The Obama administration’s new National Security Strategy, released last week, has global consequence, reflecting the responsibility of the United States to provide leadership to the free world. It reflects a shift in the mindset of America’s thinking about the world and itself.

The document takes proper note of the changing nature of this role, addressing strategic issues as well as global and regional crises and challenges, including the global economic crisis, energy, the environment, the shift in strategic balance, the changes in the relationship between strategic and asymmetric threats, the emergence of new global players, and the impact of new technologies.

In pursuance of its interests, it must however not lose sight of its role and responsibility as the leader of the free world. America has to lead, and lead by the virtue of its values as well as its huge but not endless economic, military, scientific force. It must have the ambition to maintain its leadership for the 21st Century, but retool to reflect the new strategic, economic and technological realities of the world.

The document will be a surprise, if not a disappointment to most Europeans. The European Union as an entity does not emerge from the document as the strongest, most important partner to the US. Perhaps with some creative thinking it can be said that it is first among equals as partners. The worries that the US is turning away from the transatlantic relationship seem confirmed.

However, one should not jump to conclusions prematurely. Whatever the doomsayers are suggesting, the transatlantic relationship is still the most important relationship in a global context. This is the single most important strategic relationship because of our common values and interests, which have an economic, military, and no doubt a very strong cultural element. It is also the only relationship which is able to wield a formidable hard and soft power component simultaneously.

While the European Union is facing the most dramatic economic challenges of its history, it is still the biggest single economic space in the world. This present crisis won’t kill Europe and it could make it stronger.  The EU has a substantial military force, depending on the political will of its leaders, which is deployable to crises zones, military or civilian. It is still the only political and economic space fully compatible with the United States. Therefore, the Obama National Security Strategy calls for action on behalf of those who believe in the resilience and the responsibility of this community.

Rather than being disappointed, the task for us Europeans is to be proactive in reinventing the relationship, speed up the process of establishing the right tools for a common foreign policy, and take the initiative to revitalize the transatlantic community.

It is a challenge, but the US must be led to understand that it is in its own best interest to see a stronger Euro-Atlantic community.

The reference to NATO, too, is surprisingly scarce. NATO is hardly just a regional organization: it is an alliance with members from Europe and America, with global implications.

It is true that NATO is in the process of sorting out its role for the future. Still, we must not let the challenge of Afghanistan cause us to lose sight of NATO’s role as the preeminent institution for Euro-Atlantic community and stability. Not only has the Alliance served us well during the Cold War and in the turbulent recent transition of Central and Eastern Europe, it is also the only  institution with a strong military-political component.

It is therefore very much in the United States’ own interest to provide the leadership to revitalize NATO. A weakening NATO will support those who suggest that Europeans should look for an alliance with others “in order to keep up with the US,” thus simplifying the relationship to a matter of competition and rivalry between Europe and America.

I would draw attention to one additional element. This author is a great believer in the force which is commonly alluded to as “soft power.” It might have a soft appearance but it is hard on impact.  Therefore no country can afford not to use its soft power capability to the maximum. US soft power has served it well throughout the last century, especially during the Cold War, much more than it gets credit for. Today hard and soft power are the yin and yang of power; they are interdependent.

There was a clear expectation for a stronger, more conscious reference to the instruments of soft power in pursuance of US interests, values and goals. This is important in dispelling a misconception: the distribution of labor between the US and Europe cannot be along the lines of hard and soft power: Both must be wielded by both.

H.E. András Simonyi served as the Ambassador of Hungary to the United States from 2002-2007. This article is part of the NSS Review – a collection of expert analysis on the Obama Administration’s National Security Strategy.