A New Day for Transatlantic Cooperation
Joe Biden became president of the United States yesterday. As he proclaimed in his inaugural speech: “America has been tested, and we’ve come out stronger for it. We will repair our alliances and engage with the world once again. Not to meet yesterday’s challenges, but today’s and tomorrow’s challenges.” The time to open a new chapter on transatlantic cooperation is now.
The power of transatlantic cooperation arises, most fundamentally, from a shared belief in and commitment to democracy. American democracy is under significant stress, as the lethal assault on the U.S. Capitol on January 6 made clear. The challenge to democracy is not unique to the United States. Antidemocratic forces on both sides of the Atlantic have fomented fear, resentment, and anger on nationalist and often explicitly racist lines in an effort to undermine faith in democratic institutions. Yet even in the face of such attacks on democratic values, I see the resilience of democracy in the actions of citizens on both sides of the Atlantic.
The day before the Capitol was attacked, a historic number of residents of the state of Georgia cast their ballots in two Senate run-off elections. Those citizens of both political parties believed in the power of their vote. Organizers, including Stacey Abrams, an alumna of GMF’s Marshall Memorial Fellowship, played a key role. On the other side of the Atlantic, robust pro-democracy demonstrations sparked by a fraudulent election in Belarus have persisted for more than six months, despite harsh crackdowns by the Lukashenko regime.
GMF’s engagement with the next generation of leaders on both sides of the Atlantic and our grantmaking in support of stronger civil society (whether in Belarus or Ukraine) are fundamentally about the health of democracy. Our work to help secure democracy’s future starts with the role of the citizen, whether the Marshall Memorial Fellow in Texas or the community activist in Serbia. That work also focuses on engaging with city and state leaders and addressing challenges national policymakers face.
GMF’s policy initiatives offer new ideas on how best to meet the challenges of our time together with our allies in Europe, whether the issues are security and defense or geopolitics and the rise of China. Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger and I co-chaired a transatlantic task force to highlight the opportunity we have right now to unite in demonstrating values-based leadership—the resulting report is bursting with policy recommendations.
Our Alliance for Securing Democracy convened a task force of 30 leading American national security experts from both sides of the aisle; the recommendations in their report, Linking Values and Strategy: How Democracies Can Offset Autocratic Advances, offer a pathway to regain the initiative in the emerging competition with authoritarianism by leveraging democracy’s strengths and building more resilient democratic institutions. ASD’s co-directors make the case for why democratic values are our strength in this effort in their recent Foreign Affairs article.
The work of GMF’s Digital Innovation and Democracy Initiative, building on its Digital New Deal project, has led directly to platforms removing health misinformation, shown the importance of fighting white supremacy in the digital realm, and sounded the alarm on the increase of misinformation since the 2016 election. In the aftermath of the storming of the Capitol, the program’s Director Karen Kornbluh and Senior Fellow Ellen Goodman offered Three Steps to Help Treat America’s Debilitating Information Disorder in the Washington Post.
GMF works every day to strengthen transatlantic cooperation in the spirit of the Marshall Plan. That spirit evokes the democratic system that the United States and its European partners have championed together since the end of World War II. Especially as cracks in the liberal order appear and grow, we need to work even harder to heal and fortify our democracies. That is a mission for us all. Our impact is greater thanks to you. Now is the moment to demonstrate that the United States and Europe are indeed stronger together.
The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.