In 2013, Germans answered in a survey on the question ‘Which country is the largest threat to the world peace?’ that it is the USA. Greece, Spain and Sweden gave the same answer. Regularly, the USA is categorized as the most unpopular country with the worst influence worldwide. With Donald Trump as a president the USA reached in Europe the lowest point in popularity.
On the one hand, the European society is impressed and fascinated by the US. Europeans love to consume American products: They love to eat at McDonalds, to watch Hollywood movies, to listen to US’ music and to dream about the American dream ‘from rags to riches’. They send their children for a year abroad to High Schools and want them to study afterwards at the renowned American universities. But on the other hand the European society possesses a mainstream attitude of being skeptical about the US. Within young European students it is still in vogue to disclaim the NATO and to have a left-orientated negative attitude towards the USA and its capitalist system. As children of Karl Marx’ ideas of a better world Europeans tend to feel morally superior to Americans. That is why US citizens describe Europeans often as arrogant.
This double moral has fundamental consequences. Most of the biggest global challenges can’t be overcome without a cooperation of the two economically most powerful partners.
During the research for my master’s thesis I had to realize: On the one hand the EU and the USA invest compared to other industrialized countries by far the most money in development aid. On the other hand, both of them also pay by far the highest amount for agricultural subsidies. These payments cause much more harm to the developing countries than the development aid of the EU and the USA helps them. Thus, the EU and the USA take the development countries’ natural competitive advantages. To change that situation the EU and the USA have to agree together to do so. Both take each other as a standard and influenced the WTO together to keep the subsidies on a legal status. A new Doha Development Round is only possible with an agreement of the USA and the EU that they show willingness to change together their system. The fight against extreme poverty does not just need money but also cooperation of the USA and the EU how to invest this money strategical.
Two other examples of global challenges illustrate the necessity of cooperation between the USA and the EU.
First, to slow down or stop the climate change it is necessary that the two biggest economies worldwide are motivated. They need to establish a sustainable and clean economy to serve as good examples for other less developed countries. Even if Donald Trump decided to step out of the Paris Agreement, the EU needs to appear with good arguments to convince the American society. Instead, the European media and public tend to condemn the USA and make the USA look silly.
Second, the international organized terrorism will find its power in the lack of cooperation between the USA and the EU. By fighting together for common values both appear much stronger for ISIS, Al-Quada, Boko Haram or other dangerous organizations which are fighting against the common values of democracy and freedom. Unfortunately, the European society transfigures every American effort as warmongering and the Americans present the EU as a free rider, who just takes advantage of American investments in international safety without putting any own effort.
But how can this knowledge change the transatlantic relationship? The answer has a psychological background. First, people sympathize with members of an own group with a common identity mark. The USA and the EU are a group that shares the identity mark of common values like freedom and democracy. Second, people sympathize with people or groups that share the same goals and the same opponents. The EU and the USA share the goal of human rights and democracy worldwide. This distinguishes both from other countries like China or Russia. These countries do not consider human rights or democracy as a criteria in their international politics or development aid.
Hence, communication in the transatlantic should underline first, common values to create a sense of a common identity of a group. Second, the communication should involve common goals to unite both and create a unit against opponents. It is especially important to implement these fundamental principles in the official politic communication between the USA and the EU. Hence, it is possible that media and civil society start to take over this wording and communication to spread it in society. Maybe people will start to reflect about their reserves of each other. If this way of communication will be really successful, the question ‘Which country is the largest threat to the world peace?’ will never end up again in the EU with the USA as an answer.