In 2003, the EU’s European Security Strategy called for the development of “strategic partnerships” with established and emerging powers to support and reinforce the advancement of European goals and values globally. The extent to which relations with the identified partners are genuinely strategic has been widely debated in both the policy and academic communities. This paper assesses how the EU’s strategic partnership with the USA has been impacted by the Presidency of Donald Trump as a significant aberration from the “normal” condition of the transatlantic relationship. Even in the domain of trade politics—arguably where the EU enjoys the greatest scope to act strategically—the status quo ante has been disrupted. Drawing on Michael Smith’s frameworks for assessing different elements of strategic partnerships, I argue that during 2017–2021 the EU faced a stern test but also showed signs of strategic adaptation. Yet it fell short of an “ideal” strategic approach to relations with the USA, evincing tendencies towards concentrating on managing the relationship at a technical level and/or reacting to Trump’s behaviour.
- European Union
- Strategic partner