A conversation hosted by the GMF Warsaw Office on June 13, 2012, focused on the upcoming U.S. presidential elections and the sort of implications it could have for the European Union and Poland. Ambassador Kristen Silverberg, a GMF senior resident fellow and former ambassador to the European Union, took part in the discussion with Mr. Paweł Świeboda, president of demosEUROPA. They discussed significant challenges and opportunities for the U.S.-EU and U.S.-Polish relationships in coming years. Dr. Andrew Michta, the director of the GMF Warsaw Office, moderated the discussion.
Ambassador Silverberg commented on the domestic and international challenges that the United States currently faces. She explained that it is critical to maintain a strong transatlantic relationship since the United States and Europe are each other’s closest allies, sharing common values and facing equal challenges. Despite the current U.S. “pivot” towards Asia, she said, transatlantic relations should be at the forefront of U.S. foreign policy agenda. Ambassador Silverberg said that on one hand, Asia will remain central to U.S. foreign policy owing to its emerging economies, security threats, and diplomatic negotiations, but on the other hand, the United States is a global power and so its focus toward Asia should not exclude or diminish the U.S.-EU or U.S.-Polish relationship.
Mr. Świeboda argued that the “pivot” did in fact signify reducing ties with Europe. The future of the economy makes it impossible for the United States to ignore Asia, especially China and India, but the overwhelming focus on the region has left Europe in the background. He said that evidence of this is present in the lack of discussion over the U.S.-EU relationship in Washington and in the fading U.S. military presence in Europe. The euro crisis has left Europe struggling financially, but there is also a sense of future redemption and progress. Mr. Świeboda argued that in order to strengthen the EU and Poland, it is necessary to take an internal approach with less attention being paid to international issues, so that wars like those in Iraq and Afghanistan do not reoccur. He also said that Poland is presently facing challenges with energy security, a modest military budget, and unstable neighbors in Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia. The United States and Poland have come together on energy issues, especially shale gas, and with the upcoming U.S.-Polish Business Summit, the relationship between the old allies might improve.
In her response, Ambassador Silverberg stated that if the upcoming 2012 elections bring change in U.S. leadership, there would be a strengthened cooperation on Europe. Although Asia remains a key region, the U.S.-Europe relationship is strong, long-lasting, and incredibly important to both partners. One of her suggestions for strengthening relations in the future is a free trade agreement (FTA) negotiated by the United States and Europe. The FTA would be particularly attractive to other regions and states due to the large U.S. and European economies. An agreement of that sort would allow for Asian participation without the possibility of a Chinese veto. This would strengthen U.S.-Europe relations and partner the two in a position of global leadership. She added that U.S. defense cuts are necessary, yet if there is a change in the administration following the elections, the defense budget would not be reduced as steeply and there would likely be a greater U.S. military presence in Europe. On the subject of Russia, Ambassador Silverberg said she thought that the United States is committed to stronger cooperation but that there would be no further concessions made to comfort Russia at the risk of U.S. and European security. She then mentioned that the United States relies on Europe as a partner, and that it is essential for Europe to continue to lead rather than retreat from global issues in light of the euro crisis.
Mr. Paweł Świeboda closed with remarks on the U.S. presidential elections, noting that Europe is rather calm about the outcome. In his view, not much will change if either candidate is elected, or reelected. It is time for Europe to focus on itself, he said, and make it through the current crisis in order to reach a political and economic stability.