The Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) with China and the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline with Russia are damaging for Europe and for transatlantic ties, the United States has indicated. “The pipeline divides Europe, it exposes Ukraine and central Europe to Russian manipulation and coercion,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during his visit to NATO Headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday (24 March). Still, the US top diplomat was eagerly awaited in the ‚Capital of Europe‘ with allies hoping to rebuild transatlantic ties. And, in fact, apart from some remaining frictions that date back to the Donald Trump‘s presidency, Blinken rode high in rebuilding US relations with the European Union on his first visit to Brussels
The meetings in Brussels, including a meeting of NATO foreign ministers, are meant to “underscore the Biden administration’s determination to strengthen the transatlantic alliance and reinvigorate our ties with allies through NATO,” the State Department said. Blinken’s trip to Belgium was also aimed at partnering on issues such as NATO reform, climate change, Russia and China as well as regional hotbeds of tension. High on the agenda for NATO is the future of the alliance’s 9,600-strong mission in Afghanistan, after Trump struck a deal with the Taliban to withdraw troops by 1 May. Blinken’s itinerary in Brussels also included a meeting with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and EU’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell ahead of a summit later on Thursday (25 March), where EU leaders are set to discuss the EU’s Russia strategy and the bloc’s complicated relations Turkey.
In speech, Blinken also told his European counterparts that Washington „won’t force allies into an ‚us-or-them choice’ on China,“ even as the Joe Biden administration continues to portray Beijing’s military and economic assertiveness as a major threat to global stability. China is a threat to the West as a whole but that the US will not force anyone to choose sides between Washington and Beijing, he said. Echoing the administration’s own approach to China, the US top diplomat expressed a hope that “countries can work with China where possible” on issues such as climate change. “[The Chinese] are actively working to undercut the rules of the international system and the values we and our allies share,” Blinken added. The visit comes as some European allies, notably Germany and France, are looking for a strategic balance in relations with Washington and Beijing that ensures the EU is not so closely allied with one of the world’s two big powers that it alienates the other.