EU diplomats told EurActiv that the recent presidential elections in Ukraine had provided a "great opportunity" to test the European Union's "soft power" in pushing neighbouring countries to reform, taking Brussels as a model.
While few see any evidence of an actual rivalry between the two sides, it's possible that the combined damage to the relationship caused by the 2003 Iraq War and then the global financial crisis in 2008 has altered the way the major players view each other.
If our big bet in Europe is that speaking with one voice will make our norms-based, soft power approach work, what lessons should we draw when Mr Obama's outstretched hand of friendship is smacked away?
I recently returned from the Middle East where I was part of a three week Arab & American Business Fellowship.
Much that is written about public diplomacy focuses on Europe and the Muslim world. National news media in the US, headquartered in New York and Washington, equates foreign opinion with approving editorials in The Guardian and large crowds in Berlin. By those criteria, President-elect Barack Obama is wildly popular. Just elect Obama, the thinking goes, and America's public diplomacy problems are solved.
Not quite: The data indicate Obama was never as popular in Asia as in Europe. And it turns out President Bush was never as unpopular in Asia as he was in Europe.