After four years of Donald Trump, Europeans are increasingly wary of US power and view China as a growing international actor.
While many Europeans breathed a sigh of relief when Joe Biden clinched victory over Donald Trump, a majority of them neither see America’s political system working properly, nor expect the incoming president to stop the country's relative decline on the world stage.
The findings in a survey by the European Council of Foreign Relations (ECFR) reveal that Europeans are increasingly losing faith in America’s ability to defend the region.
The ECFR poll across eleven countries found that 53 percent thought Biden’s victory made a “positive difference to their countries” and 57 percent that it was “beneficial for the EU.”
Despite the positive tone that Biden’s victory has set in the EU, Europeans are distrustful of the American electorate and its inability to prevent a Trump-like character emerging again in four years' time.
Germany, Europe’s economic powerhouse and its most important country, had the sharpest opinion towards the US. When asked whether “Americans can be trusted” after voting for Trump, 53 percent of Germans believed that they could not.
In comparison, only 32 percent of all respondents in the other European countries said that Americans couldn’t be trusted, slightly ahead of 27 percent of people who disagreed with the statement.
The findings are a stark reminder of the impact Trump’s style of governance has had on Europe. While Trump has catalysed the process, European attitudes towards America have been slowly shifting at least since America’s controversial invasion of Iraq.
In a survey from 2001, a majority of Europeans disapproved of George W. Bush’s international relations policy.
Following the Iraq war in 2003, which was opposed by France and Germany in particular, relations between the US and the EU nosedived.
When Barack Obama won the 2008 presidential elections, he was greeted by a relieved EU and cheerful masses when he gave a speech in Berlin in front of thousands. The honeymoon, however, didn’t last long.
The Obama years brought their own tensions. The NSA wiretap scandal, which saw American intelligence agencies tapping Angela Merkel’s phone, as well as a growing distance between the two sides proved to be a low point.
Trump, far from causing a breakdown in relations between the two sides, has been an accelerant in a process that was well underway.
As a result of the Trump years, Europeans are also increasingly losing faith in America’s brand of democracy.
The ECFR poll found that more than 60 percent of respondents believed that America’s political system is broken.
The opposite was true only amongst two EU countries, Poland and Hungary, where a majority believed that it works well or somewhat well. Both countries have been mired in their own battles with the EU accusing Poland and Hungary of democratic backsliding.
While EU populations might question the American system and its effectiveness, majorities in France, Italy, Spain, Bulgaria and Greece are also dissatisfied with how democracy is working in their country.
More worryingly for the incoming Biden administration - Europeans are increasingly unwilling to help the US in a potential conflict with China, with a majority saying that in any conflict between the two, the EU should remain neutral.
The Biden administration was against a recent trade deal signed by the EU and China. His calls for a coordinated approach fell on deaf ears in Europe, a sign that while happy that Biden is coming to power, Europeans are no longer willing to appease the US.
European respondents also felt that China is a growing power: 79 percent of the public in Spain, and then 72 percent in Portugal and Italy believe that it will overtake the US.
Even EU states like Denmark and Hungary who are optimistic about the future of American power the poll found that 48 percent of respondents in the two nations believed that China would overtake the US in the next decade.
The geopolitical implications of “American weakness” has seen a rise in Europeans believing that the continent needs to increase its own defensive capabilities in the face of a growing China and an unreliable US.
More than 67 percent of respondents across all the surveyed countries “believe that they cannot always rely on the US to defend them and, therefore, need to invest in European defence” the report said.