Security Conference: is Europe on Team US again?

US President Joe Biden announced the US's return to world politics and reaffirmed his country's commitment to old alliances at the Special Edition of the Munich Security Conference on Friday, which was held virtually because of the coronavirus pandemic. Commentators discuss how Europe should now position itself vis-à-vis the US - especially if relations with Russia and China continue to cool.

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Hospodářské noviny (CZ) /

Europeans lack a common voice

Biden's assurances that the US is committed to its alliance with Europe are a good start, notes Hospodářské noviny:

“But that's only half the battle. The second half, the European part of the alliance, is still needed. It was encouraging to see Biden in virtual Munich with the German chancellor, the French president and the British prime minister. But if we look a few months into the future, it's not clear yet who will replace Angela Merkel as chancellor in the autumn. Nor is it clear whether Emmanuel Macron will remain in the Elysée Palace, or whether Biden can rely on Boris Johnson, who has swapped the role of tiny Trump for the trappings of transatlanticism. After Biden's 'America is back', it's now up to Europe to say who represents it.”

NZZ am Sonntag (CH) /

Europe needs more courage

America is back, but its partner is extremely weakened, writes NZZ am Sonntag:

“Europe is not back. In fact you might even say that Europe was never there, after first destroying itself in two world wars, and since the end of the Cold War, preoccupying itself with its own internal institutional administration. ... The return of the US to multilateralism and the Atlantic alliance is to be welcomed, but it does not compensate for the weakness of the Europeans. ... Europe needs clear principles and the courage to engage in political confrontation. This means that only a small circle of willing states will lead Europe's foreign policy. And they will need a high-tech military to be credible at all.”

Der Freitag (DE) /

Partnership does not mean blind loyalty

Der Freitag was not overly convinced by Biden's statements:

“Biden reassuring himself of the old allies' support is not a geopolitical agenda - at best it's a reference to the indispensable components of one. And why's he doing this? What's the purpose of this Western closing of ranks? To take on Russia and compete with the Chinese system, as Biden more than just hinted. Addressees like Germany and France should reflect on what they are being asked to do. Whether what Biden is talking up as a recycled partnership doesn't boil down to them giving him their allegiance. It would be completely absurd for the EU to enter into a confrontational relationship with China, its most important trading partner, with whom just last December it reached an investment agreement that surpasses all previous agreements.”

Helsingin Sanomat (FI) /

Protection has its price

Europe won't be able to avoid military cooperation with the US in Asia, speculates Helsingin Sanomat:

“The US does not want to look weak in front of China and Russia. And that wouldn't be in Europe's interest either. Common interests demand talks and the diplomacy Biden is stressing. ... Biden has replaced Trump, but Europe's room for manoeuvre in the tense relations between the US and China continues to shrink. Conducting military operations in the Pacific to support the US is neither in the interest of the European NATO states nor of the EU. But military cooperation in Asia may be the price they have to pay if they want the US to take care of European security. The fact is that without the US, Europe has no deterrent against Russia”

Novaya Gazeta (RU) /

Biden's opponents are united in mutual distrust

Pavel Felgengauer, Novaya Gazeta's military analyst, points to the distrust between Moscow and Beijing:

“Biden portrayed Russia and China together as the main authoritarian opponents of the global community of democratic countries. Yet these two countries certainly do not consider themselves 'allies', but merely 'partners'. China and Russia do not trust each other, they spy on each other and refuse to develop joint arms projects or share sensitive technologies. ... Russia's diplomats are good at publicly slapping their foreign colleagues in the face, but they haven't even managed to build a stable and long-term union with Belarus or Kazakhstan.”