domingo, 3 de julio de 2016

Brexit pushes US closer to Germany


EU exit marks the final stage of a slow-moving transition away from the UK.

When it became clear that Britain had voted to leave the European Union, President Barack Obama called David Cameron to offer his sympathy. Then he dialed Angela Merkel, the leader he actually leans on in times of crisis.

It’s no secret why. For years now, Germany, not the U.K., has been Obama’s main line into European politics. And that’s why Washington’s influence in Europe will survive a Brexit.

The longstanding “special relationship” between the U.S. and Britain gave Washington a key confidant at the table in Brussels, as Obama stressed in his April referendum intervention in London. But a Europe without a United Kingdom doesn’t exactly leave Britain’s former colony out in the cold.

“On the big issues, we’ve seen the transition for years now where the first call has not been to London, where it used to be, but to Berlin,” said Damon Wilson, a former senior director for European affairs at the National Security Council under George W. Bush and who is currently executive vice president of the Atlantic Council. “That transition has already happened and the great recession really accelerated that with the magnification of German economic and political power.”

When a wounded U.S. soldier needs to be evacuated from Iraq or Afghanistan, they’re often flown to one of the 179 U.S. military bases on German soil.

A decade ago, Merkel was one of the first European leaders to call for EU-U.S. trade deal talks (even though the German public now opposes the deal). In 2014, Merkel roped together reluctant European governments behind a joint U.S.-EU sanctions program against Russian President Vladimir Putin, which the EU agreed to extend last week. She’s been the leader in dealing with the Greek financial crisis and the millions of migrants coming into Europe.

So rather than diluting American influence in Europe, it’s more likely that Brexit will expand U.S. reliance on Germany. That will be particularly true when it comes to transatlantic cooperation on Russian sanctions, the ongoing eurozone challenges and the flood of migrants into Europe — issues where Germany has already become the first point of contact for the United States.

The awkward post-Brexit dynamics will be on display next week when Obama visits Warsaw for a NATO summit and holds talks with Merkel, Cameron and other NATO heads of state. The meeting takes on added import now that the U.S. and European powers must sort through the political, economic and security implications of Britain’s exit. Obama will also meet with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk, president of the European Council.
‘No longer there’

For many years, the close U.K.-U.S. relationship on security, intelligence and trade gave the U.S. some clear leverage in Brussels. Indeed, France vetoed U.K. membership in the European Community twice in the 1960s for fear that London would simply do Washington’s bidding.

Britain will remain a key member of NATO, and military and security ties are extensive. The two countries have been close partners on Syria and Iraq. The British are, perhaps, the Americans’ most like-minded ally on trade, and their liberalizing presence at the negotiating table will be missed in Washington.

Foreign policy experts say that Britain has actually been shedding its influence in the European Union for years.

Moreover, EU sanctions on Russia “would probably have been weaker without the U.K.’s prime minister arguing within the EU for a robust response to the Russian seizure of the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine,” according to an April report by a House of Commons committee that looked at the potential foreign policy impact of a Brexit on the British government. London’s importance in the global financial system also bolstered the U.K. role on sanctions.

But Germany played a key role in crafting the Russia sanctions — and has been indispensable in forging a fragile, but united, European front to keep them in place.

German business faces Brexit dilemma

“The Brits had a voice and a veto, and more often than not they would be arguing for what [the U.S.] would be arguing for, and that will no longer be there,” said Phillip Gordon, who served as assistant U.S. Secretary of State for Europe from 2009-2013 and is now a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. However, “I do think we have gradually turned more and more to the Germans, and on many questions they are actually in the lead.”

Germany plays a significant military role for the U.S. When a wounded U.S. soldier needs to be evacuated from Iraq or Afghanistan, they’re often flown to one of the 179 U.S. military bases on German soil. U.S. troop levels in Germany have decreased substantially since the end of the Cold War, but there are still 40,000 American troops stationed there.

And Germany has taken a heightened role on everything from Ukraine to the Greek economic crisis, and despite strained ties with Obama over the NSA spying revelations to the fiscal response to the financial crisis, Merkel became “a kind of go-to counterpart,” to the U.S. president, a senior Obama administration official told POLITICO last year.
Shedding influence

Meanwhile, domestic U.K. politics were leading Britain down a different path. Britain has actually been shedding its influence in the European Union for years, say foreign policy experts — undermining the belief that London gives Washington a leg up in Brussels’s affairs.

US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron at a press conference during Obama’s visit to the U.K. in April 2016 | Ben Stanstall – WPA Pool/Getty Images

“The Brits have long had a minimalist agenda inside the European Union, and it’s not like they were looked to or seen as driving the agenda in Brussels,” argued the Atlantic Council’s Wilson.

In 2009, to stem the flow of Tories to UKIP, Cameron pulled the party out of the Continent-wide center-right European People’s Party, which includes Merkel’s Christian Democrats and is pro-European. And the Brexit debate has distracted the U.K. from broader European issues. While the EU fixated on how to stem the flow of migrants and relocate those that had made it to Europe this past February, Cameron forced the European Council to spend its February meeting re-negotiating the country’s relationship with the EU.

And by reducing its influence in Europe, some argue, the U.K. may have reduced its clout as a U.S. ally in Brussels. When Cameron invited Obama to London in April to bolster his anti-Brexit campaign, the president made the case that the U.K.’s EU membership matters for the United States. “We have confidence that when the U.K. is involved in a problem that they’re going to help solve it in the right way,” Obama said.

Dan Hamilton, director of the Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Transatlantic Relations in Washington and a former State Department official on Europe, argues that “the idea that the U.K. was the U.S. mole on the EU council is sort of denigrating to both countries.”

Still, he said, “the U.K.’s diffidence towards the EU for so many years diminished their clout,” he says. “Increasingly, U.S. officials have seen if you want to get something done in Europe you work with the power that knows how to work with the EU.”

And that, he says, is Germany.

No hay comentarios.:

Publicar un comentario