Nord Stream Sanctions Are No Way to Treat European Allies

American president Donald Trump speaks with German chancellor Angela Merkel at the G20 summit in Hamburg, July 6, 2017
American president Donald Trump speaks with German chancellor Angela Merkel at the G20 summit in Hamburg, July 6, 2017 (Bundesregierung)

Senators in the United States have approved sanctions against companies that are involved in building the Nord Stream 2 pipeline between Russia and Germany.

The sanctions, which President Donald Trump has yet to sign into law, are a last-ditch attempt to halt the pipeline’s construction, which the Americans argue will only increase Europe’s dependence on Russian gas and hurt Ukraine’s position as a transit nation.

They’re not wrong, but placing sanctions on allies is no way to go about it, especially when they have no alternative. Read more “Nord Stream Sanctions Are No Way to Treat European Allies”

British “Patriots” Kowtow to Trump

NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg, American president Donald Trump and British prime minister Theresa May attend a ceremony at NATO headquarters in Brussels, May 25, 2017
NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg, American president Donald Trump and British prime minister Theresa May attend a ceremony at NATO headquarters in Brussels, May 25, 2017 (NATO)

When Donald Trump won the American election in 2016, I warned his European admirers that they should not expect favors from him. Trump may be a kindred spirit, but his zero-sum view of the world was never going to benefit anyone else.

The sorry tale of the British ambassador to the United States, Kim Darroch, is a case in point. Read more “British “Patriots” Kowtow to Trump”

Different Player, Same Game

Presidents Andrzej Duda of Poland and Donald Trump of the United States answer questions from reporters at the White House in Washington DC, June 12
Presidents Andrzej Duda of Poland and Donald Trump of the United States answer questions from reporters at the White House in Washington DC, June 12 (White House/Shealah Craighead)

Donald Trump has not exactly shied away from advocating for better American relations with Russia. During his presidential campaign, he argued that “Russia and the United States should be able to work well with each other toward defeating terrorism and restoring world peace.” He has repeatedly praised Vladimir Putin and accepted his denials of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

But even Trump’s Russophilia is no match for geopolitical reality. Read more “Different Player, Same Game”

Mattis’ Resignation Shocks European Allies

NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg speaks with Defense Secretary James Mattis and Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison of the United States going into a North Atlantic Council meeting in Brussels, February 14
NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg speaks with Defense Secretary James Mattis and Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison of the United States going into a North Atlantic Council meeting in Brussels, February 14 (NATO)

The resignation of American defense secretary James Mattis has shocked European allies, who were counting on the former Marine Corps general to protect them from the whims of President Donald Trump. Read more “Mattis’ Resignation Shocks European Allies”

Bush’s Ambivalent Yugoslavia Policy Shaped Transatlantic Relations for Decade

American president George H.W. Bush, Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney, French president François Mitterand and German chancellor Helmut Kohl attend the G7 summit in Munich, July 6, 1992
American president George H.W. Bush, Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney, French president François Mitterand and German chancellor Helmut Kohl attend the G7 summit in Munich, July 6, 1992 (Institut François Mitterand)

Reflections on George H.W. Bush’s legacy have generally emphasized his commitment to the transatlantic alliance and its benign consequences for Europe’s post-Cold War transition. Lost in the narrative is the former president’s ambivalence toward the restive movements on the outer edges the Soviet empire.

The result was a full-blown civil conflict in Yugoslavia that undermined America’s confidence in its European allies and fueled a unilateralist streak that would animate a decade of American-led interventions. Read more “Bush’s Ambivalent Yugoslavia Policy Shaped Transatlantic Relations for Decade”

What America’s Midterm Elections Mean for Europe

German chancellor Angela Merkel, American president Donald Trump, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau and other G7 leaders meet in Charlevoix, June 8
German chancellor Angela Merkel, American president Donald Trump, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau and other G7 leaders meet in Charlevoix, June 8 (Flickr/Justin Trudeau)

Congress doesn’t make foreign policy; the president does. So whether or not Donald Trump’s Republicans win or lose on Tuesday, America’s relations with its allies across the Atlantic are unlikely to change — for the better or worse. Read more “What America’s Midterm Elections Mean for Europe”

EU Shields Companies from Trump’s New Sanctions on Iran

Donald Trump Giuseppe Conte
American president Donald Trump and Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte arrive to a NATO summit in Brussels, July 12 (NATO)

The European Union has announced measures to protect companies that do business with Iran from American sanctions.

The BBC reports that an EU “blocking statute” bans European firms from complying with the sanctions, unless they get approval from the European Commission.

It also enables businesses to recover damages resulting from American sanctions on Iranian cars, gold and other metals. Read more “EU Shields Companies from Trump’s New Sanctions on Iran”

When America First Meets Italy First

American president Donald Trump and Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte arrive to a NATO summit in Brussels, July 12
American president Donald Trump and Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte arrive to a NATO summit in Brussels, July 12 (NATO)

My latest post for the Atlantic Council’s New Atlanticist blog previews next week’s meeting between American president Donald Trump and Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte.

Although the leaders got along well at the recent G7 and NATO summits, and share views on immigration, international relations and trade, I wouldn’t be surprised if the meeting turned out to be a disappointment.

On both military spending and trade — Trump’s pet peeves when it comes to Europe — Conte’s government opposes the American president. Read more “When America First Meets Italy First”

How Should Europe Deal with the Putin Apologist in the White House?

American president Donald Trump and Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte arrive to a NATO summit in Brussels, July 12
American president Donald Trump and Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte arrive to a NATO summit in Brussels, July 12 (NATO)

I’m glad Donald Trump’s shameful behavior in Helsinki, coming on the heels of his ally-bashing in Brussels and the United Kingdom, is finally waking up even conservatives to the fact that we have a Putin apologist in the White House.

When former intelligence chiefs start to call the president a traitor for accepting Vladimir Putin’s denials of waging information warfare on the United States, we should perhaps ask ourselves if Jonathan Chait didn’t have a point when he argued in New York magazine that the Trump-Russia scandal could be worse than we thought?

For us in Europe, the why matters less than the what. Whatever Trump’s motives, we must deal with an American president who is determined to sabotage the Atlantic alliance and establish an accord with Putin.

The question is, how? Read more “How Should Europe Deal with the Putin Apologist in the White House?”

Removing American Troops from Germany Would Be a Mistake

German fighter planes
Three American F-15s and a German Starfighter participate in a NATO exercise over Castle Neuschwanstein on the border with Austria, September 1, 1982 (USAF/Richard M. Diaz)

President Donald Trump, apparently surprised to learn (two years on the job) that the United States have around 35,000 troops in Germany, is considering pulling his soldiers out. He has ordered the Defense Department to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of their presence.

Such a study would no doubt find that the benefits outweigh the costs. Those 35,000 troops — down from a Cold War peak of 400,000 — serve American, not German, interests. Read more “Removing American Troops from Germany Would Be a Mistake”