The year 2009 started on an optimistic note. The election of President
Obama and a more receptive Europe revived hopes that the transatlantic relationship
could re-flourish and regain its former status. In this spirit,
atlantic-community.org published the poll "Which Topics Should be Prioritized
on the 2009 Transatlantic Agenda?" The results of the poll reveal a change
(small but still present) in traditional patterns of thinking about
While Russia and NATO are still prioritized, the results reveal a shift from an exclusive focus on security issues -only 27.6% of the people participating in the poll thought that "burden-sharing" in Iraq and Afghanistan should be made a priority- towards the importance of the international trade order and the environment. In the same way, the voting pattern-emphasizing Russia over Iran and the reform of the international order over non-proliferation attempts- reveals that participants voted for the choices which are likely to impact them more directly. The commentary section revealed that while the voting limited priorities to three, the rest of the options are not "remote." Rather Atlantic Community members think that in the current globalized and interdependent world, the rest of the issues remain equally important and demand international cooperation.
The poll registered 304 voters and received 17 comments. According to your vote, the suggested priorities, which Europe and North America should prioritize are:
1. Define NATO's security role for the 21st century (43.8%).
1. Turn Russia into a strategic partner (43.8%).
3. Modernize the international trade order (43.1%).
4. Reduce carbon-emissions (36.5%).
5. Integrate China into the international trade order (30.3%).
6. Improve "burden sharing" in Iraq and Afghanistan (27.6%).
7. Strengthen counter-proliferation efforts (25.3%).
8. End Iran's nuclear program (18.8%).
43.8% of the people who participated in the vote thought that defining NATO's security role for the 21st century and turning Russia into a strategic partner should be jointly prioritized. 43.1% and 36.5% of the people who participated in the vote thought that modernizing the international trade order and reducing carbon-emissions should be the second and third priorities respectively.
A lot of emphasis was placed on the need to define NATO's security role for the 21st century. The preferences of our members reveal that while NATO is still considered to be relevant in European security, its exact meaning as a security alliance is blurred. Whether NATO should focus more on civilian projects -post war reconstruction or the provision of humanitarian aid- or become more militarily active is undecided. Further, comments from our members reveal a preference for higher cooperation between the EU and NATO. Russia emerged as an equally important issue area. Motives behind this preference might vary. For European readers, it may be due to geographical proximity. For instance, the latest energy crisis was directly felt in Europe in terms of gas dependency on Russia. For American readers it could be that Cold War memories encouraged voters to choose a policy of engagement with Russia. Indeed, it is surprising to see that the Russia option is prioritized over the Iranian option. Only 18.8% of the people who participated in the poll think that ending Iran's nuclear program should be a priority. The reason for this difference might not necessarily lie with the gravity of the threat but rather with the economic benefits involved, historical ties and memories.
Modernizing the international trade order emerged as the second issue to be prioritized. The commentary on the potential for reform was rather pessimistic, arguing that while the idea of reform has been around for some time in the GATT rounds and the WTO, the lack of trust among states serves to make most attempts redundant. At the same time, an awareness of, and anxiety towards the possibility of protectionism was expressed. In this respect, while an analysis of the voting revealed that 30.3% of the people who participated in the vote thought that the integration of China in the international order should be prioritized, the commentary section revealed that this preference was linked to the current crisis and interpreted as necessary for keeping markets open and exports flowing.
The tie between the Russia and NATO options led to the environment option emerging as the third topic that Europe and the US should prioritize in their cooperation. The commentary section revealed that our readers link the modernizing of the international financial system to the environment option (reduce carbon-emissions), to support the wider held belief that the success and sustainability of the global economy will depend on the incorporation of a green growth plan.
The results of the poll demonstrate that Atlantic-Community is on the right path in terms of its focus and debate. Your choices confirm that the transatlantic agenda is currently made up of global issues, which neither the US nor Europe can tackle alone. We would like to encourage you to provide us with more of your comments and help us continue the dialogue you started. In the face of global challenges, the demand for transatlantic cooperation becomes even greater.
To view the original article and poll, please click here.
Photo © European Communities, 1995-2009
Written by Christia Flourentzou