No one who had carefully observed the rise of candidate Trump had expected President Trump to conduct himself less unconventionally –to put it politely–, than he did amidst his NATO allies. Unlike his predecessors, President Trump remains utterly loyal, even in the conduct of the superpower’s foreign policy, to his base at home; in this case, a plebeian, blue collar, base, to whom German exports and environmental restrictions are anathema and NATO mildly unintelligible and totally indifferent. The President –a minority President whose rival has attained a national majority of a magnitude unprecedented in defeat–, has no illusions as to the real feelings of even his own party’s mainstream leadership. He knows that in a constitutional crisis, his most dynamic support would come from what he has astonishingly succeeded to shape as his own grass roots movement. It is immaterial to him that clean energy industries employ ten times as many Americans as coal industries. They are not his voters, while Pennsylvania coal miners are. Like all populists he is playing to the gallery of the theatre; not to art critics.
Thus, one must not expect the President’s iconic stance on German and European exports to the US or on climate change to evolve considerably. His hostility towards the EU will also remain unmitigated.
NATO’s future should, also, appear rather dark – at first sight at least. For some reason, no presidential love is wasted there either. A US President’s omission to endorse Article 5, the most fundamental of the provisions of the North Atlantic Treaty is ominous. Furthermore, despite his bankruptcies Mr. Trump has a reputation of keeping his word in business; if Mr. Putin has invested anything of value on this US Administration, it is in the space of its relations with its European allies that he will, first and foremost, attempt to extract satisfaction. It is, nevertheless, in this field, the field of geopolitics and collective defence, in which the mechanism of checks and balances and the permanent institutions of the US –in this case the Pentagon and the State Department– will function most effectively. Thank goodness, cold warriors are not yet in short supply there. They understand the new threat posed by the Kremlin’s reclaim of the lost Soviet heritage in Europe and the M. East. Republican grandees remain faithful to the legacy and memory of the Reagan-Bush final victory over the USSR. They can reasonably be expected to fight hard to contain presidential eccentricity in the sphere of western collective defence. How painful it must be to them to hear, today, President Putin’s, a former Soviet KGB official’s, taunting remarks that some “patriotic Russian hackers” may have, “on their country’s behalf”, toyed with the American presidential election…
Be that as it may, Europeans must expect –and prepare for– the worst, increasingly relying upon themselves for their own defence, deepening their institutions of common governance and foreign policy. It is their historical duty to preserve in tact their part, their share, of the “West”, of that space of democracy and prosperity, which has survived the long dangerous decades of the Cold War, thanks, mainly, to a US willing to lead the camp of freedom. They must not preserve it for their own sake alone but also for the US to rejoin it when the harm done by… Mr. Putin’s “patriotic hackers” will have been shaken off. Canada and the UK must remain Europe’s partners in this venture. Especially to Britons, President Trump’s performance must have generated sobering thoughts as to the value of the special relationship during his presence in the White House.
- C. M.