Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Next Step

In my blog post A new Era of Transatlantic Relations? two weeks ago, I focused on how President Obama’s election raises hope for an improved transatlantic cooperation. However, I concluded, that there are more steps to follow in order to have a continuous impact.

At the security forum in Munich, Germany last week, we saw one next step in this direction. As already mentioned in YuanYuan’s post We will engage. We will listen. We will consult. "--Joe Biden, Vice President Joe Biden not only attended the conference in Munich on behalf of the new U.S. Administration, he also gave a keynote speech, emphasizing the new perspectives of the U.S. public diplomacy, the ways to improve relations between NATO and Russia, nuclear proliferation, and the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea.

I think it was crucial for Biden to attend the Munich conference for three core reasons: First, Biden’s appearance at the conference is a visible effort by the U.S. administration to show engagement and the will to change transatlantic relations. Second, Biden was able to address the new U.S. foreign policy direction in his speech, thereby signaling that the lack of cooperation, which has been vividly criticized by Europeans in the last years, will have an end.

And third, the fact that key politicians with a high interest in learning about the new directions of U.S. foreign policy were among the 300 guests of the conference provided an opportunity for a dialogue and therefore also underscores the importance of Biden’s appearance and speech. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov, and NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheff all came to Munich. Eventually, it is a dialogue and a cooperation that has to be aimed at when it comes to transatlantic relations.

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