From the 2011 Annual Report
As the German Marshall Fund celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2012, this moment of reflection also offers an opportunity to chart a new course for the transatlantic relationship — one that will keep the historic partnership vital to global affairs even as the geopolitical landscape continues to change.
Domestic problems, external competition, and a lack of common purpose have imperiled the transatlantic relationship. New challenges in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East have tested the ability and capacity of the alliance to operate effectively out-of-area. The financial crisis has weakened the United States and Europe and raised serious questions about the efficacy of the liberal economic model. The conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have tested both sides of the Atlantic and underscored differences in outlook and strategy. And, as data from our Transatlantic Trends survey shows, there is a growing transatlantic gap in attitudes on the use of force, the threats we collectively face, and the role of Asia in the global community.
Some see this situation as indicative of the inevitable, irreversible decline of the transatlantic partnership. That prognosis could prove correct without serious efforts to revitalize the Atlantic community. Investment and trade will provide some basis for cooperation across the Atlantic. But, economics are not enough to sustain a real partnership, especially when both the United States and Europe are being pulled in so many different directions. Trying to maintain the status quo will ultimately lead to a situation in which the United States and Europe no longer see themselves as comprehensive allies but rather as tactical partners when and if there are compelling common interests.
So we must pursue a growth strategy for the transatlantic relationship. It is the only viable course for a strong transatlantic community. We must rethink and reinvent this partnership and make it work for the 21 st century or else see our collective influence outstripped by new powers and new coalitions. That may mean an alliance that is less about hard power than in the past, and it may mean an alliance that includes new partners who share U.S. and European values, such as Japan, India, Brazil, South Korea, and Australia. It may mean significantly altering NATO, the G20, and other institutions dominated by the transatlantic community and building new, more global organizations and arrangements that meet the needs of this century while retaining a core of Western like-mindedness. Reinvention does not mean starting 4 german marshall fund of the united states anew. It does mean that we must take a hard look at the current arrangements and keep those elements that work while, at the same time, thinking creatively about how to build a new partnership based on common values and a broader purpose and scope.
There are three steps to this reinvention, and GMF is working on each of them.
First, we have to take care of ourselves. The United States and Europe must help one another get through the financial and economic crises through direct financial support and through advice and the exchange of ideas. Our economies are deeply intertwined — U.S. investment in Europe is four times higher than in Asia, and the transatlantic economies still comprise almost half of global GDP. In good times, this means growth for our companies and financial stability for our countries. In bad times, it means our economies aren’t immune to the troubling financial ripples — or waves — that reach our shores. GMF’s EuroFuture project is contributing research, analysis, and convening power to this effort, and our Transatlantic Taskforce on Trade and Investment has recommended steps toward a new agenda for growth. In addition, without working to strengthen our cities and local regions, there will be little appetite for attention to global matters. Our Urban and Regional Policy program is devoted to helping cities in the United States and Europe develop sustainably and recover economically.
Second, we must expand the partnership to include liberal democracies that share our values and can provide new energy to our common vision for a good and decent world. One place to start is the Atlantic basin to our south, with Brazil as the most prominent of a group of democracies in South America and Africa that can contribute to global stability. Then there is Asia, where there are more people living under democracy than in any other part of the world. Americans and Europeans must approach these new partners with a sense of humility. Over a decade when emerging powers have enjoyed historic and sustained rates of economic growth, we have not managed our own affairs very well, and our management of global institutions has fallen short. We need these new partners to work with us in a process of revitalizing the global order to reflect more closely our common values. Rather than weakening the West, partnerships with these “global swing states” can, over time, help strengthen the liberal international order the Atlantic community built. They share our vision of a good and decent world and can work with us to help integrate that other rising giant, China, into it. The democratic-capitalist ideal can be reinforced rather than undermined as a growing number of nonWestern powers embrace values that appear increasingly universal, and as rising democracies develop the capacities to help us provide global public goods. Our Atlantic Dialogues project and our standing program on Asia are working toward this end.
We talk a lot about “global problems,” and it is not lip service. Although once largely separate, the lines between “Atlantic” problems and “Pacific” ones have blurred significantly, and they should be tackled together in most cases. This brings me to the third step. These new partnerships of liberal democracies that connect the Atlantic and Pacific realms should address global security in a broad sense to include food, energy, migration, economics, democracy, law, and other aspects of human security. These are the baseline concerns of our societies as they attempt to grow and flourish.
GMF has gone through several evolutions in its history, tracking or even leading changes in the transatlantic relationship itself. As the first U.S. organization to open an office in East Berlin after the Berlin Wall fell, we were at the vanguard of working in Central and Eastern Europe. We were on the front lines of NATO expansion to include many of those countries. We continue to work in the Balkans, the Black Sea region, and Turkey — areas that can be integrated further still into Euroatlantic structures. And our seven offices s in Europe have us uniquely positioned to integrate local, regional, and global perspectives in confronting the world’s challenges.
In recent years, GMF has talked about looking at the world through a transatlantic lens. It’s not just that anymore. We now need the Brazilians, the Japanese, and the Indians to look with us. Their perspectives — and growing willingness to play a shaping role in East Asia, North Africa and the Middle East, and Iran — will help all of us live in a safer and more prosperous world.
The German Marshall Fund of the United States