Trump’s Withdrawal from Syria Is a Disaster

Presidents Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey and Donald Trump of the United States pose for photos in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, May 16, 2017
Presidents Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey and Donald Trump of the United States pose for photos in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, May 16, 2017 (Turkish Presidency)

The calamity of Donald Trump’s withdrawal from northern Syria is hard to overstate.

  • More than 160,000 people have fled the region.
  • A Kurdish politician and at least ten others have been killed.
  • Hundreds of fighters from the self-declared Islamic State (ISIS) — which the Kurds did more than anyone to defeat — have been freed from prison.
  • Trump doesn’t care, saying, “They’re going to be escaping to Europe.” No matter that’s where America’s best friends are, or used to be.
  • Turkey has attacked an American commando outpost in Syria.
  • Abandoned by the West, the Kurds are appealing to Bashar Assad and his patron, Vladimir Putin, for help. Read more

Middle East Allies Are Wrong to Bet on Trump

Presidents Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey and Donald Trump of the United States pose for photos in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, May 16, 2017
Presidents Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey and Donald Trump of the United States pose for photos in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, May 16, 2017 (Turkish Presidency)

Israel, Saudi Arabia and Turkey have all made their bed with Donald Trump. That’s paying dividends for them, but only so long as this president remains in power. What happens in two or six years? Read more

Russian Missile Treaty Violation Is a Wakeup Call for Europe

Latvian foreign minister Edgars Rinkēvičs speaks with NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels, April 4
Latvian foreign minister Edgars Rinkēvičs speaks with NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels, April 4 (NATO)

Last month, NATO allies issued a warning to Russia, urging it to destroy a new missile system that could threaten Europe or face a “defensive” response.

The warning is a final opportunity for Russia to respect the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which banned land-based cruise and ballistic missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers. If it doesn’t — and Russia claims the system in question has a range of only 480 kilometers — it will be another wakeup call for Europe. Read more

Shameless Trump Gives Up America’s Power to Shame

American president Donald Trump signs the guestbook at the presidential palace in Helsinki, Finland, July 16
American president Donald Trump signs the guestbook at the presidential palace in Helsinki, Finland, July 16 (Office of the President of the Republic of Finland/Matti Porre)

I have little to add to the opprobrium that has rightly been heaped on President Donald Trump from the left and the right — including a blistering editorial in the otherwise Trump-friendly Wall Street Journal — for condoning the Saudi killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Except this: It used to be that when the American president shamed other countries, the world listened. Trump has no shame and does not understand soft power. His is a simplistic realpolitik that gives authoritarians license to kill for fear of upsetting their feelings. Read more

With German Support, A European Army Looks More Likely

A German soldier salutes the flag in Bonn, January 29, 2013
A German soldier salutes the flag in Bonn, January 29, 2013 (Bundeswehr/Alexander Linden)

It looks like a European army might really happen.

German chancellor Angela Merkel, in a speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Tuesday, endorsed the call of French president Emmanuel Macron for an EU fighting force.

She praised the 25 member states — Denmark, Malta and the United Kingdom are not participating — that committed last year to enhance interoperability, pool their defense procurement and improve military logistics under the so-called Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO).

But a proper army, she said, would make war in Europe impossible and “complement” the NATO alliance. Read more

The Remarkable Thing About Europe Is Not That It Has Problems

The European Parliament building in Strasbourg, France, March 8, 2016
The European Parliament building in Strasbourg, France, March 8, 2016 (European Parliament)

I’m used to American and British commentators dismissing the EU, but when even a Harvard professor misses the point it warrants a rebuttal.

Imagining a post-American world, Stephen M. Walt doesn’t see Europe playing much of a role. He argues in Foreign Policy that the EU project is deeply troubled.

  • The outcome of the Brexit process is uncertain.
  • Economic growth on the continent is uneven.
  • Extremist parties are flourishing in several countries.
  • The refugee issue, which has convulsed domestic politics throughout Europe, is not going away.

His bottom line:

The EU has become too large and heterogeneous to make rapid and bold decisions, and it faces opposition from illiberal and xenophobic elements within.

Read more

Transatlantic Relations Take Another Downturn

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)

Europe is striking back against Donald Trump’s aluminum and steel tariffs, taxing €2.8 billion worth of American exports to the EU, including Kentucky bourbon and Harley Davidson motorcycles manufactured in Wisconsin, the home states of Republican leaders Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, respectively.

The response is relatively mild. Trump’s tariffs target €6.6 billion in European exports to America. But it marks a new low in transatlantic relations, which started to deteriorate almost on the day Trump took office.

Where do we go from here? Below the views of four experts. Read more