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No Victory in Europe


Trump’s Europe policy is a mess.

First, there’s this. And I thought our Ambassador’s enthusiasm for empowering the German right-wing had set a new low in historical understanding…

Once you get past these public displays of ignorance, Thomas Wright has a worthwhile read over at the Atlantic that highlights the Trump administration’s shift to promote Eastern Europe over our more traditional western European allies.

On the UK:

One would have to go back to the Suez Crisis of 1956 to find a time when the special relationship with Britain was in worse shape, for instance. Rhetorically, the Trump administration supports Brexit. In practice, it has pursued a predatory policy in response to Brexit, designed to exploit the government’s need for new trading arrangements…The Trump administration, then, is treating Britain as an easy mark, not as a vital strategic ally. The State Department has been entirely absent from this part of the relationship, with the Commerce Department and the U.S. Trade Representative running point. Meanwhile, Trump has routinely offended the British people, retweeting a member of the British Nationalist Party and criticizing the mayor of London for failing to prevent terrorist attacks.

On Germany:

while Ambassador Grenell is getting all the attention for now, the antipathy between the Trump administration and the German government runs deep. Trump has described Germany as “bad, very bad” on trade, and accused it of using the EU as a vehicle to dominate Europe. He is known to personally dislike Merkel.

Of course, Trump’s specific dislike of Merkel is as tinged with misogyny as his criticism of London’s Sadiq Khan is with racism.

France’s Macron seems more palatable, though white maleness is not enough to ensure diplomatic success:

On the surface, the relationship with France appears to be in better shape. However, the sweeping nature of Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal and his imposition of tariffs on steel and aluminum meant that President Emmanuel Macron got absolutely nothing for supporting Trump. Instead, France is now reassessing its policy toward America, asking if support means its national interests will be ignored and whether it needs to find and exploit sources of leverage.

On the EU overall:

Past administrations, they believe, have been too supportive of European integration, which has turned out to be a source of instability.

Those of us with at least a passing relationship with the history of the last century might ask some questions about what a divided Europe can do for stability. Wright points out that the failure to acknowledge June 5 as the anniversary of the announcement of the Marshall Plan shows real blinders about the importance of foreign economic policy. But beyond reconstruction, Marshall’s system was built on European integration:

The program should be a joint one, agreed to by a number, if not all, European nations.

This encouragement to European countries to actually work together was at the heart of Robert Schuman’s vision of a Europe

built through concrete achievements which first create a de facto solidarity.

Now, we don’t all have to love everything about the UK, Germany, France, and the EU–and it’s not bad to pay some serious attention to the rest of the continent. Indeed, it’s a good idea to think carefully about just what it was that made the US so compelling a model to turn to back in 1989.

The massive understatement in Wright’s piece, though, should give us all pause:

Reasonable people can differ over whether such a strategy might give countries like Hungary a free pass on democracy.

Because Trump’s strategy is playing a bit too well into the hands of Eastern European leaders who are playing equally dangerous games with autocracy and xenophobia. Making Viktor Orban happy is unlikely to be in our best interest.

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