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In Trump era, Europeans want a very different foreign policy

15 Comments
By Peter Apps

As indicators of how America's allies now feel about Washington after three years of Donald Trump, there are a few statistics more stark than those on how Germans think about relying on the U.S. nuclear deterrent.

In a survey published this week, only 22% favored continuing to rely on protection from U.S. nuclear weapons, compared to 40% who wanted Berlin to cut a new nuclear protection deal with either Britain or more likely France. Almost a third – 31% – favored Germany abandoning the concept of relying on nuclear weapons altogether, while 7% wanted something until recently even more unthinkable – that Germany should build its own atomic arms.

The results – published by German think-tank the Koerber Foundation – reflect much wider trends and perhaps irreconcilable differences in European popular thinking on foreign policy. Across the board, Germans and their European counterparts are clearly uncomfortable with the way the world is developing, including the rise of China and tensions with President Vladimir Putin's Russia. As a general rule, they would like more integrated European action on foreign policy, but they have relatively little hope that those now in charge will deliver. And when it comes to defining policy priorities, there is often little if any popular consensus.

On Wednesday, incoming European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen promised a more activist Europe that could shape the global order, but the continent's heavyweight leaders, particularly German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, have very different visions on what that means. Tackling climate change and migration tops the list of concerns Europeans say they would like to see governments and European institutions address, but there are very different views on how that should be done. Von der Leyen herself faces probably the most polarized European Parliament in living memory and has been forced to replace three of her choices as commissioners after they were rejected by MEPs.

COUNTERPART

A September survey by the European Council on Foreign Relations showed that if the EU were to fall apart, many respondents felt the biggest loss would be the missed opportunity to create a European bloc acting as a counterpart to the United States, China and other emerging powers. In the vast majority of EU countries, more than 40% felt it was possible the bloc would unravel in the next 10 to 20 years, with a third saying they believed outright conflict might be possible between current EU members.

Like the Koehler Foundation report, the ECFR survey showed Europeans no longer trusted the United States as the primary guarantor of stability in Europe. On balance, it showed the European Commission and Union were more trusted to represent European interests in a messy, multipolar world than individual national governments, particularly on trade, although in several countries, particularly Italy, both national and European policymakers were highly distrusted.

When it comes to U.S. relations with European countries, 87% of Germans felt a second Trump term would be "rather" or "very" negative for relations between Berlin and Washington. In some respects, however, European politics is now showing some of the same isolationist sympathies as the U.S. president. In every mainland European country surveyed except Poland, the European Council on Foreign Relations survey showed a majority – sometimes a very strong majority – saying they want to stay neutral in the event of any conflict between the United States and Russia or China.

'BRAIN-DEAD'

That, of course, would completely upend NATO – whose heads of state meet in London in December against the backdrop of Trump seeking re-election and Macron warning that the alliance is increasingly "brain-dead". France in particular has been pushing for closer defense and other integration outside the NATO model, although that has received only lukewarm support from Germany.

In total, only 40% of the respondents were in favor of increased defense spending, necessary if Berlin is to reach the NATO target of 2% of gross domestic product. Across mainland Europe, the ECFR survey showed significant support for tighter financial sanctions on Russia, but much less enthusiasm for military-style attempts to contain or limit Putin. Respondents were also broadly positive on financial sanctions and diplomatic efforts to contain Iran, with almost all mainland states showing more than 50% support.

It is possible another term of Trump – or even a more isolationist U.S. Democratic administration – will force an embattled Europe towards consensus on how it wishes to approach the world. Failure to do so would be a missed opportunity.

Peter Apps is a writer on international affairs, globalization, conflict and other issues. He is the founder and executive director of the Project for Study of the 21st Century; PS21, a non-national, non-partisan, non-ideological think tank. Paralyzed by a war-zone car crash in 2006, he also blogs about his disability and other topics. He was previously a reporter for Reuters and continues to be paid by Thomson Reuters. Since 2016, he has been a member of the British Army Reserve and the UK Labour Party, and is an active fundraiser for the party.

© Thomson Reuters 2019.

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

15 Comments
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It is possible another term of Trump –

It's virtually guaranteed the way the Democrats are going and the way the U.S. economy is doing.

or even a more isolationist U.S. Democratic administration 

First, Trump is not an isolationist, but he is pretty good at getting our allies to pay more of their fair share, and the U.S. continues to be the world's biggest foreign aid donor by far, and second, good grief, the Dems are total globalists.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

Europe could make its own military defense force and dish America out of Europe. Withdraw their troops and hardware. End the NATO. The new force strictly for defending Europe not going off to foreign wars by America.

End the nuclear weapons. Saving from paying America, fighting American foreign wars, and the money from scrapping nuclear weapons instead go into defense spending.

First, Trump is not an isolationist, but he is pretty good at getting our allies to pay more of their fair share, 

How's that?

