A new survey of public opinion in European and North American countries shows faith in Europe’s geopolitical importance growing, as confidence in the United States’s long-term influence falters against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine.
While two-thirds of respondents in this year’s Transatlantic Trends survey see the US as the most influential actor in global affairs today, little more than a third see it as holding that position in five years’ time.
Instead, they see the importance of China – and even of Russia – rising.
“There’s doubt in Europeans’ minds about whether the [US] democratic system can produce a reliable ally … Europeans are questioning our soft power,” said Bruce Stokes, director of the Transatlantic Task Force at the German Marshall Fund (GMF), which led the survey released on Thursday.
The survey included interviews with people from 14 countries: the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Turkey, and the US.
Asked how they perceived the state of democracy in their own country, 53 percent of respondents in the US said it was “bad”, joining clear majorities in Turkey (74 percent), Poland (55 percent), and Italy (64 percent).
“There’s complementarity between NATO and the EU – EU countries say they want to work primarily through the EU on countering Russia and China. The reflex is [towards the] EU.”
She believes this suggests growing faith in a more “geopolitical European Union”.
There was support for that view in Greece, where tension with Turkey and refugee flows have caused increasing concerns in the past few years.
“We will always be friends with the US, but there’s still competition [with the EU],” said Athens-based restauranteur Nikos Voglis, who supports the idea of increased defense spending on a European defense capability independent of NATO’s.
For Plamen Tonchev, Asia expert at the Institute for International Economic Relations in Athens, the US “is paying the price for [Donald] Trump’s isolationism and the ugly scenes” last year when supporters of the former president stormed the US Capitol building as Congress members gathered to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s presidential win.