Three paradoxes of Trump politics towards Europe
Nine months after Donald Trump became president, there are at least three paradoxes in American politics towards Europe. They are about the transatlantic security and the institutional future of Europe itself. Resolving these paradoxes, to consolidate the transatlantic bridge, is a major challenge for the rest of the decade.
The first Trump paradox – EU
The first Trump paradox relates to the EU. Trump’s view is that the EU is an American global competitor, not a partner. This is largely the result of economic nationalists who still have an influence on the president and who support the breakup of the EU and refocus on bilateral relations. They look at the Union similarly to China: a growing economic threat to US interests. In the direct opposite, there are American Atlanticists who understand the importance of the EU in preventing new nationalist conflicts in Europe and as the main trading and investment partner in America. Atlanticists are far more than the weakening of democratic institutions in some of the ruling parties in Europe, they are loosing access to NATO and Russia.
The second Trump paradox – NATO
The other Trump paradox is about NATO. Trump, albeit presidential candidate, declared the alliance obsolete. His attitude changed dramatically after taking over the office. Moreover, the administration has taken steps to strengthen NATO and strengthen the security of the West. Trump’s criticism of both the Europeans and the Russians is to believe that the White House must decommit the Alliance and break the US commitment to defending Europe. In reality, Trump’s serious criticism of NATO brought back attention to the Alliance’s costs, mission and capabilities. Two key factors enable Trump to rebuild the Alliance’s strengths: its alerts about NATO’s action and its strategically clever National Security Team. Trump’s main revolt was aimed at those European governments that do not account for two percent of GDP for national defense, despite the common condition of NATO.
He threatened to suspend US support if these goals soon failed. Ironically, Trump’s threats appear to have been with the result, as numerous Alliance governments, especially those bordering Russia’s unpredictable, promised to increase their costs and increase military capabilities. Even some Western European governments are working on revision of their defense obligations. The defense of national sovereignty, sought by some of the right governments in Central Europe, must include the preservation of national security. This means accelerating the plan for achieving NATO benchmarks in defense costs and helping to strengthen NATO’s eastern ankle against Moscow’s revisionism. It is time for the sluggish to fully engage in joint defense and confirm that the neighbors on which the allies can rely and whose sovereignty deserves to be defended by America. The determination of the US administration to strengthen NATO was evident in appointing key persons to Trump Cabinet. Defense Minister Jim Mattis argued that the Alliance is highly needed to defend US national interests and preserve global security. Vice President Mike Pence and State Secretary Rex Tillerson strengthened Mattis’s position so traditional athmism prevailed in Washington. During Iraq and Afghan intervention, NATO has developed anti-rebel capabilities, but Europe’s defense is neglected, and the number of US soldiers has drastically reduced. The Russian attack on Ukraine in 2014 has drawn attention to European defense, with growing anxiety among NATO members on the front line due to Moscow’s expansionism. The Trump Team supports NATO Strong Forefront Presence (EFP) at East Ebony, a significant increase in US defense spending and closer co-operation with European allies committed to US goals.
The third Trump paradox – RUSSIA
The third Trump paradox is the Russian question. Trump may still avoid direct criticizing Vladimir Putin for any skeleton that could be found in his closet, but both the administration and Congress have sharpened their policy towards an expansionist opponent. Moscow is increasingly afraid Trump will not give up in any area despite its promises in the campaign to work closely with Russia. For example, Putin’s officials condemned the policy by which Washington sought nuclear superiority.
The Kremlin claims that the promise of Washington to strengthen its nuclear arsenal could launch a new arms race. Additionally, the Congress voted with a large majority of new sanctions against Moscow for being interfered with in the US election. They determine the financial consequences for the oligarchs associated with the Kremlin, including freezing their bank accounts and security mechanisms so that the president could not unilaterally abolish the sanctions. Although the White House has delayed the implementation of sanctions, congressional pressure on the administration will yield results. In addition, with the intensification of the investigation of possible cooperation between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence services, the president will need to show that he is not obliged to Putin. Despite the initial expectations of the Kremlin, Trump’s White House is not going to a new reset. Mattis and other security chiefs have clearly shown that Washington can negotiate with Russia only from the position of power. Finding the US troops and infrastructure of NATO in the countries bordering Russia, Washington has demonstrated that it has taken seriously its allied commitments. And as the surface, by investigating the FBI, exits the level of Russian penetration into the American political system, the readiness to return Moscow will also be strengthened.
This article was originally published on the Trump News.