America’s changing global role and its impacts on transatlantic relations

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This project investigated the evolution of America’s global engagement. In particular, it examined both the longer-term trends and the more immediate dynamics that affect the global role of the United States.

The project’s final report Between change and continuity: Making Sense of America’s Evolving Global Engagement first considered domestic developments as well as strategic debates, to provide a context for understanding the potential changes and continuities in American foreign and security policy during and beyond the unfolding Trump era. The intention was to shed light on the evolution of US global engagement and national interests in terms of the future of international order, great-power relations and the strategic setting of Northern Europe. Within this global framework, the analysis also contributed to the understanding of Finland’s broad security environment.

In their first year, President Donald J. Trump and his administration have stressed competition between states, shifted US focus to hard power, emphasised the conditionality of alliance commitments, shown a preference for bilateral transactions, and paid less attention to America’s core liberal values. Nevertheless, in practice the US has been less disruptionist than initially feared. In particular, it remains committed to NATO, continues its engagement in the Asia-Pacific and Afghanistan, combats transnational terrorism and views China and Russia as strategic competitors.

Yet, the oscillation between change and continuity has alarmed America’s allies and partners. A transatlantic “waiting game” has emerged, defined by the need to pursue both strategic patience and selective sector-based proactivity.

The project was executed by a research group of the Finnish Institute of International Affairs and supervised by a steering group led by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland. Programme director of FIIA’s Global Security Research Program, Mika Aaltola led the project. The editors of this final report of the research project include Mika Aaltola, senior research fellows Charly Salonius-Pasternak and Juha Käpylä, and research fellow Ville Sinkkonen. In addition to the editors of the report, the research team included the following researchers: Center on US Politics and Power project director, senior research fellow Bart Gaens, Professor Johanna Jacobsson (IE University), Professor Mark N. Katz (George Mason University), Postdoctoral Researcher Anna Kronlund (University of Turku), senior visiting research fellows Leo Michel and senior research fellow Harri Mikkola. The project was coordinated by research assistants Anna Wikholm and Anu Ruokamo. The project was part of the implementation of the Government Plan for Analysis, Assessment and Research for 2017.

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