On foreign policy, 27 + 1 could add up to more than you might thinkby Malcolm Rifkind / February 16, 2017 / Leave a comment
In last year’s interview with the Atlantic, Barack Obama warned that a country that would “resort to nationalism as an organising principle” and that “never takes on the responsibilities of a country its size in maintaining the international order” would create conflict. He was referring to China but, in the light of President Donald Trump’s inaugural speech, he might just as easily have been referring to the United States.
Trump is the first US president since the 1930s who has not recognised, explicitly, that America’s own ultimate security is dependent on a peaceful, democratic and stable world. He is the first who appears to be unenthusiastic about donning the mantle of leadership of the west with its commitment to the rule of law, human rights and democracy as universal values.
This has global implications, not least for Europe. While I do not expect Trump to dismantle Nato or forge a strategic alliance with the Kremlin, he has made no secret of his indifference to European unity and strength. When asked recently what best served US interests, a strong European Union or strong sovereign nations, he replied: “I don’t think it matters much for the United States… I don’t really care whether it is separate or together.”
It is significant that Prime Minister Theresa May has said the opposite, and made it clear that Britain hopes the EU will survive and prosper. In the light of Trump’s remarks we can no longer assume that western Europe’s geopolitical interests and security will continue to enjoy the priority that they’ve had in the White House since President Harry Truman authorised the Marshall Plan and created Nato.
The consequences of Brexit must be considered against this background: we need to turn our attention from the endless discussion on free trade and the single market, and think about the security implications, both for Britain and Europe as a whole. There could be significant damage. Can we eliminate or reduce that risk? One important EU success in recent years, encouraged by the UK, has been the gradual expansion of a common foreign policy. A common foreign policy is not the same as a single foreign policy or a single European army. The last two are not attainable, even if the…