The Evolution of European anti-Americanism in the post-September Era

Document Type : Research Paper


Associate Professor, Faculty of Law and Political Science, Allame Tabataba’i University, Tehran, Iran


Typically, any reflection on transatlantic relations of the United States and European states provides clear indications of the "cooperation-competition" pattern. A very significant aspect of these ties can be characterized as ‘cooperation’, but the sole emphasis on this attribute may lead to an incomplete and one-sided analysis of the interstate relations on both side of the Atlantic Ocean. Consequently, it is necessary to look beyond the cooperative type of relations, and consider the factors which might have given rise to conflict and tension, particularly from the perspective of the European side. A major objective of this article is to delineate the evolution, definition and the measurement of the concept of anti-Americanism in Europe. Anti-Americanism has been defined as "operationalizing a set of negative attitudes toward the behavioral dimensions and identity, cultural, and value indicators of [a given] state and American society". It is seen as a psychological attitude which has been formed, and evolved in a historical process. In order to transform this abstract concept into more observable and measurable concepts, the researchers have introduced a  few variables and indicators of various dimensions of anti-Americanism.
      Europe has been at the center of ‘pro-U.S.’ or ‘anti-U.S.’ currents typically on matters related to its foreign policy, economic and military power in different political contexts. It is argued that the more powerful and less dependent European states (i.e., France,  Germany, and the United Kingdom) have been generally at the center of the opposition to the U.S., while the weaker states (e.g., Poland and Hungary)  have been among its newer European partners and stauncher supporters. The history of anti-Americanism dates back to the formation of the American Republic and has had its ups and downs in the context of transatlantic relations. The post-WWII European anti-Americanism, particularly after the Cold War has been influenced by various factors at tactical and strategic levels, which include the pattern of behavior and thought dominating the US foreign decision- at
making structure, international security environment, European identity demands, the pattern of power distribution in the international system, and the scope of the protectionist current of European integration process. Contrary to anti-American sentiment in European public opinion, the dominance of the ideological consideration of the East-West divide in the Cold War period had caused the official anti-Americanism to be mainly  based on the U.S. foreign policy, and revolve around soft criticism and opposition or politically-based resistance to Washington’s foreign policy behavior, influence and role in Europe and elsewhere. The situation underwent a profound transformation in the post-Cold War era which provided a new opportunity for the European Union to revive its identity demands in order to play an influential and independent role in the international system. This in turn became the most important basis for fostering stronger sentiments of anti-Americanism, particularly as it had been linked to challenging the non-European (American) identity and culture.
The author is trying to answer the  primary research question, which asks: How and to what extent did European anti-Americanism changed during the time period starting in the aftermath of the events of  11 September 2001 to the end of the presidency of Donald Trump? In the hypothesis, it is asserted that “European anti-Americanism has a long history dating back to the formation of the Republic of America, and has been influenced by a score of factors over the years including the nature of international security environment, the dominant orientation in the U.S. foreign policy decision-making, European international identity, and European protectionism in the post-September 11 period.”  It is argued that  European anti-Americanism influenced by the European protectionist current has been subjected to four notable changes: Liberal European anti-Americanism (anti-Unilateralism), Modified European anti-Americanism (as influenced by Multilateralism in Transatlantic Relations), anti-Americanism resulting from European skepticism, and European anti-Trumpism.
The main finding of the present study is that European anti-Americanism in the post-September era, particularly during the Trump administration, was accompanied by a new challenge called the "geopolitical necessity of rebuilding European emotions." In this regard,  the United States should accept the fact that rebuilding transatlantic relations requires more than just the existence of a "shared understanding" between the two sides of the Atlantic. It needs to concentrate on the efforts to design and implement more effective confidence-building measures to deal with European assertiveness.


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Volume 51, Issue 2
September 2021
Pages 563-537
  • Receive Date: 23 June 2021
  • Revise Date: 16 July 2021
  • Accept Date: 12 September 2021
  • First Publish Date: 12 September 2021