He is no ordinary President. Europe shouldn’t treat him like oneby Brian Klaas / August 11, 2017 / Leave a comment
Published in September 2017 issue of Prospect Magazine
Europe has a severe Donald Trump problem. This became plain when he arrived at July’s G20 summit in Hamburg like a bully in a china shop, ready to shatter the western order. He rumbled around, but this time the bull strengthened rather than shattered China. For the nation that leads the free world is now itself led by a man who disdains the free world’s values. That leaves China and Russia to pick up the fragments—and Europe trying to make sense of a dark new reality. And that’s before it begins to contemplate the potentially devastating nuclear brinkmanship the President is indulging in with North Korea.
It is no secret that Trump has already done more to alienate Europe than Vladimir Putin’s boldest fantasy would allow. Confidence in the leadership of the US is down by 75 per cent in Germany, 70 per cent in France and 57 per cent in the UK.
Here’s the real problem: Trump might not be President of the United States in seven months, yet he could equally be president for seven more years. It is getting easier to imagine the Russia scandal destroying him, but there is still a viable path to re-election. With the Twitter president, three hours sometimes seems like a lifetime; it’s over three years before he’s back on the ballot. The question, then, is what should Europe do to respond to a man who poses such a threat to the liberal western order?
It’s important to be clear about the disjunction between Trump and most of Europe. The simplest divide is a stark reality: Trump doesn’t much like Europe. He finds its bureaucracy cumbersome, its social safety nets a sure sign of weakness, and its old cultures too namby-pamby; he prefers new gold and glitz. More substantively, he thinks that the Europeans have long been free-riding on the Americans. This is most visible in his berating of Nato allies for not paying their dues, but it also crops up in trade, climate, or anything else where there might be a “deal.”