both sides. In a global war of ideologies would we rather see the Euro/American vision triumph or something like Al-Queda's.....or China's?

    July 19, 2013 at 6:13 pm | Reply

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