While the Republican landslide victory in the recent midterm elections was a clear defeat for President Obama, it will also serve to benefit Obama's foreign policy agenda. This is especially the case in Europe, an area where more U.S. leadership is called for after Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinClyburn: Trump doesn't plan to leave the White House Russia planning mass COVID-19 vaccination campaign for October CNN chyron says 'nah' to Trump claim about Russia MORE's aggressions on Ukraine. Three areas with relevance for Europe should be prioritized by Washington going forward.


First, the completion of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). If the EU and U.S. agree to sign this historical deal, it would not only have far-reaching economic benefits on both sides of the Atlantic. It would also strengthen both Europe and America's global roles and the international economic system as such. But for this to happen, Obama must be willing to devote more political energy into advancing TTIP than he has been willing to do thus far. Fortunately, here he can expect help from the new Republican Senate which, unlike current Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), are expected to grant the White House so-called Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) to negotiate the agreement.

Second, the export of American energy to Europe. The crisis in Ukraine has served as a stark reminder that Europe's heavy dependence on Russian oil and gas is unsustainable. Increasing the export of American liquefied natural ga would be a natural way to contribute to shrinking Europe's reliance on Russia. Obama must be willing to work together with Republicans in the Senate to promote energy exports across the Atlantic. This includes removing current legislative barriers to such exports as well as moving forward on approving the Keystone XL pipeline once and for all. While the Republicans are expected to support this measure, it also requires an Obama willing to take the fight to the environmental lobby within his own party.

Finally, the U.S. troop presence in Eastern Europe. Although there are still more than 60,000 American soldiers in Europe and the U.S. accounts for more than 75 percent of NATO's total defense budget, more must be done. Russia's recent aggressive behavior in Europe shows the need to shore up allies in the Baltic states and Poland. Here, Obama must be willing to work together with Republicans in Congress to increase the U.S. military presence in Europe and reduce cuts in the U.S. defense budget. In addition to this, the White House must begin to pay attention to the bipartisan Corker-Menendez bill to promote U.S. military assistance to the Ukrainian army.

Even if Washington's dysfunctional political climate will not be significantly affected by the election results — if anything, partisan gridlock could get even nastier in the next two years — it is still possible to see a more active and ambitious U.S. foreign policy in the coming two years. If so, this would be extremely welcome, especially when stronger U.S. political, economic and military leadership around the world, including in Europe, is needed more than ever.

Brattberg is a resident fellow at the Brent Scowcroft Center for International Security at the Atlantic Council.