May 2017. On the 25th, NATO holds a summit in Brussels. Donald Trump has questioned Washington's commitment to the Alliance, and allies fear that the unspeakable leader will ruin the meeting in the European capital. To avoid this, they shorten the meeting as much as possible and organize more or less entertaining activities, such as a visit to the new headquarters and an inauguration of monuments: to the Berlin Wall, to 9/11 and to article 5, which enshrines defensive solidarity between partners . Not for those. The summit is a fiasco, not least because of Trump's refusal to honor the crucial article. The president shows an ignorance and detachment towards international affairs, and in particular European affairs, only comparable to the reciprocal coldness of most of his colleagues from the Old Continent.
Five years later, Joe Biden participates in a new NATO meeting in Brussels in a radically different situation, almost the opposite. No room for fuss, because what we are dealing with here is a war in Europe, the president of the United States is where he is supposed to be. And he has not been and it is not easy for him.
The painful and chaotic exit from Afghanistan last August, with hardly any consultation with his allies, sank Biden's prestige outside and inside the United States. Even so, by the end of last year and therefore before the invasion of Ukraine by the Vladimir Putin's army, the image of the United States before the rest of the NATO members had nothing to do with the one that Trump had left behind. According to a large Gallup poll carried out from April 2020 to January 2021, in 20 of the 27 allied countries where the survey was conducted, the approval ratings of the American leadership grew by double digits between the last year of Trump's mandate and the first. of Biden. The improvements were 34% in Germany, 30% in the UK, 24% in Spain...
The actions of the current US president regarding the war in Ukraine, before and during the invasion, redeemed him before the partners. The decision to share intelligence on Russian troop movements and deceptions; taking the initiative in many cases and reaching agreement in all of them when it comes to adopting sanctions against Putin and his followers; the coordination of decisions with the key organizations of the front against Moscow, including the EU and the G-7 as well as NATO, and, not least, the contribution of huge amounts of weapons and money for Ukraine's security, with a commitment total expenditure of 6,100 million dollars, have ensured a unity of action, with many minor exceptions than Moscow expected, whose greatest merit most European colleagues assign to Biden.
The success of the president in his effort to recover the moral and material authority of Washington in the West, as well as to act as a leader and catalyst for the side opposed to Russia and China, is not complete and is subject to risks.
To begin with, Biden and the Alliance failed to prevent the invasion of Ukraine through diplomatic channels. Then they were pleasantly surprised, in horror, to see the fierce resistance of the occupied country. And now, as analysts Peter Brookes, of the Center for National Defense, and Alexis Mrachek, of the Heritage Foundation, point out in Washington, the US and the Alliance should seek "greater and faster" support for the Ukrainians if not they want the course of the war to change definitively after the Russian advances in the East.
The Madrid summit got off to a strong start with the announcement of a substantial reinforcement of NATO's presence, and in particular of the US, in Eastern Europe. Later, the White House summoned journalists on Tuesday to extol Biden's key role in the agreement for Turkey to accept the entry of Sweden and Finland.
But the president avoids exposing himself too much to the press. He doesn't want domestic affairs to ruin his moment of glory. The poor prospects for the November legislative elections or the Supreme Court rulings on abortion and weapons underline the fragility of the 79-year-old leader.
"European countries are analyzing the problems that Biden has at home and are wondering if Trump will return in 2024, which leads them to question the consistency of the United States," says the former Deputy Secretary of Defense and analyst at the Center for American Progress, Lawrence Korb.
And the expert Marc Pierini, from the Carnegie Europe think-tank, remarks this to AFP: "Europeans are concerned about a political weakening of the Democratic president, since the prospect of seeing Trump or one of his Republican clones winning the 2024 presidential It's a big concern." A justified concern.