Despite the rift between the United States and Europe, their united response to the spy poisoning row by expelling Russian diplomats reflects their anxiety amid a profoundly changing international landscape.` The collective response by the West came after Sergei Skripal, formerly a Russian intelligence officer convicted in Russia for spying for Britain, and his daughter Yulia were found unconscious in the southern English city of Salisbury on March 4.
Britain accused the Kremlin of masterminding the attempted murder by using Novichok, a Soviet-era, military-grade nerve agent.
On March 15, the United States, Britain, France and Germany issued a joint statement condemning Russia on the incident. Last week, the European Union (EU) said it was recalling its ambassador to Russia.
At least 24 nations, including the United States and 17 EU members, have said they would expel Russian diplomats.
The show of unity comes despite there being different voices within Europe. Greece, Hungary, Austria and some others are opposing worsening the confrontation with Russia and advocating resolving differences through dialogue and diplomatic solutions.
Feng Zhongping, vice president of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said Britain has played an important role in creating a united Western front against Russia.
Britain is a special partner of the United States. It also holds a similar position vis-a-vis the rest of Europe and can exert influence over other European countries, Feng said.
Though the United States and Europe disagree on many issues, such as climate change, European defense, free trade and the Iran nuclear accord, there are advocates of transatlantic ties on both sides.
Feng said European countries have realized the importance of maintaining the alliance with Washington despite the differences.
The pro-European force in the United States also advocates paying attention to its European allies. The U.S. National Security Strategy released in December, which reiterates the importance of maintaining the U.S.-European alliance and lists cooperative goals in politics, economy and military security, is an example.
Moreover, the United States and Europe are concerned at the changing international situation and the decrease of Western power in general. They have recognized the need to enhance comprehensive cooperation and coordination to jointly safeguard the international order and West-backed rules.
However, the Russian perspective on the united front is that it has been triggered by the recent presidential election in Russia, which President Vladimir Putin won by a landslide.
Alexei Chepa, deputy head of the Russian parliament's foreign affairs committee, said since the Western countries did not see the polls dividing Russian society as they had expected, they decided to tarnish Russia's image by accusing it of the poisoning, an accusation that Moscow denies.
Also, Washington's echoing the European move to expel Russian diplomats is partly due to the Trump administration being under pressure at home. The mid-term elections are a pressure to be tough with Moscow.
So the united front against Russia, perceived as the common "rival" or "enemy", doesn't necessarily mean the honeymoon will continue or extend to other areas.
The changing international configuration will mean some differences will continue. With emerging markets and developing countries playing a bigger role in the global arena, the era of Western countries jointly playing the leading role has ended. With the evolving of multilateralism, the development of U.S.-Europe ties will face uncertainties.