An NPR member station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

How The Next President Would Shape Foreign Policy With Europe


Given the polls, many in Europe are wondering, what might American foreign policy look like under a President Biden? It could mean relief for two of President Trump's favorite punching bags, NATO and the European Union. But a Trump loss could complicate things for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. From London, NPR's Frank Langfitt looks at it.

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: President Trump talks about Boris Johnson like he's a pal, as he did last year in the Oval Office.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: He's a good guy. He's a friend of mine. I think we're going to have a great relationship.

LANGFITT: And Trump has frequently touted Johnson's biggest post-Brexit priority.


TRUMP: We're working already on a trade agreement, and I think it'll be a very substantial trade agreement.

LANGFITT: But a President Biden, who opposed Brexit, would have different priorities. Unlike Trump, Biden values the trans-Atlantic relationship with Europe and hopes to rebuild ties with allies Trump has insulted and alienated. That's going to take time and could delay Britain getting a trade deal with the U.S. until 2022 or beyond, which would be a blow to Boris Johnson, who's made that trade deal a cornerstone of his Brexit policy.

Mujtaba Rahman is a managing director with Eurasia Group, the risk management firm.

MUJTABA RAHMAN: The symbolic importance and value of that agreement cannot be overstated. The entire legitimacy and credibility of Brexit, on some level, hangs on the government's ability to land an agreement with the U.S.

LANGFITT: A Biden presidency would also put more pressure on Boris Johnson to conclude a trade deal with the EU before time runs out at the end of this year. Biden, who's of Irish descent, has warned Johnson not to mess around in his negotiations with the EU or do anything that could undermine the 1998 peace agreement in Northern Ireland. Again, Mujtaba Rahman.

RAHMAN: Joe Biden's personal stake and role in this has been absolutely key in forcing a change of position in Downing Street vis-a-vis the EU in those talks.

LANGFITT: While a Biden presidency would create challenges for Johnson, Rahman says there are upsides.

RAHMAN: Downing Street has found dealing with Trump a nightmare. He's unpredictable, difficult to work with, has made the government's life on a whole sway the multilateral issue - very difficult to navigate.

LANGFITT: Trump has focused much of his wrath across the English Channel, targeting NATO, some of whose members he views as freeloaders, and the European Union.


TRUMP: We're protecting Germany. We're protecting France. We're protecting everybody. And yet we're paying a lot of money to protect.

We're the piggy bank that they like to take from. Look at NATO.

I think the European Union is a foe.

NATHALIE TOCCI: With the exception of some in Central and Eastern Europe, very clearly, there is a very strong preference for a Biden presidency.

LANGFITT: Nathalie Tocci runs the Institute for International Affairs in Rome.

TOCCI: There would be a sort of big effort on the side of a Biden presidency to try and mend fences across the Atlantic.

LANGFITT: But some of Trump's criticisms, including the failure of some NATO nations to spend more on defense, are legitimate and have accelerated talk in Europe of becoming more self-sufficient. Tocci says a Biden presidency could prompt backsliding.

TOCCI: There will be a European temptation to stick our heads in the sand in terms of assuming that we can return to the good old days in which Americans looked after our security. And that is an illusion because those days have gone.

LANGFITT: Trump's presidency has badly shaken European confidence in the United States. But Tocci says many are willing to give America the benefit of the doubt unless Trump wins reelection, which Tocci says would convince many here that something is fundamentally wrong with American politics.

Frank Langfitt, NPR News, London.

(SOUNDBITE OF KORESMA'S "EMERALD POOLS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Frank Langfitt is NPR's London correspondent. He covers the UK and Ireland, as well as stories elsewhere in Europe.