US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited the European capital to meet with the EU and NATO leaders on Tuesday (5 December) where he sought to assure the United States’ allies that the trans-Atlantic ties were still strong. While in Brussels, he was confronted by the concerns surrounding Donald Trump’s “America First” agenda that has weakened the mutual ties. However, shortly after Rex Tillerson arrived in Europe, the stains on the trans-Atlantic ties became obvious. Donald Trump still has not named an ambassador to the EU – a prominent vacancy that was highlighted during Mr. Tillerson’s visit to the US Embassy in Brussels where he spoke to his own staff about the intended cuts to the State Department.
President Trump’s lukewarm attitude towards Europe is no secret. He has criticized Germany’s stance on military spending, withdrawn his country from the Paris climate change accord, decertified the Iran nuclear deal and overall gotten annoyed by his most important security allies. European leaders are especially worried about the fate of the nuclear deal since they see it as a key tool to preventing the Middle East from falling into a turmoil especially in the context of Washington’s recent move to proclaim Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel.
If Rex Tillerson’s trip was meant to boost the perceptions of the importance of EU-US ties, this objective was undermined by the leaks from the White House that his own job was on the line. There are rumors that he will soon be replaced by the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Mike Pompeo. While Donald Trump denied that the former CEO of Exxon Mobil would be ousted, the tensions between the two are well documented and no European leader can be sure that Mr. Tillerson actually speaks on behalf of the US President.