There are deeper questions about America’s future reliability as a security partner, especially if the conflict with China turns kinetic, which is part of Mr. Macron’s argument, Mr. Lesser acknowledged. “For all the U.S. commitment to Europe, if things go wrong in the Indo-Pacific, that would change the force structure in Europe pretty fast.”
In Poland, a strong American ally in the European Union and NATO, the reaction to the new alliance was more positive, focusing not on a pivot away from Europe “but on the U.S., with the British and the Australians, getting serious about China and also defending the free world,” said Michal Baranowski, who heads the German Marshall Fund office in Poland.
At the same time, he said, Poles see another case where the supposedly professional, pro-European Biden administration “again doesn’t consult and shoves European allies under the bus,” he said. “This time the French, but for us, it was Nord Stream 2, when we were thrown under the bus for Germany,” he said. That was a reference to Mr. Biden’s decision to allow the completion of a natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany, bypassing Ukraine and Poland, that was a priority for European powerhouse Berlin.
“The U.S. will say again that ‘We’re building strong alliances, with Germany and Australia,’” Mr. Baranowski said. “But who suffers? Other allies.”
As for relations with China, Europeans would prefer not to have Beijing in a rage, said Ms. Balfour of Carnegie Europe. “European allies have been more uncomfortable with more hawkish positions on China” and “keenly aware of the need to talk to China about climate and trade,” she said.
So if Europe can keeping talking to Beijing without being portrayed by China as having joined a security pact against it, that could be helpful, she said. “If there is a silver lining to this, it will be if the European Union is capable of playing this card diplomatically, and avoid painting the world as for or against China, which is the rhetoric Beijing is pushing.”