National Security and the Upcoming U.S. Elections: Change or More of the Same?
On March 16, 2016, The Brussels office of the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF), and the Brussels chapter of Women in International Security (WIIS), with the support of the U.S. Mission to the EU, hosted a conversation with Kori Schake, research fellow at Stanford University, Julianne Smith, senior fellow and director at the Center for New American Security, and Bruno Lété, senior program officer for Foreign and Security Policy at GMF, to discuss the U.S. Election’s campaign, predictions for future U.S. foreign policies, and implications for the transatlantic community. The conversation was moderated by Pauline Massart, deputy director at Friends of Europe, and vice president for Outreach and Operations at Women in International Security. The event brought together participants from European institutions, NATO, diplomatic representations, non-governmental organisations, academia, and media in Brussels.
The discussion, held under the Chatham House Rule, started on the unexpected developments of the presidential campaigns in the U.S. as some candidates are able to capitalize on voters’ dissatisfaction with globalization. As it was stated, current candidates in the race reflect extreme fractions within both political parties, and it could be highly likely that there will not be compromises on one candidate on both sides. There is the likelihood of a contested convention on the Republican side, and a low voter turn-out as citizens do not want to support the final candidate of their party. As one panellist noted, in the event of Donald Trump winning the presidency, the United States Congress has to step up in holding the executive accountable.
In regard to the U.S. foreign policies, and perspective for the transatlantic partnership, discussants agreed that the accumulation of global challenges require transatlantic efforts to address them. While it was argued that Trump would throw a wrench into the transatlantic relationship, there has not been a possible foreign policy agenda, as panellists argued. A possible Clinton presidency would mean more of a continuation of the current Obama policies, though with a more aggressive stands towards Russia, and a closer relationship with Europe. There was an agreement that the U.S. cannot afford to walk away but as one panellist argued, it is necessary on both sides of the Atlantic to restore faith in the institutions like the EU or NATO. Europe needs to get accustomed to the U.S. taking a back seat in Europe. Panellists stated that one needs to get accustomed to the U.S. taking a back seat in Europe, as there were more demands for the U.S. presence and assurance to its allies around the world at a time when there was less U.S. support to give, and also less public support in the U.S. to invest abroad.
The discussion was followed by an interactive question and answer session touching on a number of issues related to U.S. and Russian relations, the future of sanctions, the expectations and NATO’s role in the MENA region, the likelihood of the U.S. to step up on finding a solution on the migration crisis as well as getting the entire transatlantic community behind ending the Syria conflict.