In Era of Trump, Europeans Become Free Traders

Paolo Gentiloni, Mariano Rajoy, Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel and Mark Rutte, the leaders of Italy, Spain, France, Germany and the Netherlands, deliver a joint news conference in Berlin, June 29
Paolo Gentiloni, Mariano Rajoy, Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel and Mark Rutte, the leaders of Italy, Spain, France, Germany and the Netherlands, deliver a joint news conference in Berlin, June 29 (La Moncloa)

European leaders are preparing for a showdown on trade when they meet Donald Trump at the G20 summit in Hamburg next month.

“Whoever believes that the world’s problems can be solved by isolationism and protectionism is mistaken,” Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, told her parliament on Thursday.

French president Emmanuel Macron chimed in: “If free trade is questioned by a member state then we need to address this.”

He added that he hopes “others will see reason” on issues like climate change and terrorism, which require multilateral cooperation.

Europe and the United States account for half the world’s economic output and a third of its trade. Read more “In Era of Trump, Europeans Become Free Traders”

Donald Trump Ignores All of Zbigniew Brzezinski’s Advice

Former American national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski speaks at the Munich Security Conference, Germany, February 1, 2014
Former American national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski speaks at the Munich Security Conference, Germany, February 1, 2014 (MSC/Tobias Kleinschmidt)

For almost a century, America’s strategic priority has been to prevent the emergence of a dominant power in Eurasia that could challenge it for world supremacy.

Halford Mackinder recognized as early as 1904 that a single power could lord over the continent if it controlled the entire Eurasian “Heartland”, stretching from Moscow to Tehran to Vladivostok.

Alfred Thayer Mahan and Nicholas Spykman argued it was rather control of the “Rimlands” on the edge of Eurasia that could tip the balance of power: Europe, the Middle East and East Asia.

Their ideas were not mutually exclusive. They both informed the United States’ successful policy of containment during the Cold War. To block Russian ambitions, America allied with democratic Europe, Turkey, the shah’s Iran and Japan. It exploited the Sino-Soviet split and armed the mujahideen in Afghanistan to hasten the Soviet Union’s demise.

Now Donald Trump is overturning this century-old wisdom. Read more “Donald Trump Ignores All of Zbigniew Brzezinski’s Advice”

What’s Wrong with Trump’s NATO Bill to Germany

German chancellor Angela Merkel speaks with American president Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, March 17
German chancellor Angela Merkel speaks with American president Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, March 17 (Bundesregierung)

American president Donald Trump reportedly presented Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, with a $374 billion invoice for missed contributions to NATO when she visited Washington DC earlier this month.

As first reported by The Times, Trump arrived at the figure by calculating how much Germany has fallen short of NATO’s 2-percent defense spending target since 2002 and then adding interest.

A German official described the move as “outrageous” to The Times. Merkel ignored it.

It’s hard to imagine a previous president treating an ally so cruelly, but the story is not at all unbelievable given what we know about Trump: that he humiliates people, is intimidated by powerful women and sees international relations in transactional terms. Read more “What’s Wrong with Trump’s NATO Bill to Germany”

For Europe, China Has Become the Lesser of Evils

Shanghai, China at night, May 4, 2012
Shanghai, China at night, May 4, 2012 (Mariusz Kluzniak)

Donald Trump’s disinterest in the transatlantic alliance, and Vladimir Putin’s attempts to undermine it, have left Europe with little choice but to turn the world’s fourth center of power: China.

The two aren’t natural allies. The EU has long irked the Chinese with its lectures on democracy and human rights. The EU insists on dealing through multilateral institutions when China would prefer to throw its weight around in bilateral talks.

But the world’s second and third economies are condemned to work together in the era of “America First”. Read more “For Europe, China Has Become the Lesser of Evils”

Europe Can Resist Trump in These Four Ways

French president François Hollande, German chancellor Angela Merkel and European Council president Donald Tusk march with other world leaders in Paris, January 11, 2015
French president François Hollande, German chancellor Angela Merkel and European Council president Donald Tusk march with other world leaders in Paris, January 11, 2015 (Bundesregierung)

If there was still any hope in Europe that Donald Trump might turn out to be less disruptive than he promised, the first weeks of his presidency must have put such hopes to rest.

