Duncan Roberts: In January, Joe Biden will be inaugurated as the 46th president of the United States. What sort of influence do you think his administration will have on transatlantic relations?
Josip Glaurdić: Highly positive. Joe Biden is one of a generation of committed transatlanticists in the US Senate. So, he recognises–and the partners that he’s chosen [secretary of state Antony Blinken and envoy for climate John Kerry] definitely recognise–the importance of transatlantic relations. Because he realises it would be far more difficult for the United States to stand up to China, to stand up to Russia without partners in the European Union. They’re all committed to bringing the US back into the Iran nuclear deal. They’re committed to the Paris Climate accords, they’re committed to, obviously, multilateralism when it comes to fighting things like the pandemic. And they’re obviously very highly committed to NATO.
Had Trump won a second term, I don’t know if NATO would have survived. So, it’s a dramatic shift. But we shouldn’t romanticise it. There will be some tough choices for the United States to make. It will have to make its position clear when it comes to anti-liberal, anti-democratic tendencies in European countries in Eastern Europe. Not to mention these larger choices when it comes to policy towards China when it comes to policy towards new trade deals and whatnot.
Editorial note: This interview took place before the insurrection at the Capitol on 6 January. Glaurdić had plenty to say about that in comments made to Delano on 7 January, which you can read here.
DR: Do you think Trump being defeated will dampen the enthusiasm for the sort of populist movements we’ve seen on the rise in Europe?
JG: It won’t be the death knell of people like [Hungarian prime minister Viktor] Orbán or [Slovenian PM Janez] Janša, or whatever. But it’s definitely not working in their favour. On the morning after the election the prime minister of Slovenia went on Twitter and congratulated Trump. I haven’t seen something so short sighted done by, let’s say, a major European politician. And then he doubled down. He was even saying there was fraud. And isn’t Slovenia supposed to be presiding over the EU in the second half of 2021? Good luck getting an appointment with Biden.
DR: Then, we have the expansion of the EU to include the western Balkans, which is currently being held up. How do you see that playing out over the next year?
JG: I’m very pessimistic. I mean, the only way that this can possibly move forward is if there is any sort of initiative in DC to basically say: “Europe, get your act together, stop the BS. If you really genuinely have a vision for this region to be fully integrated, to move beyond its terrible past and slightly less terrible present, then put your money where your mouth is.” Because the vacuum in that region has led to an influx of Chinese capital and of Russian influence that ultimately do not serve European interests and do not serve American interests.
DR: Luxembourg is hugely influenced by its bigger neighbours, and we have the German election coming up sometime in the autumn…
JG: Where, again, a lot of things can happen. I mean, it’s still unclear who is going to be the candidate for the CDU. So, I mean, to predict anything at this point, including some miracle by which Merkel stays… What seems apparent is that there will be a need for some form of a coalition government. That much we know. And if I was a betting man, at this point, I would most likely bet on Schwarz-Grün (CDU/CSU-Greens) coalition at the end of it. But I wouldn’t bet a lot of money.
And we have to remember, when a society is combating an enemy, or is in a crisis, it is committing all of its resources to winning that fight. And then once it wins, or loses–but I mean this will be over one way or another, right–then comes the time to assess the damage and deal with it. And dealing with the economic damage is going to be an incredible, an immense challenge to the balance sheets…from companies, to countries to regions to cities, municipalities, they’re all going be in deep, deep, deep burgundy red, you know, so…
DR: Yes, we saw that in 1945 when Churchill was defeated by Clement Atlee…
JG: Exactly. We know from the research that I that I work on, which is sort of on the effects of exposure to war, violence on post-war politics, that communities and individuals after war have greater expectations of governments, which is understandable. They want more social welfare, they want more security, not only physical security, and they want more in economic terms. It’s possible that a skilled politician on the left could use that to sort of rekindle…give new impetus. As Biden says: “Build back better”. But what does that mean?
DR: It’s that sort of catchphrase to appeal to everyone…
JG: I think that’s exactly what it says in the American context. I think it’s plausible that this pandemic has shifted public opinion on a number of social welfare issues.