Exclusive interview of the Valery Kavaleuski, Senior analyst of Belarusian Institute of America ( USA)
How can Brexit affect US relations with the EU?
The UK has been America’s eyes, ears, and voice in the European Union, which allowed the US to influence EU policies, bringing mutual positions closer not only on trade issues but on foreign affairs, too. Once Brexit eliminates this vital connection, the US will have to find a similar ally within the EU, but given the weight of the UK, it would be a challenge to find a replacement.
The Non-EU United Kingdom can potentially reestablish itself as a center of force in international affairs and trade but finding its place in the international concert and developing a new foreign policy will require time and effort. Prolonged uncertainty and even awkwardness will define this period for the UK.
The US relations with the EU, remaining very close on the core values, without the UK in the European Union might diverge more frequently on the interests. EU foreign policy evolves more steadily, while the United States is increasingly prone to more reactive, unilateral, assertive steps to advance its interests. The crisis in the US foreign policy has not started with the presidency of Donald Trump and is unlikely to end with his departure. Some key questions are what defines US foreign policy, values or national interests, or the strategy of military engagements of the United States that seems to have less understanding of the objectives leading to the lack of strategy.
Still, US – EU relations have roots strong enough to withstand the departure of the UK or tactical differences in views on foreign policy matters.
How big today is the interest of Washington in the region of Central Asia?
US’s perspective on Central Asia is defined by energy interests and by region’s proximity to the strategically important Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, and India. In addition, Russia and China as global players pay active attention to Central Asia. These factors in combination elevate US interests in the region. However, American policies and practical steps have not yet met the expectations.
In 2015, the US launched C5+1 initiative that includes five Central Asian countries and the United States. Through this initiative, the United States supports projects on business and competitiveness, environment, energy, and transport. Trump’s administration has not shown much interest in developing this initiative further, however, the C5+1 work continues at the level of working groups and project related expert meetings.
The US decision to drastically reduce its forces in Afghanistan has further increased the role, which Central Asian countries can potentially play in providing stability of the entire region. In addition, the recent opening of Uzbekistan to the world and ongoing broad reforms contribute to the cause of regional stability and create
new conditions for cooperation among Central Asian countries in various spheres. A February visit of the principal deputy assistant secretary of state Alice Wells to Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan can serve as an indicator of growing interest and willingness of the United States to do more in the region.
How do You see the future of NATO?
In its respectable 8th decade of existence, NATO is living through stress and uncertainty. The vocal criticism and vague threats from American president Trump regarding national defense budgets and prospects of standing up for smaller members of the alliance challenge its cohesion, forces to question intentions thus sowing doubts. At the same time, the factor of America’s nationalism plays a positive role too by catalyzing inner workings to overcome known deficiencies. The very material and grave Russian threat to the alliance’s interests helps members to appreciate NATO more than ever and to strengthen their ranks.
Still, the relevance of NATO and its appeal as an effective defense mechanism are reflected in its obvious popularity among newly democratic states. The sheer number of NATO members now approaching 30 adds to the steadiness of the alliance. Nations seek membership in NATO not only to share and uphold common values but to pool resources to hedge against the threats to their national and pan-European interests. Looking forward, it is possible to anticipate that NATO will gradually increase its level of cooperation with Ukraine and Georgia to finally admit them as full-fledged members.