Regardless of the results of the elections, I therefore expect a return to multilateralism. Yet this also means that both John McCain and Barack Obama will call on the Europeans to take on more responsibility. Or, to put it in more concrete terms: the next President will expect greater support from the Europeans in Iraq and in Afghanistan.
In return, however, Europe must insist on having a greater say in strategic decisions. Solidarity is very valuable, yet it is not a one-way street. The United States cannot and will not call on the Europeans to support American decisions unquestioningly. I believe that the fact that both Barack Obama and John McCain have made a strong commitment to strong transatlantic relations gives cause for optimism.
I also call on the Europeans not to wait until the new President's inauguration in January 2009 to see what requests or demands he presents at that point. Instead, for our part, we should have a comprehensive proposal for cooperation ready by then.
Alongside all the expectations already circulating, I would therefore like to express several hopes and wishes: like Frank-Walter Steinmeier, I would like to see a "new transatlantic agenda for the 21st century", with new impetus on the subjects of sustainability and resources, disarmament, arms control and global security, along with climate change and the future of the global order.
If the number of nuclear weapons is to be drastically reduced, the United States and Russia, which currently have more than ninety per cent of the existing systems, must set a positive example. It seems wholly possible that Russian President Medvedev and the new US President will reach an agreement on a ceiling of one thousand nuclear warheads for each of their countries – regardless of whether John McCain or Barack Obama becomes president. It is particularly important for tactical nuclear weapons to disappear from the arsenals of the nuclear powers as rapidly as possible. The 2010 NPT Review Conference will also provide an opportunity to enhance the effectiveness of the current instruments. It is vital in this context to prevent renewed failure at all costs, as this would lead to further erosion of the global non-proliferation regime. Consideration should also be given to a new treaty limiting missile defence systems (a new ABM Treaty). And, above all, we must salvage the Treaty on conventional armed forces in Europe. The disarmament architecture which exists today was built up over decades. We must not allow it to be destroyed.
With regard to the Iranian nuclear crisis, I hope that the incoming US administration will get even more involved in the negotiating process and provide new and important impetus for this process.
The EU and the US represent the most integrated and productive economic areas in the world. Although they make up only 10 per cent of the world's population, together they generate 60 per cent of global GDP. I hope that George Bush's successor will express a commitment to promoting free trade, preventing protectionism and fostering effective management of the international financial crisis. This includes involving those powers which will be relevant in the future (such as China, India, Brazil and Mexico) and expanding the G8, which, like the UN Security Council, no longer reflects the realities of today's world in terms of either economic weight or political power. The next US presidency must achieve one thing above all: it must not exclude anybody. We need a new partnership led by the US.
Though there are many uncertainties, the next president of the USA – whether it is Barack Obama or John McCain – may well be the first American president of a "post-American era".
Speech given before the Fabian Society (in cooperation with the FES), London, "America Votes, Europe responds", 08.11.2008