If Trump wins, Europe must go it alone

The incumbent president is not a fan of alliances and the US’ withdrawal from NATO could be high on the agenda if he wins a second term.

The incumbent president is not a fan of alliances and the US’ withdrawal from NATO could be high on the agenda if he wins a second term.


Though it may be too early to call the result of the US election, what would be the impact of a Trump victory on Europe? It seems certain that the EU and the White House would drift even further apart from a policy making viewpoint, particularly when it comes to issues such as trade, Iran and climate change. In general, there is a view that the US’ tradition allies in Europe would not be able to rely on there being friendly relations with the American president.

There seems little doubt that the future of US-Europe relations would be severely jeopardised by a Republican victory in this election. Indeed, some already argue that the two sides are already poles apart with Wolfgang Ischinger, a former German ambassador to Washington, having already highlighted hostility on the part of Trump towards the US’ European allies. Ischinger has glumly asked: “Why do we currently appear to live on different planets?”
 

Serious concerns
There are serious concerns that a second term for Trump will unleash the president and enable him to pursue any whim he sees fit with regard to European, and indeed, global relations. Indeed, Trump is known to have mooted the possibility of withdrawing from NATO - the intergovernmental military alliance between 30 North American and European countries – and diplomats are known to be extremely worried that this could be high on the agenda during Trump’s second term.

"French President Emmanuel Macron, who has advocated the creation of a European army, has spoken of the need for Europe to take greater responsibility regarding the issue of security"

 

Generally speaking, the view is that Europe will be left to go it alone in the event that Trump is declared the winner of the 2020 election. In general, the incumbent president is not a fan of alliances and the slogan ‘America First’ is set to become more pertinent than ever.
 

Developing an ‘appetite for power’
So what would be the next step for Europe if Trump wins? The New York Times has quoted the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell Fontelles, as saying that Europe needs to develop “an appetite for power.” In one way this has been interpreted as an acknowledgement that Europe will need to do more to stand up for itself on the world stage, but, perhaps more worryingly, the expression used by Borrell Fontelles could be seen a direct challenge to American supremacy.

Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron, who has advocated the creation of a European army, has spoken of the need for Europe to take greater responsibility regarding the issue of security, and specifically appraise relations with the likes of Russia and China in a European context rather than viewing it from a trans-Atlantic perspective.

Good ideas in theory, but the question is are they practicable? Sceptics say that there is not really a consensus in Europe about what its strategic interests are and that this would mean that the EU could struggle to come up with a viable security alternative.

Meanwhile, some US observers, particularly those with Democratic-leanings, are fearful that, if Europe does decide to go it alone on the world stage, the US will lose a vital bulwark in its ongoing tussle with China.

Ben Cook

 

Read the full Special Report: US Presidential Election

Leaders League brings you detailed coverage of the US Presidential Election.
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