We live in a time of change, transformation and confusion. To some, it is no longer crystal clear where we belong and whom we should associate with in the international arena. We lack the certainties of years past. We see centrifugal forces at work. These are times during which we need a strong compass. Basic convictions can be guide stars for the future.
We grew up during the late Cold War and came off age during the years when Europe was overcoming its Cold War divisions. These were formative years, during which we learned the value of dual integration: into NATO as well as into the European Union. Call us old fashioned, but we still believe that Atlanticism and Europeanism go hand in hand. Some say today: Europe or better: a unified Europe is the answer to a perceived American malaise, and that malaise is the unpredictability of the current U.S. President and his attacks on current global structures. We disagree because America has always underwritten Europeanisation, and without America, there will be nothing but European bickering and distrust.
As a German, we know this phenomenon well. Without the reassurance that the United States provides to other European countries, it is nearly impossible for Germany to take on a leadership role within Europe. Without American backing, there will be distrust of German intentions abound. At the same time, we do need Germany to be active in Europe – as an ideas generator, as a broker, as an economic anchor.
At times, we need to remind our American friends that exploiting divisions within Europe may serve a short term and issue based U.S. interest. But it will almost always undermine America’s long term strategic interest in a united Europe and would finally serve Kremlin. And we need to remind our European friends that “strategic autonomy” is a goal that strengthens our Euroatlantic house, not a tool to disconnect. Our goal should be to continuously preserve and strengthen the conditions that allow for collective action within Euroatlantic structures. NATO is the most important of these institutions. We all have to do more so that we do not stumble into a collective action dilemma. And Germany still has to do more than most others and even learn from Lithuania. Germans are famous for taking incremental steps to reach a goal. Yet again, this will be the case within NATO.
Europeanism and Atlanticism, for us, are two sides of the same coin. If we do not want to descend into competing Eurosceptic nationalisms that usually empowers Russia we need to consider this old insight anew.
Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff, Vice President and Executive Director of the Berlin Office of the German Marshall Fund of the U.S.
Žygimantas Pavilionis, Ambassador, Chair of Transatlantic and democracy subcommittee of Lithuanian Seimas (parliament)