The history of the 20th Century is filled with examples of when the United States came to Europe’s rescue. Before the Covid-19 pandemic broke out, the American economy had been booming. Despite the various attacks from the liberal left, Donald Trump’s administration managed to successfully deal with the complexity of international politics and the global economy.
Contrary to the accusations the US President has been facing, he did not disrupt the world order. His actions were intended to rectify it. Trump argued that Washington’s allies should act more like partners and assume a greater responsibility in the fields of defence, security and international trade. He attempted to encourage Russia, China, Iran and North Korea to respect international norms. From Warsaw’s point of view, it is clear that Trump’s strategy worked in Poland and the nearby region, as demonstrated by NATO’s recent behaviour.
Today, the American people find themselves in dire straits. The pandemic’s death toll is soaring and the economy is plummeting. The US administration, just like a number of other national governments, has been mostly focused on internal problems. Still, plans for a global economic recovery have been appearing.
The American political class has been polarised. The divisions started to emerge when Barack Obama was president. The idea of bipartisan politics was abandoned for good during his tenure and ideologically loaded social engineering projects were pushed through. As far as foreign policy goes, Obama’s administration was naive and it made rookie mistakes – such as the infamous Russian re-set. As we are fighting the pandemic in the months leading to the next US presidential election, we cannot expect a bipartisan approach toward economic recovery and a revival of international cooperation in the transatlantic realm. Ideas clearly differ based on political affiliation of the think tanks where they originate.
The Conservative Heritage Foundation is openly calling on President Trump to design a worldwide economic recovery program. Such a proposal would be based on the Marshall Plan and it would place the United States behind the steering wheel. Obviously, the new plan would not be an exact copy of the post-WWII recovery strategy. After all, Washington’s painful lessons from Iraq and Afghanistan do not encourage a literal approach.
The new Trump Plan would be focused on the transatlantic relationship and include the following: liberalisation of economic cooperation by establishing Free Trade Agreements between the US and the EU and between the US and the UK; expansion of economic cooperation through the Three Seas Initiative; liberalisation of visa regimes; improvement in the field of energy security and energy cooperation; implementing innovations such as 5G. The proposal resembles the initial European concepts of liberalisation that called for the free movement of capital, goods, services and people. Recently, the EU has been walking away from these ideas as it increasingly embraces protectionism.
The Heritage Foundation plans for intensified economic cooperation and liberalised trade also include the US-Canada-Mexico triangle and Washington’s democratic allies and partners in the Asia-Pacific region: Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan and India. These proposals are all focused on innovations and investments in a dramatically liberalised international trade environment.
Think tanks associated with the Democrats, such as the Atlantic Council and Carnegie Endowment, advocate Washington’s active participation in the revival of the world’s economy but they do not expect it to take on a leadership position. They propose reuniting with friends and allies for a shared purpose. It would include common policymaking aimed at fighting the pandemic, exchange of resources, know-how and experience. The global economic recovery should therefore be coordinated within the G20, with the limited participation of China. Democratic think tanks do, of course, advise against overlooking challenges such as climate change. Moreover, they warn against what they consider to be increasing authoritarian tendencies in Europe.
The November US presidential election will show us the plan that America will then present to Europe and the rest of the world.
Also published in Polish by Rzeczpospolita.