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How Europe Should Deal With Trump

Summary:
MUNICH – Donald Trump’s presidency poses a stress test for Europe, for transatlantic relations, and for the world as a whole. Indeed, in many ways, Trump’s “America first” policy is defined by its opposition to the internationalist US foreign policy of the past eight decades. For starters, Trump says that he trusts German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin equally. Does that imply that the United States will pursue a policy of equidistance between the EU and the Kremlin? It is not an idle question. Trump has made it obvious that established partnerships, alliances, rules, and protocols mean little to him. In his tweets, he rants about the media, attacks independent judges, targets individuals and companies, and belittles international organizations. But even if the US under Trump is an unattractive ally for Europe, writing off the US as a European partner – which some in Europe would like to do sooner rather than later – would be a mistake. For one thing, Europe must not ignore the majority of Americans who didn’t vote for Trump. The commitment of America’s civil society and the response of its judiciary show Europeans that the US they know and hold in high regard is no pushover.

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MUNICH – Donald Trump’s presidency poses a stress test for Europe, for transatlantic relations, and for the world as a whole. Indeed, in many ways, Trump’s “America first” policy is defined by its opposition to the internationalist US foreign policy of the past eight decades.

For starters, Trump says that he trusts German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin equally. Does that imply that the United States will pursue a policy of equidistance between the EU and the Kremlin?

It is not an idle question. Trump has made it obvious that established partnerships, alliances, rules, and protocols mean little to him. In his tweets, he rants about the media, attacks independent judges, targets individuals and companies, and belittles international organizations.

But even if the US under Trump is an unattractive ally for Europe, writing off the US as a European partner – which some in Europe would like to do sooner rather than later – would be a mistake.

For one thing, Europe must not ignore the majority of Americans who didn’t vote for Trump. The commitment of America’s civil society and the response of its judiciary show Europeans that the US they know and hold in high regard is no pushover. Instead of turning away from the US, we should cooperate with Americans who remain committed to preserving the transatlantic community of values. This includes members of the new administration who have voiced their clear support for the transatlantic partnership and continuity, to say nothing of Trump’s opponents – Democrats and Republicans alike – in Congress.

Moreover, those who favor cutting ties seem to believe that there are partners all over the world just lining up to defend the liberal global order together with Europe. The EU might agree with China that a new era of protectionism would be harmful. But beyond that, they have little common ground. In the long term, the liberal global order will endure only if supported by both pillars of the transatlantic partnership.

Finally, calls for Europe to become a strategic counterweight to the US are purely aspirational; in reality, no such option exists. In the short and medium term, Europeans cannot do without the US security guarantee. As a result, we must work to convince the new administration of the importance of a united and peaceful Europe.

Nonetheless, the mere speculation about decoupling European security from the US is giving rise to uncertainty, reflected in the emerging debate about a European – or even German – nuclear bomb. It’s a sham debate, because it assumes what must be questioned: Is it really in Europeans’ interest to cut the...

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