Transatlantic Forum with Tara Varma
On Wednesday, May 3, 2023, Transatlantic Forum members gathered for a friendly dinner and discussion at the French wine bar LENA in the West Village. The main topic of discussion was the current state of French-American relations and international reactions to the landmark submarine deal between the U.S., Australia and the UK. The conversation was led by distinguished speaker Tara Varma, visiting fellow in the Center of the United States and Europe at Brookings Institution and former senior policy fellow and the head of the Paris office of the European Council on Foreign Relations. The conversation was moderated by Alexandre Chenesseau, Managing Director at Evercore and founding Transatlantic Forum member.
The discussion focused on the EU’s Indo-Pacific strategy, perspectives on China on both sides of the Atlantic, as well as the war in Ukraine and Chinese-Taiwan relations. Tara shed light on what AUKUS – the Trilateral Security Partnership between Australia, the U.K. and the U.S. – entails and what led to the cancellation of the Australian submarine deal with France. Australia’s decision resulted in a major rift in French-American, French-Australian and U.S.- EU relations. The US made efforts to engage in conversation with France, but Tara shared that ultimately, the emerging war in Ukraine in early 2022 played a major role in de-escalating and reviving the strong Transatlantic ties between the two allies.
The discussion expanded to the different perspectives on China in Europe and in the US. Tara and Alexandre discussed the role of Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, as an intermediary navigating EU defense strategy.
We would like to thank our speaker Tara Varma for sharing her vast expertise in the field and answering the forum’s many questions about current issues in foreign affairs. We are also grateful to our moderator, Alexandre Chenesseau, for guiding the conversation. We hope to see many of our Transatlantic Forum members again at our next dinner. Invitations with more details will be shared soon.
About Tara Varma
Tara Varma is a visiting fellow in the Center of the United States and Europe at Brookings. She previously served as a senior policy fellow and the head of the Paris office of the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), where she followed French foreign policy and European and Asian security developments. She previously worked and lived in Shanghai, Delhi, and Paris. She graduated from Sciences Po Lille and SOAS in London in international relations, with a focus on Asian politics and Indian and Chinese foreign policies.
Tara Varma looks particularly at current French defense and security proposals in the European framework, as well as ongoing efforts to materialize European sovereignty in health, economics, climate, energy, and more traditional security fields. She is also interested in pan-European national debates and especially how domestic politics in the European Union increasingly affect them. As an observer of Europe attempting to become a power, she is also interested in Asian security, and the role Europeans could play in it, notably in the Indo-Pacific region.
In 2012, she was part of the working group on the French European Council presidency, set up by the French Foreign Ministry, which led to the publication of a report entitled “A Europe for Today and Tomorrow: Sovereignty, Solidarity, Shared Identity.” The report included a number of recommendations on how to strengthen Europe’s strategic autonomy and how to bridge the gap between France’s ambitions for Europe and a form of “soft Euroscepticism” borne by a growing part of the French population.
About the Transatlantic Forum
The Transatlantic Forum is an invitation-only membership group comprised of a network of professionals of all backgrounds and serves to advance crucial dialogue and collaboration between France and the US. It assembles professionals of all backgrounds on a monthly basis to advance thought-provoking and insightful dialogue between France and the United States. The Forum meets every four to six weeks (from September through July) at a seated dinner or cocktail event (locations will vary), with a guest speaker presentation followed by a Q&A session.