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PostReactions to Biden Win in Germany, Ireland (Patrick Mears, -Germany, 11/27/20 3:25 am)
I would just like to briefly pick up from Harry Papasotiriou's recent post, in which he gave us an incisive summary of the current state of relations between Greece and the United States, but with a shift in focus to a summary of the reactions "on the street." Much more could be written on these topics than what is written below, but there is no need for that just now, as things seem to be evolving rather quickly.
The easy case is Ireland, where much of the Irish reaction centers on how American politics impacts the soon-to-be-completed Brexit negotiations. Irish politicians and the Irish whom I know were concerned about Donald Trump's support in the past for the Brexit movement and Boris Johnson's back-and-forth tactics on the issue of whether or not there will be a hard border between Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland after December 31st. For example, in an article today by Stephen Collins in today's Irish Times titled "Biden can be a friend to Ireland in a way that JFK was not," Collins had this to say on the contrast between Trump and Biden concerning Brexit:
"Biden's backing for the Irish position on the Belfast Agreement is accompanied by a firm commitment to the EU. His approach contrasts starkly with that of Donald Trump, who loudly backed Brexit, disdained the EU and supported populist nationalists across the continent trying to wreck it."
The issue of whether the EU and the UK can still avoid a hard border in Ireland is up in the air, especially after the UK announced that some as-yet undefined changes in the terms of the UK-EU withdrawal agreement could be unilaterally made by Britain. The deadline for resolving this issue, along with other outstanding issues, e.g., EU fishing rights in UK territorial waters, is December 31st. The Irish whom I know and the Irish media are concerned that the UK could neuter the Belfast Agreement by nevertheless forcing the creation of a "hard border" between the UK and the Republic. Joe Biden's past support of "no hard border" and his recent statements on the topic seem to have reassured the Irish that there would be negative consequences to the UK engendered by the United States if, due to British policy choices, routine customs checks would need to be made on those borders. One commentator, Newton Emerson, in today's Irish Times, raised a concern that Biden's recent characterization of a possible "guarded border" may be translated by the UK as something different and more problematic than what the Irish deem necessary to fulfill the promises of the Belfast Agreement, and that Biden's phrasing should be reconsidered by him. This report by RTE News gives some background to Biden's use of that phrase. https://www.rte.ie/news/us-election-2020/2020/1125/1180318-biden-comment/ .
This brings me to Germany and the EU. It is no secret that the relationship between Angela Merkel and Donald Trump went south early and quickly in Trump's administration. So went the relationship between the US and the EU on a number of issues, including world trade disputes (e.g. the Boeing/Airbus tit-for-tat tariffs, threatened sanctions arising from Nordstream 2, and the "repositioning" of US troops from Germany into Poland). The speed of this downward trajectory was accelerated by Trump's pressure on Germany and other countries in arrears on their NATO bills to pay up quickly and by his appointment in 2018 of Richard Grenell as US Ambassador to Germany, whose subsequent rhetoric only inflamed German sensibilities. In my experience, Germans are unlikely to bring up these topics face-to-face with American expats here unless they know them very well, and even in these cases, their criticisms are often muted. Not so, however, when it comes to the German media. Connie and I noticed yesterday in the bookstore in Heidelberg's train station that there were many "anti-Trump" books prominently displayed for sale. In addition, mainstream German magazines and other media often carry articles expressing similar sentiments. One example of such a story was published earlier this month in the German/English language news service, Deutsche Welle, concerning an American expat currently living in Berlin. https://www.dw.com/en/philosopher-susan-neiman-says-us-democracy-is-in-danger/a-55617084 .
JE comments: Excellent analysis, Pat. One would expect great enthusiasm for Biden in Ireland and Germany, albeit for different reasons. Who in WAISdom can give us a comment on the UK reaction? In Britain the Brexit matter certainly complicates things. Brexiteers have lost their champion in Washington. (It's hard to believe that in six months the Brexit vote will observe its fifth anniversary, and they're still hashing out the details.)