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Is Europe Turning Its Back on Trump’s America?

February 23, 2019 by HJ Mai
From left, Juri Ratas, Prime Minister of Estonia, Emmanuel Macron, President of France, German Chancellor Angela Merkel of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), and Alexis Tsipras, Prime Minister of Greece, have a conversation at the beginning of the first work session of the North Atlantic council at the NATO Summit on July 11, 2018 in Brussels, Belgium. (Bernd von Jutrczenka/DPA/Abaca Press/TNS)

The historical alliance between the United States and Western Europe has resulted in an unprecedented period of peace and prosperity on both sides of the Atlantic, but U.S. President Donald Trump’s foreign policy is causing a rift. Tensions at the recent Munich Security Conference highlighted the fragile stage of the trans-Atlantic alliance. The relationship is in dire need of some TLC – tender, love and care – as further alienation could see the largest realignment in the global order since the end of World War II.

In just a little more than two years, Trump has “torn at the roots and hacked at the branches of Western solidarity that his predecessors painstakingly cultivated over seven decades,” Stewart Patrick, director of the International Institutions and Global Governance Program at the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote last year. Since taking office in January 2017, Trump has called out America’s European allies for taking advantage of Washington’s generosity and suggested that U.S. support is conditional.

“If they fulfill their obligation to us, the answer is yes,” Trump said on the campaign trail in 2016 when asked if he would provide military aid to the Baltic countries – all of which are NATO members – in case Russia would attack. The president has also time and time again used his official Twitter account to take shots at European leaders, businesses and policy decisions.

Last year, Trump referred to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s refugee policy as “insane” and threatened German car manufacturers with punitive import tariffs of up to 20 percent. Berlin responded to these types of attacks through diplomacy, but that changed when Merkel stepped up to the podium at last week’s security conference. The German chancellor used the stage to voice her displeasure with U.S. foreign policy.

The Washington Post reported that Merkel unleashed a “stinging, point-by-point takedown of the administration’s tendency to treat its allies as adversaries.” She also bemoaned that the U.S.-led global order “has collapsed into many tiny parts.”

Ian Bremmer, president of the Eurasia Group, told the Post that the Trump administration fails to understand that international relations are about more than how much a country pays. “It’s about a relationship, trust, how you communicate, shared values,” he said.

The European Parliament stated in a September 2018 report: “The US has historically been the EU’s closest ally, with common interests and values as well as a shared view of the world guiding bilateral relations and joint actions. Yet, following the election of President Donald Trump, divergences in several areas have led to doubts about the durability of transatlantic relations.”

The report pointed to the Iran nuclear deal – from which the U.S. withdrew – trade and burden-sharing within NATO as areas of tension. The Trump administration’s America First approach to foreign policy has created opportunities for other countries, primarily Russia and China, to increase their sphere of influence around the world. Washington’s continued disengagement on the foreign policy front could see nations shift allegiances permanently.

“Not since 1930 has the global trading order been more threatened. No one is coming to the rescue,” Jeremy Adelman, a history professor at Princeton University, wrote in 2016. “The long cycle of integration and relative tolerance forged by U.S. leadership since World War II is now headed in reverse.”

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