quarta-feira, 14 de dezembro de 2016
Trump’s unconventional picks make Europe tremble
Trump’s unconventional picks make Europe tremble
Rex Tillerson’s nomination elicits joy in Moscow and puzzlement mixed with a wait-and-see attitude in EU.
By DAVID M. HERSZENHORN 12/13/16, 8:11 PM CET Updated 12/13/16, 8:47 PM CET
America’s closest overseas allies struggled Tuesday to understand and digest Donald Trump’s emerging foreign policy team.
Rex Tillerson’s move from chief of the world’s most powerful oil company ExxonMobil to nominee to become chief diplomat of the world’s sole superpower elicited a collective gasp in Europe, summed up by the venerable, left-of-center French newspaper Le Monde: “Uncertainty adds itself to the unknown,” it wrote, reporting that Trump, “whose vision of foreign affairs doesn’t stop raising questions … nominated a neophyte to head American diplomacy.”
On a Continent that never fell out of love with Barack Obama or hid its preference for Hillary Clinton, the rise of Donald Trump — followed by the appointment of a hawkish general at the Pentagon, James “Mad Dog” Mattis, and now the choice of Tillerson a Texas oil man who’s friendly to Russia for secretary of state — continues to send trembles across European borders.
The Trump team’s style recalls the George W. Bush presidency, with its own Texas swagger and prized role for the military, which European elites don’t recall fondly. Barack Obama is appreciated for his softer touch here, but also criticized for his reluctance to engage in the world’s problems more directly — whether in Syria or in response to Vladimir Putin’s aggressions in Ukraine.
Trump is already showing he will be very different, though few seem to know precisely how. On substance, the incoming president elicits as much puzzlement as worry. Whether in Brussels, Paris, Berlin or London, senior officials say they don’t have any clear idea where Trump and his team will go on NATO, Russia sanctions or the Middle East. And in Eastern Europe, some expressed a sense of whiplash with the choice of Mattis, who is seen as tough on Russia, offset by Tillerson, who has a reputation as a friend of Putin and opponent of sanctions.
The official reactions were predictably cautious, with government leaders not wanting to get ahead of events or make premature pronouncements. Still, in conversations in capitals across the Continent, and in the initial media coverage of Trump’s pick for secretary of state, it was easy to discern anxiety mixed in with a wait-and-see attitude as the president-elect’s words get translated into actions.
From Paris to Berlin
“President-elect Donald Trump, once more, surprised the public with his choice,” Jürgen Hardt, the German government’s coordinator for transatlantic cooperation, told RND newspapers on Tuesday afternoon.
Hardt, like many commentators, noted Tillerson’s long-standing business dealings with Russia’s President Putin. “Personal relations to the Russian president are neither a bad thing per se, nor an indicator of quality,” Hardt said. “Just like the American public, we now expect that past loyalties to his former employer won’t play a role in his new occupation.”
“There’s a cynical part of diplomacy which is to wait. We won’t see what’s really going on before they actually take over” — French official
It was also clear that Trump was already rewriting expectations of American foreign policy, against the backdrop of his own highly unconventional, anti-institutional approach to remaking Washington.
In Paris, for instance, one government advisor noted that the choice of Tillerson, as a businessman, might be seen as a relatively moderate pick compared to the hawkish military men that Trump has favored for other senior posts, including to run the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security and atop the National Security Council.
“As a businessman he could prove more realistic than the generals,” the government advisor said.
One senior French diplomat said the government would almost certainly continue the wait-and-see approach, allowing Trump and his team to acclimate to the hard realities of governing. “There’s a cynical part of diplomacy which is to wait until there are actual acts or policies announced,” the diplomat said. “We won’t see what’s really going on before they actually take over.”
London’s position is that regardless of what Tillerson has said, Trump will determine U.S. foreign policy.
The diplomat said that much of the talk about taking a new approach toward Russia was detached from the reality of world affairs, and noted that the Obama administration, despite tensions with Putin, has continued talking to Moscow all along. “The question is not whether to talk or not but what do you talk about?” the diplomat said. “On Syria are the U.S. and Russia going to bomb together? When they start talking about [Syrian strongman] Bashar [al-Assad], do they simply both agree he can stay?”
‘What’s rhetoric … and what’s policy?’
While Brexit and Trump’s upset win have given the U.K. and the U.S. a shared sense of political upheaval, British officials said they were still prepared for potential disagreements, including over economic sanctions against Russia, which Tillerson has criticized but most European governments strongly support.
Senior U.K. government sources told POLITICO Tuesday they were exploring what the nominee for secretary of state has said in the past “and what it all means.”
“We need to look and decide what is rhetoric and what will end up as policy,” one Whitehall official said. “There isn’t a huge amount of concern. These people have said a lot of things, but you’ve got to judge them when they are in office. What they have said doesn’t change our policy.”
London’s starting position is that regardless of what Tillerson has said in the past, Trump will determine U.S. foreign policy. On this score, the government of Theresa May has been reassured by the “softening” they have seen in his public comments since the presidential campaign.
The British foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, has spoken to people in Trump’s circle, including Vice President-elect Mike Pence, former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani and New Jersey governor Chris Christie since Trump’s surprising victory last month — and according to British officials also come away reassured.
Pence, in particular, is seen in the Foreign Office as key moderating influence. The incoming vice president voiced his agreement when Johnson spelled out the importance of the U.K.-U.S. relationship in tackling ISIS in Syria and standing up to Russian aggression.
However, there is an acceptance that despite its vote to exit the EU last June, the U.K. may now have more in common with other European capitals on foreign policy than Washington — particularly on sanctions against Russia.
Big Oil in the White House
While it is remains from clear how much — or even if — relations between the U.S. and Russia will truly improve during Trump’s presidency, there seemed to be a dawning realization in Europe that the administration taking shape was perhaps the most pro-Big Business White House in history.
On that front, some of Mr. Tillerson’s fellow titans in the oil business praised his selection.
Tillerson is “widely respected, is a person who knows how to listen and find compromises” and his appointment is “positive,” Claudio De Scalzi, the chief executive of the Italian, state-controlled oil company Eni, said in New York according to Ansa, the Italian news agency.
In 2013, Putin awarded the “Friendship of Russia” to Tillerson, and Paolo Scaroni, the director general of Eni, at the same ceremony.
In Moscow, predictably perhaps, there was effusive praise for the president-elect’s selection.
“The head of Exxon, Tillerson is Trump’s choice for the post of secretary of state,” Alexey Pushkov, a Russian senator, posted on Twitter. “He has worked a lot with Russia. This choice confirms Trump’s seriousness.”
In a follow-up post, Pushkov, who was chief of the Russian Parliament’s foreign affairs committee before joining the Senate, wrote: “McCain, Rubio and Co. are opponents of Trump. That’s why their efforts to derail the appointment of Tillerson played in his favor. Yes, and Trump is no coward.”
Pierre Briançon in Paris, Tom McTague in London, Janosch Delcker in Berlin, and Cynthia Kroet, Jacopo Barigazzi and Quentin Ariès in Brussels contributed reporting to this article.