The Ukraine Crisis and the Revival of the Transatlantic Solidarity

The West has witnessed the extraordinary NATO Summit held in Brussels on March 24th 2022. The heads of state and government of the 30 NATO Allies gathered to discuss the consequences of Russia’s invasion and Allied support to Ukraine. The Summit encompassed discussions regarding NATO’s future deterrence and defense posture and presence in the eastern part of the Alliance. It seems the Ukraine war has provided the USA and NATO strategic ground to once again work as a cornerstone for holding the transatlantic solidarity which has been faded during the Trump presidency. The Transatlantic Alliance has been the foundation of the post-World War II world order. It is a real-world expression of West – an essence that both sides of Atlantic are in it together. It is the cornerstone of the collective security and shared prosperity of the USA and Europe are built. The transatlantic solidarity contributed to the areas of trade, culture and security fields between the west and Europe in the aftermath of the cold war.

However, The Donald Trump (former) administration flaunted its foreign policy through an “America First” lens which created strategic fault-lines within the Western powers. However, in a meeting with the EU leaders, US President, Joe Biden reiterated commitment towards transatlantic unity in the backdrop of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. President Biden’s speech reveals the significance of Europe–the EU, NATO, the transatlantic alliance is so important to the US. Therefore, US president Joe Biden considered Ukraine war as an opportunity to demonstrate their European counterparts how much they need US as a savior from Russian aggression. Hence, Ukraine war is the result of long-term strategic calculation of the United States to rejuvenate the transatlantic leadership and amalgamate the validity of US hegemony.  Ukraine war has made the west integrated like never before in recent times. Before understanding the significance of transatlantic solidarity and its connection to Ukraine war, it is important to look at its evolution since its inception.

The Evolution of Transatlantic Solidarity

For some decades after the World War II, the transatlantic relations were shaped on the basis of two shared imperatives- the imperative of containing Soviet power and influence which was the prime focus of the United States and its west European allies. Domestically, this imperative was to reduce trade barriers and liberalize capital flow and macroeconomic coordination across the Atlantic. However, after the end of the cold war, transatlantic relations have been unfolded within a rather different context. The Cold War ensured that this bond, built on the American security guarantee for Western Europe remained solid. Remarkably, when the ideological struggle with the Eastern bloc ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the transatlantic relationship at first continued as if everything was same. The European ally’s bandwagon with the US polices in the Iraq and Afghanistan and realized it did not bring any positive outcomes for them. Now that the postwar feelings of transatlantic solidarity are no more, European powers are looking for new opportunities beyond Atlantic.

As for the Obama administration, which is increasingly distancing itself from Europe and focusing on the “Asia Pivot”, it has yet to decide if the relationship is worth rebuilding. One of the most significant, yet least appreciated developments in world affairs has been the dramatic growth in ties between China and European Union.  China is now the EU’s second largest trading partner and, looking for more stable and legally secure trade alliances. Now, Europe is one of the most prominent destinations for Chinese companies’ foreign direct investment.

While Donald Trump pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement and the World Health Organization, built a wall on the border with Mexico, and further fueled divisions within society, solidarity grew within US cities, states, and across the continent Building a new one imposed enormous challenge for Biden Administration and European foreign and security policy. Yesterday’s feelings of solidarity and kinship are no longer sustained by a common perception of the outside world. The Ukraine war has provided the opportunity for strengthening the transatlantic relationship while transatlantic relationship has been dominated by the idea of a common security policy. The United States always need the support from west to consolidate its hegemony. However, the new Biden Administration offers the opportunity for a reboot of transatlantic relations.

Ukraine War and Solidarity in Times of Crisis

However, Today, Americans and Europeans have vastly different perceptions of the outside world and of the threats they face. Trust among allies has faded to the extent that the both Americans and Europeans realized that the old transatlantic relationship is in need of fixing. Russia began a special military operation in Ukraine on February 24 after that followed a slew of sanctions imposed by the western countries targeting the Russian economy.

The question remains whether the Ukraine crisis brought western power closer together. Antony Blinken, Secretary of the State said in his interview that” Ukraine crisis has absolutely reinforced transatlantic solidarity”.[1] He further added that it is the product of the two things: the evolving threat from Russian aggression and the universal values and interests they shared together. The USA President Joe Biden in his first address to the annual Munich Security Conference declared that the ‘transatlantic alliance is back’ and stressed the need to defend democracy around the world.[2] The USA President intended to improve the strained relationship between the USA and other European allies. The US hegemony is under threat due to some recent events like withdrawal from Afghanistan war, losing ground in Syria and withdrawal from international institutions. One the flip side, the emergence of China in Asia and its dominance over Indian Ocean has questioned the US hegemony. It is high time; United States looked for their long time-tested traditional allies in west.

However, Europe is going to come out from the US power of influence and opted for creating its own domain of influence. BREXIT is the classic example of nationalist aspiration of United Kingdom who came out from the multilateralism. The United States realized that their transatlantic solidarity which was formed under the US leadership during cold war has been questioned by its European allies. Consequently, it paves the way for the emergence of China and increase the dominance of Russia in Europe. When Donald Trump had become the US President, his strategic object was to withdraw US from multilateralism and promote its national interest on top of everything. Therefore, he decreased the funding of NATO, withdrew from NAFTA and deteriorated the relationship with European Union. The former American president not only attacked the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) – the fundamental structure of transatlantic alliance but also withdrew from virtually all multinational agreements recently championed by the European Union (EU), such as the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris climate agreement.

As the transatlantic solidarity was formed based on the common security threat perception, The United States invited Russia to wage a war against Ukraine through NATO’s Eastward expansionist policy which identified Russia as a common threat. Once again, Europe was soaked in the fear of Russian aggression. Against such backdrop, transatlantic solidarity once again went back to the pavilion under the US leadership. Besides, there was a leadership crisis among the European counterparts. European leaders are often too divided to agree on which threats to take seriously. That also prevented them to revitalize their transatlantic solidarity. For EU, China was an emerging strategic partner whereas the USA identified Chinese rise as a potential threat number one for US hegemony. Now that the Russian attack comes in front of them, the whole western front is witnessing unprecedented harmony regarding Russian aggression. The United States once again successfully demonstrated the significance of transatlantic solidarity and relevance of NATO as a security umbrella.

In conclusion, however, this historic, long-established friendship between the world’s two largest economies has become strained in recent years, the Ukraine crisis has united them in a way that world has witnessed never before. The United States is successful to consolidate their power through the Ukraine war and prove their role as a global hegemony for Europe. 

[1] 24, France. 2022. “Blinken Speaks To FRANCE 24: The Ukrainian Crisis Has ‘Reinforced Transatlantic Solidarity'”. Msn.Com.

[2] Reporter, staff. 2017. “Joe Biden Declares America, Transatlantic Alliance “Back””. NDTV.Com.

Saume Saptparna Nath
Saume Saptparna Nath
The author, Saume Saptaparna Nath, is currently Working as a research associate at the Center for Bangladesh and Global Affairs. She was a project coordinator at the "Revive Project " a joint venture of UNDP and Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship Development Center,University of Dhaka. She was also a former intern at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Bangladesh. She had pursued her post -graduation and graduation degree from Department of International Relations, University of Dhaka