France’s President Emmanuel Macron contends that Europe should pursue its own strategic autonomy. In his telling, the result is a stronger Europe contributing to a stronger Western alliance of democracies.
Yet, President Macron’s recent comments on Taiwan and the transatlantic alliance weakened both. They created cracks, sending a message to the rest of the world about our disunity and ultimately emboldening autocrats.
Instead of transatlantic dissembling, now is the time for a renewal of our partnership. The basis of such a renewal should be technology cooperation.
Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine has been discussed as the “first networked war.” Technological capabilities, from cyber, to drones, and low-earth orbit telecommunications, are transforming warfighting. Private sector companies provide novel support, including network connectivity, cybersecurity, cataloging human rights abuses, protecting official data in the cloud, and providing continuous access to online education and government services.
Russia’s war in Ukraine has demonstrated what technology can do to support and defend a nation’s democracy and sovereignty. Yet it can be equally powerful in enabling autocrats. We cannot underestimate the danger of ceding technology leadership to autocracies.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has been explicit about his goals to make his country a global leader in AI and other critical technologies. China is organized, has the strategies in place, and is committing the resources to dominate these new commanding heights of the global economy.
Xi’s recent visit to Moscow and his “no limits partnership” with Putin should be an unmistakable signal.
While we should take heed of the unified transatlantic response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it has not yet manifested itself in other economic and political fields. While the Trade and Technology Council, an essential channel for cooperation, has revived important conversations across the Atlantic, it has yet to find its full capacity.
Both the United States and the European Union are moving on domestic technology policies. Progress on joint deliverables remains limited to small projects, and continuing tensions around trade and protectionism divert attention from deeper cooperation.
The United States and the EU should seize the window of opportunity that our unity in Ukraine has created to align a shared vision for a technology-enabled democratic future. This window is narrowing, and attention will diminish as we will soon bump up against political cycles in the United States, Europe, and elsewhere in 2024.
We can start with three key steps.
First, we should agree on a list of critical technologies in which we need democratic leadership. New energy storage and generation, next-generation networks, novel microelectronics and computing paradigms, smart manufacturing, biotechnology, and the next frontiers of AI all capture critical elements of power in national security, economic prosperity, and individual expression. The United States, the EU, and other allies and partners should focus, organize, and lead in these technologies.
Next, we need to align our resources and investments to build out the alliance infrastructure, institutions, and innovation ecosystems to support alliance cooperation in these technology sectors. This means investing in the industrial strength of our nations to restore the necessary means of production in these tech sectors; reskilling our people for the economy of the future; bolstering our people-to-people connections; and building new alliance institutions as needed to help us deepen our technology cooperation.
Lastly, we must deconflict our national approaches to regulation. We should start from the basis that we can trust each other to resolve practical regulatory differences rather than letting such differences stymie cooperation and innovation.
The values that unite us across the Atlantic should override short-term interests. We must capitalize on our current unity over Ukraine, look to the future, and cement a strategic alignment on the technologies that will shape the world of tomorrow. Instead of creating the “third pole” that President Macron argued, we must develop and advance the common democracy technology pole.
Eva Maydell is a member of the European Parliament and lead negotiator on the EU Chips Act and AI Act. Ylli Bajraktari is President and CEO of the Special Competitive Studies Project.
This article was originally published by EURACTIV. EURACTIV is an independent pan-European media network specializing in EU affairs including government, business, and civil society.
Bandwidth is CEPA’s online journal dedicated to advancing transatlantic cooperation on tech policy. All opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the position or views of the institutions they represent or the Center for European Policy Analysis.