Future of Trump-Europe Relations

2019/01/21 | Opinion, political

Strategic Council Online: Donald Trump's coming to power in the United States has faced relations between the two sides of the Atlantic Ocean with some new dilemmas and problems. Now, this idea has been conceived that the White House occupant’s policies are aimed at undermining the European Union. Of course, the European countries did not hold a favourable opinion about Trump. Dr. Behzad Ahmadi, Expert on European Affairs

In fact, Donald Trump was not welcomed by the mainstream political current in Europe when he nominated for the presidency of the United States. By mainstream current is meant the ruling parties, not the extreme right or left parties. Even when Trump won the election, European leaders sent him late congratulatory messages due to his anti-Europe stances.

The US president, both before and after winning the election had made a series of statements against the European Union, including voicing support for Brexit. Trump’s statements on Brexit were very welcomed by the Right camp in Britain, while Europe considered Trump’s position an intervention in their internal affairs.

Also after being settled at the White House, Trump established good relations with Europe’s rightist leaders and parties, such as Fidesz National Conservative Party, led by Viktor Orban; the leader of Poland and the current Prime Minister of Italy. Therefore, one of the main impacts of Trump’s election is on politics in Europe as he has helped anti-Europe currents to attract attention.

A proof to this claim is the European tours conducted by Steve Bannon, an advisor to Trump, who has delivered numerous speeches against European integration during these tours.

Another point relates to the security issue in Europe; in this regard, the US president has taken several actions that have been harmful to the European Union; first, he has been among the opponents of NATO since he came to power, claiming that NATO has no use to the United States except costs. Therefore, Trump has promised to revise NATO agreements and even threatened to quit the treaty.

There were many concerns in this regard, and Secretary of Defense James Mattis tried hard to address these concerns, but eventually, they reached the conclusion that Europeans spend two percents of their GDP on NATO expenditures, and the bulk of that spending be spent on the purchase and updating armaments from the United States. Nevertheless, even on this issue, there are deep differences between some European actors, especially Germany, and the United States.

The recent action by the United States to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) and halting the negotiations on New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) are also issues that will greatly affect Europe’s security, and the Europeans also feel they are weak in this field.

The type of interactions between Vladimir Putin and Trump has become a matter of concern for the Europeans, and they do not exactly know the direction and quality of this relationship.

But one of the major debates and fundamental disagreements between the United States and Europe is on economic issues. Trump claims that America has spent a lot on the world, especially on the Europeans and the Arabs without any gains. There are very wide range divisions between Berlin and Washington; the two have differences on eleven trade cases and the United States has put a lot of pressure on Germany. Considering that Germany does not want to engage in a trade war with the US, it has accepted some of America’s demands.

Division on international governance is also an issue that needs to be discussed. Basically, Trump has targeted the EU’s strong point, namely “global governance based on the law”. This type of governance is based on legal regimes and obligations and treaties, but ever since he came to power, Trump has neglected them or pulled out of them. Two recent examples are the Paris Climate Agreement and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (Iran Nuclear Deal).

On human rights debate too, the US president has highly affected Europe’s policies and has departed to some extent from the human rights norms that Europe has defended as soft power.

Now, with regard to these differences of opinion and attempts by Trump to cause a rift in the European Union, the question is whether with the coming to power of Donald Trump, relations between Europe and US have faced a major challenge? The answer to this question is yes, but the point here is that this challenge has not resulted in a rift in transatlantic relations.

Thus, despite the fact that Europeans have developed many challenges in their relationship with the United States, it cannot be said that these challenges have caused a gulf between the parties. An analysis on the future of Europe-US relations is that Europe is waiting for the end of the Trump presidency and the coming to power of another current. Another analysis is that all the differences between Brussels and Washington are not related to Trump, but in the context of the international order developments are taking place whereby the shadow government in the US has decided to benefit from necessary elements like the European Union to safeguard the US hegemony more than before.

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