In his State of the Union address this year, U.S. President Barack Obama announced a bold initiative to pursue a free trade agreement between the U.S. and the EU. During his first overseas trip as secretary of state, John Kerry stopped in four different EU countries, the UK, Germany, France, and Italy. Understandably, there is now chatter in Washington that the US appears to be pivoting to Europe.
The attention that the Obama administration is showering on Europe is not, however, new. Obama's discovery of the merits of Atlanticism took place several years ago, in the middle of his first term.
In his second term, Obama promises to advance the pivot to Asia, even while continuing to invest in the US' economic and strategic partnership with Europe, a coupling that has proved remarkably resilient long after the Cold War's end.
To be sure, Obama's initial arrival in the Oval Office did prompt speculation that he would be a "post-Atlanticist" president. His multicultural background and his readiness to seek new partners beyond the US' traditional allies suggested that a more diversified US diplomacy was in the offing.
Moreover, Obama was frustrated by Europe's unwillingness to do more in Afghanistan, its embrace of economic austerity when Washington was calling for more fiscal stimulus, and an EU that seemed to be spending more time sorting out quarrels among its members than addressing global challenges.