January 13, 2021

Fresh Ideas to Revive Transatlantic Power

Close transatlantic cooperation remains of strategic importance at a time when Western democratic and economic systems are under increasing pressure and the list of international challenges that deeply affect our societies is growing. But fresh ideas are needed to revive the relationship that will not revert to the status quo ante after Joe Biden’s inauguration.

Over the year 2020 a Transatlantic Strategy Group, co-chaired by Nicholas Burns from Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) and Dr Daniela Schwarzer from the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP), gathered in order to develop ideas and strategies for revitalizing transatlantic relations in 2021 and beyond to address critical challenges, such as a more assertive China and Russia, climate change, emerging technologies, and a global trading system in flux.

The group developed a comprehensive report entitled “Stronger Together: A Strategy to Revitalize Transatlantic Power” that was discussed at a webinar organised by the Estonian Foreign Policy Institute at ICDS on 12 January 2021.

The webinar was moderated by Dr Kristi Raik, Director of the Estonian Foreign Policy Institute at ICDS, who was also a member of the expert group and authored the Action Plan on Russia.

According to Raik, one aspect discussed a lot in the group was renewal of our democracies. „In the light of recent political events in the US as well as the polarized political reality that we are witnessing in Estonia, it is becoming obvious we need to revitalize our democracies,“ added Raik.

Burns highlighted the close cooperation between the US and Estonia as a good example of strong transatlantic relations and recalled the role of the US in making sure the Soviet troops left Estonia and Latvia in 1994. He noted that Europe remains an essential partner for the US in many areas, including security and trade. Burns stressed the need to move ahead in the transatlantic cooperation, as the world has changed tremendously since the last US presidential elections in 2016.

Schwarzer introduced the three major parts of the report:

  1. The first part is about rebuilding trust in the heart of our alliance and democracy.
  2. The second part contains different policy elements of a joint strategy.
  3. The third part speaks about the instruments, institutions and investments that are needed to make the ideas to work.

She emphasized rebuilding trust as the biggest task for transatlantic partners and the most important topic for the European partners. However, she noted that for many EU member states the loss of trust goes further back in time.

Keit Pentus-Rosimannus, MP and former Foreign Minister of Estonia, pointed out that expectations are high after the US elections, to increase credibility among the transatlantic partners. She stated that it is crucial to use the momentum in order to agree on a joint global agenda. Pentus-Rosimannus believes the transatlantic block is the only working block that could tackle global problems and cooperate on our defence.

The report underlined cyber security as one crucial element of joint strategy. Merle Maigre, Senior Cyber Security Expert at e-Governance Academy, endorsed many points made in the report regarding cyber security. In addition, she suggested that the US should focus more on NATO in the cyber security field and that NATO should invest more in emerging technology R&D. Being a keen believer of joint exercises, Maigre proposed senior level table-top exercises to test transatlantic capabilities to respond to cyber attacks.

In addition to the aforementioned speakers, the following members of the strategy group contributed to the discussion: Cathryn Clüver Ashbrook, David E. Sanger, Torrey Taussig, Constanze Stelzenmüller.

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