“Biden’s victory returns a recognizable, reassuring figure to the Western throne,” an Atlantic essay claims, “a restoration of the old dynastic order — a figure who will hear Europe’s petitions with respect and grace.” Europe, it appears, banked on Biden, whom it believes will deliver. At least such is the received wisdom.
Politico argued the same, saying, “For many European leaders, Biden’s win represented more than just the prayed-for end of Trump’s presidency — it was a welcome shot in the arm for Europe’s battered brand of centrist politics as it battles its own populist demons, a glimmer of hope that the ‘good guys’ can win.” Progressive centrism is apparently back, and Europe is collectively breathing a sigh of relief.
The European elite, especially those in the West and North and in charge of the institutions from Brussels to Berlin, were hoping for restoration. Suffering from a mild Electra complex, they hoped the benevolent father figure would “heal” all the “cruelties” of the past four years.
Except it cannot be further from the truth, and Europe, as always, is on the verge of learning the wrong lessons from this election result. The idea of a restorationist foreign policy with America at the helm, ruled by a political party committed to globalist liberalism, is so absurd that only a European elite class completely detached from reality can think of it.
The idea that the entirety of Europe is jubilant now that the Democrats are ostensibly back in charge will hit two roadblocks soon enough. It is mostly western European elites who prefer a Democratic government. The general population, while having a strong reaction to Trump’s persona, is overall much more ambivalent about American leadership. In fact, as a Pew report suggested a while back, on the ideological right-wing, even in western Europe, Trump’s favorability has increased.
The western European leadership class has been a leftist elite for a while. On one hand, it’s been used to a generous American tax-funded security. On the other hand, it has acted like imperial consuls from faraway lands trying to shape the politics of the capital.
The situation is different among the European populace, especially among people in eastern and central Europe. Biden’s administration will perhaps increase interference in Belarus to “promote democracy,” thereby preempting a Ukraine-type conflict, while pushing back stalwart traditional conservative allies such as Hungary and Poland. As a result, one can expect a fracturing of EU polity.
The European Union is undergoing an intense amount of scrutiny. Even within the liberal western states, France and Austria want a closed EU with better Russian relations, an independent army, and strategic independence, and scrutiny of political Islam and antagonism to Turkey. Germany, afraid of a French hegemony post-Brexit and Trump, desperately wants a restoration of the 1990s. In short, European differences in interests are back once America is retrenched.
While nominally committed to European security, Biden will still focus more on Asia. The rise of China foreordains that. His foreign policy, therefore, will neither satisfy the closed EU ideologues, such as France, nor the Atlanticists, such as Germany, while antagonizing the cultivated allies of the last four years, from Britain to eastern and central Europe.
The Euro leftists, however, depending on the Democrats for the restoration of a liberal order, refuse to see that American interests will increasingly be inward. To retrench from the Middle East after disastrous wars would naturally mean more conflict in that region and more spheres-of-influence politics between various powers such as Russia and Turkey — but that is also inevitable.
America will be foolish to stay in the Middle East, with no long-term major power threats. With a détente between the Gulf Arabs and Israel, the natural balance against Iran is also consolidated. Europe would have to concentrate on its southern flank anyway, with or without Biden; Biden, to his lone credit, was the only man in the entire Obama administration to have opposed the disastrous Libyan war.
More importantly, the European leftists, politically tying themselves up with the Democrats, view any country or party or government that prefers hierarchy, law and order, natural law and biology, and judicial conservatism to be automatically illegitimate and borderline fascist. That means Republicans are naturally antagonistic to European liberal states.
Given that Europe is fundamentally dependent on American muscle, to antagonize one whole party and ideology is the dumbest possible development since 2016 and will come back to haunt Europe the next time an even more conservative Republican president is in power, one who will have the winning combination of Trump — including social conservatism, strong law and order, and foreign policy retrenchment — minus his personal baggage.