As we go to press on the eve of the 2020 U.S. elections, both Americans and Europeans are understandably focused on whether January 20, 2021, will be the beginning of a second term for President Donald Trump or the beginning of a new administration led by Joe Biden. Neither man is an unknown. We can predict with some confidence how their approaches to foreign policy and national security would differ, and what impacts those differences would have on the United States’ international relationships, including with its partners and allies in Europe. But as different as these two presidential candidates are, there are other variables that will also play at least as large a role in defining the next decade of transatlantic relations.
Because of the—undeniably captivating—contest of personalities that dominates our attention at present, we might be less inclined to focus on the systemic changes that are likely to shape the evolution of the transatlantic relationship in the coming decade—from geopolitics and the rise of China to technological progress to the weaponization of corruption and the challenge of climate change. These challenges will outlast the current president, and the next one; if the transatlantic relationship is to endure as a lynchpin of the democratic world, it must evolve. Even if the United States and Europe could recover the relationship of years past, it wouldn’t be fit to the purposes the allies will face in the years to come.
A German Defense Minister, a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives, a former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, a former EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy—these are just some of the voices we’ve brought together in this compendium to think about the next chapter of a relationship that has been at the heart of American and European foreign and security policy for seventy-five years.
Looking back, 1989 was a momentous year that ushered in the modern era of transatlantic relations. It was also the year that Cher released her international hit single “If I Could Turn Back Time.” She couldn’t then, and we can’t now—the only direction to look is forward.