Judy Asks: Does Trump Need Europe?
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A selection of experts answer a new question from Judy Dempsey on the foreign and security policy challenges shaping Europe’s role in the world.
Rosa Balfour - Senior fellow and acting director of the Europe program at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, and member of the steering committee of Women in International Security (WIIS)-Brussels
Perhaps British Prime Minister Theresa May thought that U.S. President Donald Trump could do with some sound advice from the old continent. That hope was quickly proven as wishful thinking last week: just as May was warning of the need to abide by values, Trump was signing executive orders to allow waterboarding and to shut borders to religiously identified migrants and refugees. May’s recent White House visit was a disgrace for Britain, and Trump has demonstrated that he certainly does not think he needs Europe—in fact, he seems to despise it.
Yet the United States needs a strong, stable, and inspiring Europe more than ever. Whatever Trump and his associates may think, the transatlantic relationship has not been a matter of the United States providing unilateral support to a fledgling Europe; it has supported American economic growth and its stability has provided security in areas of prime U.S. interest for decades.
Europe has no choice but to limit the chaos that Trump is unleashing, first and foremost by preventing the entire transatlantic relationship from falling apart under the dual centrifugal forces of Brexit and the new U.S. administration’s divisive policy toward the EU. And the rest of the world will need Europe to pick up the pieces of the reckless political choices being made across the Atlantic.
Alexandra de Hoop Scheffer - Senior transatlantic fellow and director of the Paris Office of the German Marshall Fund of the United States
Yes, Trump needs a united Europe. However, the U.S. president’s preference toward alliances with nation states in the EU rather than a transatlantic alliance is further undermining European cohesion. The U.S.-German special relationship, which had helped preserve the EU’s internal cohesion on sanctions since 2014, has been hastily replaced by the return of the U.S.-UK special relationship at a time when Britain is disentangling itself from Europe. This plays directly into the hands of Putin, who seeks to divide the EU and NATO.
To avoid falling into this trap, the best attitude Europe can adopt toward the United States is one of greater policy independence, a posture that was described by former French minister of Foreign Affairs Hubert Védrine as, “amie, alliée, mais pas alignée”, or “friend, allied, but not aligned,” with U.S. policy.
If transatlantic unity becomes less obvious under the Trump administration, at the EU level unity will become an absolute necessity. EU member states will have to step up efforts to meet NATO members’ commitment to devote 2 percent of their GDP NATO to defense; better coordinate refugee flows at the EU level; and seize the U.S. withdrawal from TPP as an opportunity to enter into an economic relationship with China.