President Barack Obama's recent -- and most probably the last -- visit to Europe was a failure. It could have turned the tide of declining relationship but ended up as a lackluster goodbye toast. Multiple acts of terrorism in France and Belgium -- and their intrinsic connection with the Syrian inferno -- have threatened the very existence of the European Union. Obama's effort to stall the disintegration and urging the Brits to stay within the Union may not work. His new-found love for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and wooing of the German chancellor Angela Merkel may also fall flat in the long run. Obama played a key role in fomenting the European crisis by jettisoning the time-tested strategic partnership at a time of great need.
Fissures appeared between the US and the EU during the Crimean crisis. Insurgency in eastern Ukraine dealt another blow. Still, there was at least a semblance of uniformity of opinion. The refugee crisis triggered by the Syrian civil war emerged as the ultimate test for the relationship. Obama made his intentions clear by accepting only 2,500 of the millions of refugees who were pouring into Europe. His largely indifferent stance to the atrocities committed by Assad and his allies was another bone of contention. Rise of the Islamic State and its direct fallout on European security decimated whatever was left of the goodwill between the two power blocs.
Obama has "lost Europe" by adopting a hazy policy towards its old friends, if one is to believe the analysis of Simon Tisdall. Many were offended by his direct plea to the Brits to stay in the EU. Some even called him arrogant. Obama landed in Germany amid massive protests against the signing of the TTIP deal. Opponents failed to deter Merkel from stamping the agreement but the ruckus reflected an unusual resentment towards an old friend.
There is a growing concern among some Europeans about the rekindling of the Cold War era hostilities. Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev also echoed the concerns earlier this year, albeit from a position of authority as compared to Europe's vulnerability. Russia is trying to undermine European solidarity to advance its expansionist agenda. US intelligence agencies are also said to be looking into the alleged funding of centrifugal forces in Europe by Moscow. Still, the US has not taken any concrete steps to allay the fears of its European allies. Leaving them at their own devices seems to be the mantra.
It doesn't appear that Obama was passionate enough about enhancing the trans-Atlantic ties in the first place. His relatively isolationist policies irked the Europeans who thrive on integration and linkages. It remains to be seen whether Brits heed his advice when going to the referendum. The future of US-Europe relations hangs in balance. Rising security challenges for Europe might force it to adopt a more independent foreign policy. Conversely, it could become a lame duck for the Russians. A weak EU will not augur well for the US. Russia will be all too happy to grab the opportunity and impose its agenda. It has already made enough inroads.