The running budget of NATO is only 2 billion Euro. Not a significant sum of money.

Britain, France and Germany need to take the lead.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

In a survey published this week, only 22% favored continuing to rely on protection from U.S. nuclear weapons, compared to 40% who wanted Berlin to cut a new nuclear protection deal with either Britain or more likely France

Protection from who? That people even answered such a ridiculous poll is embarrassing. Germany is under threat from its own globalist fanatical politicians, and not from a foreign country. This attempt by the pollsters and media to revive the old Sovjet scare hoax is sad.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

If Trump is somehow re-elected the US will be largely cut off from its historic allies, who will repudiate Trump and his white ethnonationalist government, and many of the international institutions that have structured diplomatic relations and policy making since the end of WWII will fail. The world will see a nationalist resurgence that exacerbates tensions among neighbouring states and leads to increased conflict in NE asia, Europe and elsewhere. With the US in a neo-isolationist stance and the EU incapable of stepping up, bad actors with expansionist aspirations such as China and Russia will be emboldened to act against both their neighbours and their own citizens. Most importantly, we will pass the point of no return with climate change as Trump fatfoots the accelerator. The very foundations of science, logic and empiricism that have underpinned academic inquiry since the Enlightenment are being threatened by agitprop, propaganda, disinformation and lies meant to undermine the very notion of facts. There is much, much more at stake in the US elections next year than the course of the US over next 4 years. Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

USA should pull out of NATO and UN and let EU determine own fate and culture. Beside3s there may not be enough $ for all this in future what has become a great corrupt sharing of money supplied by US taxpayers. Every nation should assess what they can do for themselves as the globalist agenda is failing due to self centered agenda. Receding births and growth of GNP Japan is first to see these effects and is the Canary in the economic coalmine. Has MMT worked ?

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Darren

USA should pull out of NATO and UN and let EU determine own fate and culture.

There should be no NATO in the first place, because the Warsaw Pact does not exist any more. Which was the reason for the creation of NATO, have we all forgotten that??

If Merkel and Macaron want to make their stupid Euro-armee, let them. But the US should have nothing to do with that. In a sane world that is.... guess that is too much to hope for.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

First, Trump is not an isolationist,

Yes, he is. He's running on the America First ticket

America First is not isolationist, it's just doing what every other country is doing - looking out for their own interests. So no, he's not.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

America First is not isolationist, it's just doing what every other country is doing - looking out for their own interests.

Yeah, in an isolationist manner.

So no, he's not.

So yes, he is.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Yeah, in an isolationist manner.

So no, he's not.

So yes, he is.

Just because you don't like his non-PC manner doesn't mean it's isolationist. The Trump administration is working with other countries to resolve problems.

So no, he's not.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Just because you don't like his non-PC manner doesn't mean it's isolationist.

I agree. Trump being an isolationist, and moving the country towards isolation, alienating and casting off allies, and aligning with enemies is what makes him isolationist. Not my opinion silly. You're getting it backwards, my opinion sways nothing. My opinion is based on the reality of what he is doing.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I sincerely hope that the US disentangles itself from one sided foreign alliances. Germany is better off on its own. The US has a $23 trillion debt. Let Germany cut a deal with Putin - he owns Germany anyway do to their dependence on Russian energy.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

The US has a $23 trillion debt.

$3 trillion added by Trump and if he wins a second term will exceed $30 trillion.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

$3 trillion added by Trump and if he wins a second term will exceed $30 trillion.

Yes - it’s insane. And if a Dem is elected it will be $40 trillion. But at these numbers it doesn’t really matter anymore does it? Debt is built-in every year. Both sides have given up on caring and only want to win power. Given that reality all there is left for voters is to quit the party’s and vote their own personal interests.

The last attempt to reform the structural debt was by Bush at the start of his second term and Dems refused to even discuss the problem because they know they would be decimated in the next election. Americans just want free stuff regardless of the consequences to the nations, and their own children’s, futures.

The Europeans notice that America is an exhausted world power and will have no choice but to withdraw from the world stage and attend to its own problems for awhile. The Europeans themselves aren’t in much better fiscal shape. Like Japan, the West has aging populations that have become dependent on the government for their livelihoods. It is no accident that globalism is under so much pressure under these circumstances. America first isn’t a betrayal of the current world order, it is survival.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Yes - it’s insane. And if a Dem is elected it will be $40 trillion.

Didn't happen under Obama so why would it happen with a future democrat president. Also Obama inherited a failed and bankrupt economy from Bush.

2009 $11 trillion

2016 $19 trillion

$8 trillion over 8 years.

Debt crisis

https://www.thebalance.com/us-debt-crisis-summary-timeline-and-solutions-3306288

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Didn't happen under Obama 

The US national debt did not practically double under Obama? Talk about fake news. MSNBC can convince people that up is down and dark is light. Unbelievable!

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

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