What America’s Election Means for Europe

Jackson Janes

President Emeritus of AGI

Jackson Janes is the President Emeritus of the American-German Institute at the Johns Hopkins University in Washington, DC, where he has been affiliated since 1989.

Dr. Janes has been engaged in German-American affairs in numerous capacities over many years. He has studied and taught in German universities in Freiburg, Giessen and Tübingen. He was the Director of the German-American Institute in Tübingen (1977-1980) and then directed the European office of The German Marshall Fund of the United States in Bonn (1980-1985). Before joining AICGS, he served as Director of Program Development at the University Center for International Studies at the University of Pittsburgh (1986-1988). He was also Chair of the German Speaking Areas in Europe Program at the Foreign Service Institute in Washington, DC, from 1999-2000 and is Honorary President of the International Association for the Study of German Politics .

Dr. Janes is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the International Institute for Strategic Studies, the Atlantic Council of the United States, and American Purpose. He serves on the advisory boards of the Berlin office of the American Jewish Committee, and the Beirat der Zeitschrift für Außen- und Sicherheitspolitik (ZfAS). He serves on the Selection Committee for the Bundeskanzler Fellowships for the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.

Dr. Janes has lectured throughout Europe and the United States and has published extensively on issues dealing with Germany, German-American relations, and transatlantic affairs. In addition to regular commentary given to European and American news radio, he has appeared on CBS, CNN, C-SPAN, PBS, CBC, and is a frequent commentator on German television. Dr. Janes is listed in Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in Education.

In 2005, Dr. Janes was awarded the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, Germany’s highest civilian award.

Ph.D., International Relations, Claremont Graduate School, Claremont, California
M.A., Divinity School, University of Chicago
B.A., Sociology, Colgate University

Transatlantic relations, German-American relations, domestic German politics, German-EU relations, transatlantic affairs.



This text by AGI President Jack Janes originally appeared as part of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s ongoing series entitled “Strategic Europe.” 

The elections on November 6 will not fundamentally change the parameters of the dialogue between Europe and Washington. A second term for President Obama will continue to be shaped primarily by American interests, no less than under a President Romney. How those interests will overlap, or possibly conflict with those of European partners, will depend on how both sides conduct a dialogue which is candid, transparent, and aware of the environment in which both sides shape their policies.

There will be several continuities regardless of who is President. There will be a continuing concern about the ongoing efforts in Europe to stabilize both the Euro and the European economic markets. The United States has an enormous stake in the future of the world’s largest single market and it is clear in Washington that Germany remains the leader of that future. In addition, the ability of Europe to continue its path toward a larger and more integrated entity can be seen as an increasingly capable partner in dealing with challenges beyond the transatlantic community.

Whether that includes the future course of Russia, China, India or Iran, or indeed the entire arc of the Arab world, and implications for Israel or Turkey, the ability of Europe to forge a common course with the United States will be a focus of attention in the White House whoever occupies it. The specific case of the future of Afghanistan will continue to preoccupy both Washington and Europe in light of the ten year investment made in that war-torn country. A similar focus on Egypt’s future in the larger arc of Arab states will require the attention of both sides of the Atlantic.

How a second Obama administration might differ from Romney in approaching these challenges remains difficult to predict.

That is in part due to the fact that Europe in general has not played a leading role in the Obama campaign and, to the degree it has emerged in the Romney campaign, it has appeared in a negative light in terms of being a warning for the U.S. on sovereign debt threats and government regulatory policies.

Given his background, Romney might pursue a greater focus on free trade initiatives, including with the EU. However he might also take a more aggressive stance on Iran’s nuclear ambitions and support more threats of military responses. Indirectly, his criticism of Obama’s emphasis on negotiations with Russia, among other countries, might appear as an indirect critique of European, particularly German, approaches to dealing with challenges.

While the majority of Europeans in a popular vote may prefer an Obama reelection, a Romney presidency should not be equated with a reincarnation of George W. Bush. The rhetoric of campaigns does not transform seamlessly into policy. And it is not lost among Americans that there is not a clear consensus among the European elite on President Obama. Romney’s visit to Poland last summer was one illustration of such, despite the embarrassing moments in London.

One aspect of presidential policies always can shape perceptions abroad: the selection of the faces of American foreign policy. With the expected departure of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, a second Obama term would bring a new team on the stage and they would signal the priorities of the next Presidency. The same would be true of a Romney team, which would need to establish their own profile in light of the lack of one for Romney.

In any case, whatever happens after November 6, one other factor is crucial for Europeans to understand, the composition of the Congress will determine certain constraints on the President in terms of money, his cabinet, and other administration members who need Congressional approval, and finally on treaties. If the Congress remains divided as it is now, neither Romney nor Obama will find an easy path ahead.

The views expressed are those of the author(s) alone. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the American-German Institute.