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'Panic' sweeps Brussels as officials fear 'decoupling' from US: 'Never going back to 2016'

According to analysts and officials both in the EU and in the US, expectations that Joe Biden’s administration would restore the relationship between the two blocs have long been abandoned.

Frictions between Brussels and Washington over Afghanistan, the AUKUS defence deal, Russia and China, have left experts pessimistic about a return to pre-Trump relations.

And as the US prepares for the midterm elections, a return of Republicans in Congress could further exacerbate the mood.

Speaking to Bruce Stokes, visiting fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, for Politico, a former US ambassador to NATO said: “[2021 events] fed a conclusion in Europe that the relationship with the US will never go back to 2016.”

A Polish foreign policy expert also warned: “You have to know that you have no other friends than Europe.

“If you screw up talking with us, that undermines the US system of alliances and that is not useful for the US.”

Echoing their concerns, a former US ambassador to the EU, said that AUKUS openly proved to Europeans that “the China folks in the White House are driving the bus. And they don’t have an appreciation of the EU as a useful partner on things that matter to the US”.

A Berlin-based analyst added: “Anxiety, scepticism and bad juju around the pivot to Asia is prevalent everywhere in Europe. The fear is that it will lead to transatlantic decoupling.”

Europeans are also very worried about the upcoming 2022 US Congressional election and Biden’s fading poll numbers.

A Washington-based veteran said: “There is panic [over] what will happen in the US.

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“Europeans hear that the Republicans may win the House and Senate in 2022, and the White House in 2024.”

And a Social Democratic member of the European Parliament added: “We may only have 10-11 months because after the midterm election, things may be different.”

Ahead of congressional elections in November, Biden and his closest allies have made fresh calculations about a country at a crossroads, the people close to the president said.

They see a divided public gorging itself on misleading information, not just about the 2020 election but a range of other issues including whether COVID-19 vaccines are effective.

They believe the White House is hobbled by a Republican Party hell-bent on ensuring Biden’s failure, even if it damages the United States overall.

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Mr Biden is dismayed by the “silence and complacency” of Republicans in a Congress he served in for decades, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Wednesday.

On Friday, he lashed out again, in a speech about the US economy, which is outperforming those of other developed nations.

“Republicans want to talk down the recovery because they voted against the legislation that made it happen,” Mr Biden said. “I refuse to let them stand in the way of this recovery.”

Republicans accuse Mr Biden of having tacked hard to the left since winning the White House on a largely centre-left message and of pushing spending initiatives and tax proposals that they say will hurt the economy and boost already-high inflation.



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