Donald Trump’s interview of 13 January reaffirmed many Europeans in their belief that the comments the new American President was making regarding Europe on his campaign trail were not just meant for internal consumption. President Trump proved that he did not hold conventional Republican views on the European Union, did not find NATO useful and thought that the EU was just a vehicle for German power. Moreover, he suggested that the old continent would be a target of protectionist measures to reduce the US trade deficit and added that the nuclear deal with Iran was one of the “dumbest deals“ ever made. Mr. Trump also suggested that German Chancellor Merkel was about as trustworthy as Russian President Vladimir Putin and that he was interested in deals with Russia through trading off sanctions.
Although not all of Donald Trump’s beliefs will become US foreign policy due to well-established system of checks and balances, his opinions are set to bring about the biggest changes in the trans-Atlantic order since WWII. Mr. Trump’s disregard for fundamental rules of international conduct could easily stop the United States from being the anchor of the liberal world order – a principle that has safeguarded Europe’s security for decades. Moreover, with President Trump, the traditional trans-Atlantic alliance seems to be jeopardized as well. However, instead of falling into despair, European ought to see the new US administration as a wake-up call that should prod them to get their act together. French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault was right when he said that the best response to Donald Trump’s worldview was European unity.
It is obvious that Europe will not be very high on the White House’s agenda and if so, then President Trump will likely prefer dealing with individual countries, such as Germany or France. However, the biggest risk regarding Mr. Trump’s European policy lies in Russia. There is a risk that his moves on Ukraine could divide Eastern Europe into two zones of influence – that of Europe and that of Russia – since Mr. Trump’s comments on the obsoleteness of NATO may encourage Russia to be more assertive in pushing its geopolitical agenda and thus complicate the EU’s engagement in the Caucasus, North Africa and the Western Balkans, especially if the US simultaneously disengages from these regions.
‘Europe’s Ultimate Wake-Up Call’ – op-ed by Stefan Lehne and Heather Grabbe– Carnegie Europe.
(The study can be downloaded here)