Is Europe ready for another Donald Trump presidency?

Is Europe ready for another Donald Trump presidency

Is Europe ready for another Donald Trump presidency

As the likelihood of Donald Trump becoming the Republican Party’s nominee for the US presidency increases, the voices cautioning Europe to brace itself for a second Trump term in the White House grow louder.

During an interview with French public broadcaster France 2, Christine Lagarde, the president of the European Central Bank, expressed her concern over the potential election of Donald Trump, labeling it as a “clear threat” to Europe.

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo echoed these sentiments when addressing the European Parliament in mid-January, stating that if 2024 brings another “America First” approach, Europe would need to rely on itself more than ever.

In a publication by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) think tank, former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt warned of significant global repercussions if Trump were to be reelected. He predicted that the US would abandon climate policies and increase investments in fossil fuels, NATO would be, at best, inactive, and there would be closer ties with leaders like Putin and Orban. Additionally, trade wars would intensify.

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Sudha David-Wilp, the director of the Berlin office of the German Marshall Fund, emphasized the need for Europe to strengthen its military capabilities and take responsibility for security concerns in its immediate vicinity. She also highlighted the importance of Europe being a reliable partner for both Asia and Europe in countering external threats posed by authoritarian forces. Additionally, she stressed the significance of Europe’s economic strength in preparing for potential protectionist measures that may arise during a second term of President Trump.

Jürgen Hardt, a conservative lawmaker in Germany’s federal parliament, expressed concerns about Germany’s readiness for a potential second term with Trump. He criticized Germany’s foreign policy, stating that not enough has been done in the past three years to support Joe Biden’s cooperative approach with Europe, which could have been more successful than Trump’s confrontational style. Hardt also pointed out the lack of a joint China strategy and failure to meet defense spending commitments, with progress only being made under the pressure of the conflict in Ukraine.

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Troubled relationship with NATO

NATO’s troubled relationship with Trump has raised concerns in Europe. Throughout his first term, Trump repeatedly threatened to withdraw from the Western defense alliance, causing uncertainty among European leaders.

Thierry Breton, the EU Internal Market Commissioner, recently shared a revealing anecdote with the European Parliament. According to Breton, in 2020, Trump allegedly told EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen that the United States would not come to Europe’s aid if it were under attack.

Trump has consistently avoided addressing the issue directly. When asked if he would provide military support to European NATO partners if he won the election, he responded by saying it would depend on how they treated the United States.

Furthermore, Trump has criticized NATO, claiming that European countries have taken advantage of the United States. He even compared Europe’s treatment of the US to that of China.

Josef Braml, the European Director of the Trilateral Commission at the Institute for Strategic, Political, Security, and Economic Consultancy in Berlin, believes that Trump views Europe as an enemy. Braml argues that Europe must unite to navigate the Trumpist world order successfully.

However, achieving unity among European countries is challenging due to their diverse interests. Braml suggests that financial cooperation is the key. He proposes that Europe should think on a larger scale, take on debt together, financially support individual states, and impose conditions in return.

In summary, Trump’s skepticism towards NATO has strained the relationship between the United States and Europe. European leaders are concerned about the lack of commitment and support from the US, and they recognize the need for unity and financial cooperation to navigate the challenges posed by the Trumpist world order.

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Concerns about a nuclear umbrella

Braml emphasized the possibility of affording our own defense through shared European borrowing. He mentioned the procurement of F-35 fighter jets from the US to maintain our involvement in nuclear defense. However, he raised concerns about the value of nuclear sharing if Trump were to return to the White House. In light of this, Braml suggested that we should proactively prepare for such a scenario by establishing extensive military and economic cooperation with France and Poland, involving other European countries as well.

On the other hand, CDU politician Hardt dismissed the idea of Trump withdrawing Europe’s nuclear umbrella as unrealistic. He argued that no one desires a new nuclear arms race and if the US were to remove its protective shield, European countries would inevitably contemplate expanding their own nuclear arsenals.

Regardless, Trump’s reelection appears to be a crucial test not only for trans-Atlantic relations but also for European unity.