the transatlantic impact of the war


When Barack Obama was elected in 2008 in the midst of the financial crisis, two major axes were immediately defined upon his entry into the White House. US military disengagement from Iraq and Afghanistan, to end US military over-deployment in unwinnable wars. And a colossal reinvestment plan of more than 750 billion dollars, including an energy component that was underestimated at the time. Aiming for autonomy.

Because by investing in shale gas as a tool for an energy transition aimed at defending the national interest, the United States would become the world’s leading oil producer in a few years. After decades of dependence in the Middle East. And thus giving oneself a free hand to steer from behind ​(leading from behind), according to the formula used in 2011 by Obama at the time of the war in Libya.

The formula, more than ever, is topical. The America that Emmanuel Macron is visiting today had a major role in the preparation of the Ukrainian army, but is not at the front. It suffers little from the economic sanctions against Russia, due to weak trade between the two countries. It has liquid gas to spare, and the Europeans really need it. It sees NATO resurrected, and the Europeans’ dependence on American arms supplies is hampering European empowerment efforts in this area.

At the same time, to better counter China on the technological level and maintain its energy independence, Washington decided last summer to support, heavily, the reindustrialization of the country. With the famous Inflation Reduction Act ​(IRA), which provides massive investments for the energy transition – accompanied by generous subsidies for electric vehicles, batteries and renewable energies produced in the United States.

Nuclear

Europeans, already affected by the cost of energy in other sectors such as agriculture, are also in danger of waking up a bit late. Do like us​, they say behind the scenes in Washington to Emmanuel Macron’s advisers. Not that easy. To counter the pull that can bring American investors (first investors in France) back to the United States, harmonization with Germany would be needed, which is difficult at the moment. The visit to Berlin yesterday by European Commissioner Thierry Breton worked in this direction. He defends the creation of a European sovereign fund to balance American aid.

In his one-on-one with Joe Biden, Emmanuel Macron will also have many other topics of discussion. Ukraine (with strong convergences), China (with a desire not to align itself with the American position), the climate, the nuclear industry. A major issue on which Russia still plays a leading role, even if it is rarely mentioned, and on which the French and Americans are in direct competition​, they say at the Élysée. A new approach to the nuclear sector, more cooperative with the Americans, could emerge from this visit.

Because the war in Ukraine changes the game in a spectacular way. The pandemic had already challenged the supply chains of globalized trade. The energy transition carries, in itself, an unavoidable geopolitical dimension, made very conflictual by Russian aggression. In this context, the Atlantic axis is more vital than ever, for both parties. And if the protocol makes sense, France clearly plays a role of choice as a mediator of European reasons.

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