Through US Midterms, Europeans See Democracy Reaffirmed — But for How Long?

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“Well, 2024 is a big question mark everywhere — and in Europe especially,” said Bacharan.


The U.S. midterm
elections have been closely followed overseas — especially in Europe, where
analysts say some of America’s closest and oldest allies are relieved that U.S.
democracy held the course. But many are unsure for how long — and some are
calling for a stronger and more independent Europe as a result.

In France and elsewhere
in the European Union, the U.S. midterm elections have dominated the airwaves,
including on Tuesday, as final results trickle in showing the Democrats
retaining control of the Senate and the Republicans likely to narrowly win the

French analyst and
historian Nicole Bacharan, who specializes in French-U.S. relations, said last
week’s relatively smooth congressional vote eased fears within the European
Union about the strength of America’s democracy — and their own sometimes
fragile multiparty systems — that was shaken during the tumultuous aftermath of
the 2020 U.S. presidential vote.

“The comforting
thing about these midterms is obviously there is a majority of American
citizens — Republicans and Democrats — who want to be heard through the
vote,” said Bacharan. “They did vote — a lot. And they waited
peacefully for the results.”

It may be a short-term
reprieve. The next U.S. presidential election is only two years away.

“Well, 2024 is a big
question mark everywhere — and in Europe especially,” said Bacharan.
“Who is going to be the next president? What kind of international vision
will he or she have? That’s all unknown.”

Warming relations

Frosty European
Union-U.S. relations under former U.S. President Donald Trump have thawed
considerably under pro-Europe President Joe Biden. Today, the two sides
generally agree when it comes to key issues such as climate change and the war
in Ukraine. But tensions still exist, for example, over last year’s hasty U.S.
pullout in Afghanistan, or over a nuclear submarine deal with Australia that
strained relations between Washington and Paris.

All of this bolsters
calls for Europe to invest in its own security.

“We cannot be sure U.S.
democracy sustains a medium-term, long-term commitment to underwriting European
security in the [generous] way the U.S. has done over the past seven
decades,” said Thorsten Benner, who heads the Global Public Policy
Institute, a Berlin-based research group. He believes a Republican majority in
the U.S. House, for instance, will push Europeans to invest more in Ukraine’s
war against Russia. It’s a call he agrees with.

“It is primarily
Europe’s problem,” said Benner. “This is a war in our neighborhood
and not in Mexico or Canada. So we need to invest more.”

The call for a stronger
European defense isn’t new. French President Emmanuel Macron has championed it
for years. But progress has been slow.

“Europeans among
themselves don’t agree on how to go about it. Just think of the French and the
Germans, for instance,” said Bacharan. “And the capabilities of the
United States — their military capabilities — [are] so much bigger, so much
more enormous than anything going on in Europe. It’s not possible.”

Many said Europe may
not have a choice. The next generation of U.S. leaders may be far less
committed to the trans-Atlantic alliance than their predecessors. The earlier
Europeans prepare for that possibility, they said, the better.


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