On February 8, 2016, The German Marshall Fund of the United States hosted an event titled “U.S. Global Leadership Under the Next President,” to consider U.S. foreign policy under the next presidential administration and its potential impact on U.S. allies in Europe and Asia. GMF President Dr. Karen Donfried opened the event by noting the great interest in this topic across the world.
Derek Chollet, counselor and senior advisor for security and defense policy at GMF and a Democratic foreign policy expert, began the conversation by noting that U.S. partnerships around the world are under tremendous stress. Issues in three regions in particular – Europe, the Middle East, and Asia – he said, force U.S. leaders to consider how to balance competing demands for U.S. attention and resources.
Following Chollet’s comments, GMF Senior Fellow for Asia Dr. Daniel Twining offered his perspective as a Republican foreign policy strategist. He noted that U.S. foreign policy in different regions is not isolated and that the perception of U.S. leadership in one part of the world directly impacts the reputation of the United States in other regions. “Our friends don’t think we’ve overextended, they think we’re basically underweight in key parts of the world,” he said, highlighting that America's "pivot to Asia" began in 1853 when American ships went to Japan.
Geoff Dyer of the Financial Times spoke third, offering his unique perspective as a European based in Washington with extensive experience in Asia. People around the world, Dyer said, are watching the current election cycle and seeing the party establishments challenged. He noted that the political energy nationwide threatens to forestall the passage of TPP.
GMF Transatlantic Fellow Dr. Joshua Walker moderated a discussion between all three speakers, probing them on a variety of topics and linking common threads throughout. In the discussion portion of the event, Daniel Twining noted that in a climate of increasing geopolitical tension worldwide, U.S. allies in Asia, especially Japan as the core U.S. ally in Asia, are looking to see if the United States has “grit” and stamina for global leadership in the face of a rising China. He suggested that the United States could be more effective by creating an “allies-and-partners-first strategy” in Asia and Europe without having to choose either or. Questioned by Walker about how European nations are dealing with changing geopolitical dynamics in Asia, Dyer said Europe has handled the challenge well overall but described recent UK policy toward China as a “brazen breach” of its traditional relationship with the United States.
The event concluded with an extended question and answer session with an audience of diplomats, journalists, U.S. policymakers, and students. Chollet cited Libya as an example of how the U.S. and Europe can work well together on security issues. Dyer reflected that while he worked in Beijing he became steeped in a narrative of American decline, but since coming to Washington has been struck by how the U.S. is still called first by countries around the world when issues arise. Twining highlighted the bipartisan nature of America's commitment to Asia and emphasized the importance of Washington maintaining its transatlantic and transpacific primacy, particularly for our traditional allies.