The public image of the United States has suffered considerable setbacks throughout the world.[1] While this reputation loss compounds the challenge faced by the new administration, it also opens up space for President Biden to define the United States on the international scene afresh. Just as President Obama’s “Yes we can” moment in 2008 sparked a wave of hope across the democratic world, so too can Biden’s “America is back.”[2]

Against this backdrop, our new paper turns its focus to the approach the US should now pursue towards the Central and Eastern Europe and Western Balkan regions. Based on opinion polls conducted in October 2020 – at the tail end of the Trump presidency – it provides an overview of societal perceptions towards the US in the two regions and suggests a path forward.

While each country in the region is distinct and their attitudes towards the US motivated by different factors, respondents in all countries surveyed supportive of the US generally tend to be:

  • supportive of NATO
  • pro-democratic
  • more sceptical of conspiracy theories
  • less pro-Russian
  • more educated.

The recommendations put forward in the report are thus rather generalised and based solely on the survey findings. Based on the attitudes of the societies in CEE & Western Balkans, the US should:

  • Invest in communication towards the region and individual countries through partners and trusted voices.
  • Use NATO, within which the US is respected as a partner, as a multilateral cooperation platform.
  • Invest more in relationship-building and broaden cooperation to additional areas beyond security.
  • Revive close cooperation with the EU.
  • Make use of the positive appeal of the new administration.

More information can be found in the report below.

[1] https://www.pewresearch.org/global/2020/09/15/us-image-plummets-internationally-as-most-say-country-has-handled-coronavirus-badly/

[2] https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2021/02/04/remarks-by-president-biden-on-americas-place-in-the-world/