It’s been less than two weeks and Trump has already disheartened America’s allies in Asia by withdrawing from the Trans Pacific Partnership, giving China a golden opportunity to take charge of regional economic integration; offended Australia and Mexico but hinted at improved relations with Russia, and banned Muslim immigrants and refugees from seven countries — including those who were previously approved for a visa — making a mockery of the rule of law and betraying a complete lack of compassion.

Imagine the damage he can — and will — do in four years. Read more “Europe Can Resist Trump in These Four Ways”

Trump Unites Foreign-Policy Thinkers in Despair

Four F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets perform a flyover above the amphibious assault ship USS America, November 20, 2016
Four F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets perform a flyover above the amphibious assault ship USS America, November 20, 2016 (USN/Andy Wolfe)

Donald Trump heralded a new era of American isolationism last week, proclaiming in his first public address as president, “From this day forward, it’s going to be only America First.”

It remains to be seen how far Trump will go in reversing seven decades of American grand strategy, but he has already united Republican-leaning thinkers who normally disagree on foreign policy in despair. Read more “Trump Unites Foreign-Policy Thinkers in Despair”

Trump Announces American Retreat from the World

Barack Obama Donald Trump
American president Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, bid farewell to Barack and Michelle Obama in Washington DC, January 20 (DoD/Marianique Santos)

Donald Trump has given the world a chilling preview of his foreign policy.

In his inaugural address as president, the businessman promised to break with decades of international trade policy and “put America first”.

Trump said he would protect the United States “from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies and destroying our jobs.”

“Protection,” he maintained, “will lead to great prosperity and strength.”

That is not what the last century has taught us. Read more “Trump Announces American Retreat from the World”

Goodbye, Mr President

American president Barack Obama walks through a hallway of the White House in Washington DC, August 8, 2013
American president Barack Obama walks through a hallway of the White House in Washington DC, August 8, 2013 (White House/Pete Souza)

I wasn’t a fan of Barack Obama eight years ago, when we started the Atlantic Sentinel. It unnerved me how many people, especially here in Europe, fell over themselves to praise the new president and I disagreed with his policies.

Now I’m sad to see him go.

It’s not just that the Democrat looks like a paragon of grace and wisdom compared to his Republican successor, although Donald Trump’s shortcomings in both regards are profound.

It’s that I’ve become less right-wing and Obama was a better president in his second term than in his first. Read more “Goodbye, Mr President”

Predictability versus Chaos: Where China and Russia Diverge

Vladimir Putin Xi Jinping
Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Xi Jinping of China meet on the sidelines of a summit in Benaulim, India, October 15 (Kremlin)

China and Russia have often been bundled together as representing the single most serious challenge to the West. Without doubt these two states share a number of views on world politics and also have a host of similar interests. But it is where they differ that is more telling about their relationship with the West and the international order in general.

An interesting pattern has been unfolding for the past couple of months. Russia has been betting on growing chaos in the West. It cheered both Brexit and Donald Trump’s election victory. Russian support for populist forces in Europe can be traced back to the establishment of the Institute for Democracy and Cooperation in Paris in 2008.

China, in turn, has been much more cautious. It chose predictability, favoring the United Kingdom remaining in the European Union and tilting toward Hillary Clinton as a slightly better option, even though there were voices in the Chinese debate favoring Trump.

If both China and Russia are dissatisfied with the West, why these stark differences? Read more “Predictability versus Chaos: Where China and Russia Diverge”

Trump Could Dismantle Western International Institutions

Businessman Donald Trump makes a speech in Derry, New Hampshire, August 19, 2015
Businessman Donald Trump makes a speech in Derry, New Hampshire, August 19, 2015 (Michael Vadon)

I am sitting at Madrid airport reflecting on the reality of Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential elections yesterday. We live in a very different world from last night. The American president may be constitutionally constrained by the separation of powers, but Trump will govern with Republicans controlling both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

In any case, in foreign policy, which most directly concerns those of us outside the US, the president has considerable executive freedom of action. Read more “Trump Could Dismantle Western International Institutions”