America’s Election and Europe’s New Order - part 1

by Gerald Flurry and Richard Palmer
(United States)

For the second time in five months, a democratic election has shaken the geopolitical order in Europe. First came Brexit, then Donald Trump being elected U.S. president.

Mr. Trump’s stated vision for America is very different from his predecessor’s. And Europe’s reaction hasn’t been enthusiastic.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Europe’s de facto leader, offered only conditional cooperation with the new U.S. president. She listed values that she said bind Germany and America together: “democracy, freedom, respect for the law and for human dignity, regardless of ancestry, skin color, religion, gender, sexual orientation or political leanings. On the basis of these values, I offer the future president of the United States of America, Donald Trump, close cooperation.”

Since the end of World War II, the U.S. has been responsible for rebuilding Germany, protecting Germany—even reunifying Germany. Yet now Germany’s leader offers only tepid conditional support for an incoming U.S. president!

This is more than just one leader’s reaction to an election she disagrees with. This is a signal of the fact that the geopolitical order in Europe—in the whole world, in fact—is changing fast.

Europe Is Vulnerable

Since World War II, Europe has been dependent on the U.S. for its security. After the war, British and American leaders considered it too dangerous for Europe to arm and defend itself. A decade later, nations like Germany were once again allowed an army, but Europe’s militaries remained divided and much weaker than America’s.

Now Donald Trump is questioning NATO, the organization that institutionalized this system and thus underpins Europe’s security. This has some leaders terrified. Guy Verhofstadt, a former Belgian prime minister and a pro-integration leader in European Parliament, warned in Project Syndicate, “The EU’s territorial integrity itself is now at stake” (Nov. 10, 2016).

“Trump has made it abundantly clear that his foreign-policy priorities do not include European security,” he wrote. “He doesn’t recognize NATO’s strategic necessity, and he has shown an interest in transatlantic relations only when he has alluded to unpaid bills. A Trump presidency will lead to an epic geopolitical shift: For the first time since 1941, Europe cannot rely on the U.S. defense umbrella; it now stands alone.”

Mr. Trump’s economic policies also threaten Europe. The uncertainty in the financial markets after his election could be enough to knock the fragile euro back into crisis. Moreover the EU is, at its core, a free trade zone. Mr. Trump rose to the presidency on an anti-free trade platform. If his movement spreads, it could rip the EU apart. Leaders already feel vulnerable after Brexit. That referendum caused many to declare the EU doomed. After Trump’s victory, they are desperate to push for further unity if only to prevent their beloved project from fracturing apart.

A Cry for an Army

It is little wonder the European leaders are saying they urgently need to defend themselves.

“Trump knows that the EU has the money, technology and know-how to be a global power equal to the U.S., and it is not his problem that Europe lacks the political will to harness its full potential,” wrote Verhofstadt. “The EU should treat Trump’s election as a wake-up call to take charge of its own destiny” (ibid).

Verhofstadt said the EU could no longer wait to build its own military and develop its own security strategy. “This is a difficult but vital decision that the EU has postponed for too long,” he said. “Now that Trump has been elected, it can wait no longer.”

This European M.P. is hardly the only voice speaking along this line. Within hours of Mr. Trump’s victory, German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen and President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker both called for European nations to do more on defense, and do more together.

It is possible Mr. Trump will back away from abandoning NATO once he takes office. He certainly wouldn’t be the first politician to flip-flop on campaign promises. But regardless, Europe will continue to seek a united military. In many ways, the damage is already done. European leaders no longer take American support for granted. They—and the public—are now well aware that America not only can pull its support, but that its president is inclined to do so. Europe’s integrationists will intensify their calls for a united military no matter what Mr. Trump does.

Furthermore, European leaders were pushing for a stronger, more united military even before Mr. Trump was elected. That push has accelerated in recent months, with EU leaders now meeting regularly to plan for the union.

Germany-Foreign-Policy.com noted that in the weeks before the U.S. election, voices from within Berlin’s foreign-policy establishment had been demanding “that Germany enhance its position within the framework of the transatlantic alliance” (Nov. 9, 2016).

Long-time diplomat and chair of the Munich Security Conference Wolfgang Ischinger made a similar call in the November-December issue of Internationale Politik. “We need … more urgency in the establishment and development of effective European defense structures,” he wrote.

In many ways, Mr. Trump’s stated policy is merely an intensification of President Barack Obama’s. Mr. Obama has already pushed Europe in this direction; now it is moving.

Finally, some within Europe are welcoming Mr. Trump’s election. They have wanted an EU army for years and see this as an opportunity to finally realize that dream.

“Europeans need a shock,” said Eugeniusz Smolar, former president of the Center for International Relations in Warsaw. Mr. Trump’s election “is one which might be very helpful to concentrate their beautiful minds,” he said.

“Joseph Stalin was the first unifier of Europe,” said Elmar Brok, the chair of the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs. “In a certain sense, Trump has the opportunity to be the second.”

Former leader of the Christian Social Union and elder German statesman Edmund Stoiber said that a Trump presidency may prove better for Europe than a Clinton presidency would have been, because under Mr. Trump, “we will have to take on a lot more responsibility than before.”

“America will retreat a bit from the overarching world policy and will only defend its own interests,” he said in an interview with Focus Online. “Hillary Clinton would also have moved into that direction; it already started under Obama. America is consciously retiring as a world policeman and also as a champion of free world trade. Europe has to enforce its own interests” (Nov. 10, 2016).

Mr. Stoiber has long wanted Europe to play a more powerful and independent role in the world. Mr. Trump’s election pushes it closer to Stoiber’s goal.

(Check back later for part 2)

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