terça-feira, 17 de janeiro de 2017
Trump to Europe: Drop dead
Trump to Europe: Drop dead
It’s time to say it: Donald Trump is a mortal threat to the Western alliance.
By ALEX MASSIE 1/17/17, 12:51 AM CET Updated 1/17/17, 12:51 PM CET
EDINBURGH — It is, remarkably, no exaggeration to say that almost everyone in Europe awaits the presidency of Donald Trump with a sense of dread. Almost everyone, that is, save for the resurgent parties of the populist far-right who see, in Trump, an example they dearly wish to emulate.
The European mainstream, however, shrinks from Trump as it has never shrunk from any previous American president. No, not Ronald Reagan and no, not even George W Bush either. Trump has not even taken office and he is already the most dangerous U.S. president in living memory. Perhaps, even, of all time.
Whatever else they were, Reagan and Bush were both men of some political experience. Trump, as he told the Times of London and Germany’s Bild, is “not a politician” and that is precisely the point. The generous assessment of the president-elect’s potential allows that his less than conventional approach to international affairs ensures that America’s foes will not easily be able to fathom or predict his intentions.
There is some merit in being a surprise package. But even if that is the case, the same consideration applies to the United States’ allies. And the questions being asked in European capitals tonight are simple one: Is this a president we can rely upon? A president whose word is his bond? A president with whom we can do business?
The evidence, as revealed by Trump’s first post-election interview with the European press, is not reassuring. For 60 years, NATO and the European Union have been at the heart of the transatlantic security and trade relationships. Judged by Trump’s interview, that is no longer the case. The new president doesn’t think the EU “matters very much for the United States;” NATO is “obsolete.” If this rhetoric is etched by a shift in American foreign policy, then the rules and assumptions that have underpinned the Western world since World War II will no longer apply. We will be in uncharted territory.
Trump’s reasons for thinking NATO obsolete are also revealing. The alliance is decrepit because it isn’t “taking care of terror.” It never seems to occur to Trump that NATO, whose members include the Baltic states, could have other purposes than just targeting terror cells and movements around the world. (It’s also worth noting that the only time in its history that Article 5 of the NATO charter, which requires allies to come to one another’s defense, was invoked was in response to the 9/11 attacks.)
While deploring Russia’s intervention in Syria, Trump insists there is an opportunity to “make some good deals with Russia.” Removing sanctions in return for a reduction in nuclear weapons would effectively grant the U.S.’s blessing to Russia’s invasions of Ukraine. Which in turn would induce some unease in Tallinn, Riga and Vilnius. How can Estonia, Latvia or Lithuania have any confidence in the Atlantic alliance now? Would Trump rally to their defence in the event they were targeted by fresh Russian aggression? At present, it is hard to believe so, which truly would render NATO obsolete.
As Nicholas Soames, a British Conservative MP and grandson of Winston Churchill, tweeted, “Trump needs to show he is not naive and understands that Putin’s aim is to destroy the transatlantic alliance and weaken the EU.” That naivete is already on full and proud display. There was nothing in Trump’s interview that would worry the Russian president but plenty to appall almost every significant European government. Indeed, Russian state TV greeted Trump’s remarks with the satisfied headline, “Trump slapped the West.”
Asked whether he trusts German Chancellor Angela Merkel more than he trusts Putin, Trump could say only, “Well, I start off trusting both — but let’s see how long that lasts.” This, like so much else Trump says, is a statement of flabbergasting proportions. The United States, it seems, no longer has allies. But that, of course, is the logical implication of his ‘America First” rhetoric.
Nor will Trump’s enthusiasm for Brexit have gone unnoticed in Berlin, Paris or Brussels either. His predictions that the eurozone will collapse and that other member states will seek to leave the EU appeared to made with an unbecoming relish and confirmed that, for the first time since WWII, the United States is led by a man who views Europe as a problem — and even as a competitor — rather than as a partner and ally.
Revealingly, Trump rejected the traditional view that trade is a win-win proposition. In Trump’s world, it is a zero-sum game in which only one side can win. Present arrangements, he said, are “very unfair to the United States” and transatlantic trade is “not a two-way street.” Just as feckless Europeans refuse to pay enough towards the cost of their own defense, so they fleece a weak and timorous United States when it comes to trade. The concept of comparative, or even mutual, advantage appears utterly alien to him. That thought alone should remind pro-Brexit Britons enthused by Trump’s lukewarm words about post-Brexit U.S.-U.K. trade deal that not everything that glitters in Trump Tower is golden. Or reliable.
And that is the crux of the matter. Europe must now, as Merkel put it in response to Trump’s shocking comments, “make its own future.” Perhaps President Trump will be a more conventional figure than President-elect Trump, but the early indications are somewhat less than reassuring. The United States remains the world’s indispensable nation, but we may be about to find out what happens when the indispensable nation decides it is no longer capable of assuming the role it once considered its birthright.
When the world’s leader departs, what fills the void? America’s oldest, closest friends are only now waking up to the grim idea that however bad they thought President Trump might be the reality may prove much, much, worse than that.
Alex Massie writes for the Spectator, the Times and other publications.