Many see the United States’ relationship with Europe as being in a worse state today than under any other modern US administration, including during the 2003 Iraq war.
In addition to EU-US disagreements over policy - such as on trade, defence, climate change and Iran - many have berated the Trump administration’s “ideological hostility” to the EU and NATO.
The outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic has undoubtedly exacerbated this tension, with President Donald Trump’s decision to ban European citizens from the US and his description of the virus as “Chinese.”
Anthony Gardner, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama, believes Joe Biden, President Trump’s Democrat opponent, can win, adding, “I can understand those who feel they have been left behind economically and President Trump claims to speak for them. But Biden can get a lot of good stuff done if elected.”
“So far, the campaign has gone well and I am cautiously optimistic. I think it is currently 60:40 in favour of Biden.”
Gardner was speaking at an online debate entitled “Biden v. Trump - What next for transatlantic relations?” organised by the European Policy Centre.
“Trump has departed from 60 years of bipartisan policy towards the EU and he has fundamentally mistreated the EU. But under Biden the EU will be treated as an essential partner and we will see a lot of changes”
He said he fears that President Trump will not accept the election result if he loses, saying, “Trump will ask people to go on the streets. There could be violence and lots of lawsuits.”
“I speak to lots of Biden’s campaign people and they do not take any of the key swing states for granted so, hopefully, they won’t commit the same errors as in the last election. Trump portrays Biden as a wild-eyed radical but Biden doesn’t have the same baggage as Hillary Clinton.”
Gardner, ambassador from 2014 to 2017, added that if Biden wins it could improve the strained EU-US transatlantic relationship, saying, “Trump has departed from 60 years of bipartisan policy towards the EU and he has fundamentally mistreated the EU. But under Biden the EU will be treated as an essential partner and we will see a lot of changes.”
This, he said, includes security and defence, an issue constantly highlighted by Donald Trump and one of the few areas where Gardner concurs with the President.
“It is not just about buying more weapons and planes; you got to walk the walk and talk the talk and Europe should play its part, step up its efforts and spend more wisely. The debate about burden sharing has been going on for decades and it can get tiresome.”
“While it is obvious Germany should spend more on defence and faster, it is also more than just about military spending. It is also about a lot of other burdens we need to share together.”
“My advice to the EU is to prepare for a possible change of administration and seize the day because if Biden wins you will see one of most EU-oriented administrations you have seen”
On trade, Gardner, now based in London, said, “Trump does not understand the first thing about trade and his policy on China is bizarre. Issues such as Huawei and and 5G will be really difficult but Biden has made it clear in many speeches that he will be tough on China which is a strategic competitor which does not play by the rules.”
Turning to the Coronavirus, he said that if Vice-President Mike Pence were to follow Trump and fall ill, it would fall to the cabinet to decide if both were “no longer of sound mind and able to exercise their functions.”
Gardner said, “My advice to the EU is to prepare for a possible change of administration and seize the day because if Biden wins you will see one of most EU-oriented administrations you have seen.”
“He will be even more pro-EU than Obama and I served under Obama. Biden knows about the EU and Europe - do not forget he once spoke at the European Parliament in Strasbourg - and he believes the EU is essential.”
“There is no time to waste. The EU should start work on getting things done with the US and bury the ghosts of the past.”