U.S. President Joe Biden and German Chancellor Angela Merkel consented to strengthen transatlantic cooperation after a phone call on January 25th. A government spokesperson in Berlin reported that the leaders agreed upon collaboration in the COVID-19 pandemic and other global conflicts, states Reuters. Foreign policy, trade and climate change were also addressed during the phone call.
Under the Trump Administration, U.S. relationships abroad “cooled sharply,” says Reuters. During his term, Trump bruised US-Germany ties by repeatedly denouncing Germany’s export strength and low defense spending within the NATO alliance. The U.S. is Germany’s most vital non-European export market, but productive transactions have deteriorated with Trump’s “America First” policies, such as increased trade tariffs. The U.S.’s relaxed COVID-19 restrictions strained international alliances as well. Perhaps as a veiled reference to Trump, Chancellor Merkel even stated that Europe could no longer depend on its allies following meetings with the G7 group of wealthy nations and NATO. After a rocky relationship with President Trump, Germany appears to welcome the Biden administration. Chancellor Merkel congratulated Biden on his inauguration and clarified Germany’s willingness to work as transatlantic partners. She also noted her appreciation for American reentry into both the World Health Organization and the Paris Climate Agreement.
European powers remain cautiously optimistic about the incoming administration. Following a strenuous four years under Trump, the EU has high expectations for Biden. According to DW News, Chancellor Merkel said during a press conference on January 21st that “there is simply a far broader scope for political consensus with President Biden.” Germany and the rest of the EU find more common ground with U.S. politics now that President Trump has left office. DW News reports the opinion of head of the Berlin office of the Council on Foreign Relations, Jana Puglierin: “It has been a tough four years but we’re now on the same wave again and we welcome the new president with open arms.” She also heeds the importance of being “part of the solution and not part of the problem.”
On the other hand, the French government maintains some skepticism regarding Biden’s abilities as the new U.S. President. French Minister for Europe Clemente Beaune claims there will not be drastic change in American policy because of divisions in the U.S. that the new administration cannot change, says DW News. Beaune says Europe should “take more responsibility” and rely less on American politics. While the EU supports the transfer of power, they are realistic about time frames for solutions to international conflict under new leadership. No matter how cautiously optimistic the EU remains, Biden’s quick communication abroad opens the door for cross-national cooperation.
The dawn of the Trump administration in January 2017 heightened tensions and reduced collaboration between the U.S. and its allies. When conducting foreign policy with world leaders, Trump often approached his duties in a disorganized manner. The Los Angeles Times argues he had neither clear goals nor a cohesive foreign policy team. Also, successful diplomacy involves recognizing opportunities for leverage and areas of weakness. Trump “overestimated U.S. strength and underestimated the tenacity of others,” says the Los Angeles Times. While typical American presidents tend to work within alliances, he has strayed from the norm and rewritten U.S. diplomacy. The Los Angeles Times notes that “complex diplomacy requires careful groundwork, mostly out of public view.” Obama’s controversial nuclear deal with Iran followed four years of secret contacts and two years of negotiations. However, Trump conducted diplomacy in a public light via televised summits and Twitter updates. During his presidency, Trump attended several meetings with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, which ended with a somewhat friendship between the leaders. Trump considered the interactions as wins despite failing to accomplish the task at hand, ending missile testing and building of nuclear weapons in North Korea.
President Trump’s lack of strategy in diplomacy reflects his lack of strategy in confronting the COVID-19 pandemic. The U.S. has suffered around 465,000 COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic’s beginning in March of 2020. Biden and Merkel agreed during the January 25th phone call to collaborate in combatting the rampant virus that much of the world has yet to get under control. A Fortune article refers to research from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health that identifies predictors for the large number of American deaths. The study’s evidence suggests that “ineffective national policies and responses, especially as compared to those of other wealthy nations or compared to the intricate preparation and planning by previous administrations of both parties, have been driving the terrible toll of COVID-19 and its inequities in the U.S.”
The gravest errors in policy stemmed from the pandemic’s earliest stages, says Fortune. While Trump imposed a U.S. travel ban on non-U.S. travelers coming from China, he did not acknowledge the already present virus in much of Europe. Thus, the majority of virus spreading into the U.S. was of European rather than Chinese origins. The Harvard study defines three policy errors that can still be remedied: “failure to use federal authority and budget to supply PPE, failure to require mandatory universal paid sick leave for those unable to work due to COVID-19, and failure to mandate standards for occupational exposures.” The Trump administration’s ineffective tactics in fighting COVID-19 tie back to Trump’s belief in American superiority and refusal to follow other countries’ successful strategies.
Future solutions to Trump’s mishandling of foreign diplomacy, the COVID-19 pandemic, and other global issues fall on the shoulders of the Biden administration. In his first few days in office, Biden has already showcased his willingness to reverse and improve Trump’s policies. However, the question of how fast he will be able to rebuild global relations remains. Ideally, President Biden will work with diligence and haste to mend broken relationships. His calls to not only Chancellor Merkel, but UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron, are the first steps in doing so. The U.S. must regain the respect of the EU and other world powers to ensure productive collaboration in the future.
In his first weeks in office, Biden has implemented significant executive orders. Many of the orders deal directly with pandemic and diplomatic related matters, according to the NBC News list of Biden’s first steps as President. To mend the U.S.’s subpar COVID-19 response, Biden has ordered mask wearing on federal property and a government-wide strategy to oversee vaccine, test and PPE distribution. He has also put in place executive orders for food assistance programs, unemployment insurance, and overall economic relief to address hardships during the pandemic. The new administration has already proved its tenacity, and Biden must continue head-on approaches to avert the crisis.
Aside from the pandemic, transatlantic diplomacy is crucial to mending climate change, violence and immigration emergencies worldwide. NBC News reports U.S. reentry into the Paris Climate Agreement on Day One of Biden’s Presidency. The U.S. rejoins the accord as a first step toward curbing total emissions after Trump withdrew in 2017. International communication with other world powers and big greenhouse gas emitters is vital in protecting the environment. As global warming is the source of environmental injustices and human suffering from natural disasters, countries who have ample resources need to act quickly and cohesively in creating sustainable economies.
In terms of global violence and immigration policy, the new U.S. administration has significant work to do. For example, Biden must invoke peaceful policies regarding the Israel-Palestine conflict after controversial decisions made by Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu. However, it is evident that resolving tensions will be a challenging feat. Al Jazeera claims the Biden administration is “unlikely to put forward any major initiatives to resolve the conflict in Israel-Palestine.” While Biden may revert to the U.S. position classifying Israeli settlements as illegal and obstructive to peace, it is improbable he will take action to stop them. Blatant examples of human suffering like the Israel-Palestine conflict require more attention from Biden. U.S. immigration policy is also an area in need of reform by the new administration. Biden has already proclaimed an end to the ban on U.S. entry from majority-Muslim countries and incorporation of undocumented immigrants into the census, says NBC News. Though Biden plans for a slew of new executive orders in the near future, he must continue with aggressive policies to reverse Trump’s unethical actions that led to the suffering of immigrants and refugees.
Promotion of global peace requires close collaboration between the U.S. and its longstanding allies. According to Reuters, German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz is “convinced together we are stronger. Together we can achieve more for our citizens.” The phone call between Biden and Merkel forecasts a bright future for US-Germany relations. Biden must continue on his trend of transatlantic communication both to undo the legacy of the outgoing administration and create a vision for peace.