What Europeans Should Consider as They Engage the Trump Administration
First, it was important to underline that the U.S. leadership had already evolved under Barack Obama, who insisted on being pragmatic (“don’t do stupid things”) rather than implementing a global grand strategy. Donald Trump, whatever implications his “America First” motto may have on foreign policy, is likely to push this pragmatism to a new extreme, with a particularly narrow definition of U.S. interests.
For Europeans, it is crucial to understand that Trump’s rhetoric promotes a double rejection of globalization: from the economic point of view first, with an anti-free trade rhetoric, and diplomatically, with a form of strong unilateralism. This could be transformative for the transatlantic relations, as most European governments do not share this vision. Trump does not propose an alternative model, but simply wants to renegotiate the terms of the global order in order to get short-term benefits. This means that bilateralism will be the favored format of dialogue for Washington DC, which may impact our common ability to address 21st century issues – such as climate change, nuclear proliferation and migration – that require multilateral responses.
Finally, we insisted that in this new era for the transatlantic relation, Europeans need to think about the compromises they are ready to make. The best way to engage with the U.S. administration is to agree, among European partners, on what constitute the essence of the international order we wish to promote, and where we can accept some trade-offs. The future developments around the U.S.-China relation may already put Europeans to the test.
(The original OpEd is in French)
Photo credit Gage Skidmore