Europe is America's friend but Trump doesn't get it
Europe is prepared to push back against US policy. Both French President Emmanuel Macron andGerman Chancellor Angela Merkel have repeatedly stated that the EU can no longer count on the US to ensure European security.
Like a one-trick pony in the circus of yore, US President Donald Trump seems to have just one act: point to a threat to create division and fear. It plays on one of our primordial instincts, a fear of 'the other' who might take what we have or stand in our way.
As societies evolved they learned cooperation can bring better results than conflict, and mutually beneficial relationships are sustainable and more productive. But it seems that part of the evolutionary chain passed Trump by.
While still a presidential candidate, he pointed to the Mexicans as 'the other'. Later, he moved onto the Chinese, Muslims, immigrants in general, the media, and even the Canadians. It's an ever-expanding list.
So it seemed inevitable that he turned his gaze on Europe. He created conflict within g& over Nato, pulled the US out of the Paris Agreement, which was our collective pact on battling climate change. Now it is about trade. The Iran nuclear deal and Chinese telecom Huawei's possible involvement in building 5G networks have him in another hyped dither over Europe.
In an interview last year Trump said, "We have a lot of foes - I think the European Union is a foe, what they do to us in trade. Now you wouldn't think of the European Union but they're a foe."
This time the adversary he is creating is empowered and savvy, characteristics that do not bode well for Trump. But the sitting US president seems to have just that one trick, and it is almost always shared over Twitter. Earlier this month he tweeted that the "EU is a brutal trading partner" due to its Brexit negotiations. In another tweet, he exclaimed, "The EU has taken advantage of the US on trade for many years. It will soon stop!"
European leaders and members of former US administrations saw it coming and urged the US to act responsibly. An EU-US trade war is certainly not in their shared interest. Asked by CNBC about possible tariffs by the US, Anthony Gardner, US ambassador to the EU from 2014 to 2017, said, "If that is the position that Washington is going to take, that is a mistake."
"The fundamental reason is that when you look at our common concerns we probably agree on 90 per cent," Gardner said.
Most knowledgeable Europeans of course think so too.
With global growth already slowing, "a trade war between the US and EU would be both a political and economic mistake," said French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire.
Last July, Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker announced a trade pact, but it was stalled in a dispute over agricultural products.
"Europe is absolutely convinced that it excludes farm products," said Laurence Boone, chief economist at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. "And the US is absolutely convinced that the initial agreement to start discussion includes agricultural products."
"So that's not looking like a good start for the negotiations," she added. Trump has also pressured US allies to ban Huawei from the 5G next generation of mobile infrastructure due to the telecom equipment maker's alleged ties to the Chinese military and government. But European countries including Germany and the UK have not yet excluded Huawei from their national plans for 5G.
While the US might have legitimate concerns over Chinese equipment and the potential for spying, most leaders see little merit in scrapping the Iran nuclear deal arduously hammered out in 2015.
All signatories but the US continue to abide by the agreement, including Iran, which seems to be betting that it can weather the economic pressure until a new president reverses Trump's decision.
Now more than any time since WWII, Europe is prepared to push back against US policy. Both French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have repeatedly stated that the EU can no longer count on the US to ensure European security. In his usual style, Trump responded with a series of aggressive tweets about France. Macron ignored him, later noting, "I do not do policy or diplomacy by tweets."
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas criticised "the ever-changing whims of the American President" and called for Europe to "reassess" its relationship with the US. Several European nations have called for increased investment in defence spending. Europe has also developed a financial strategy to enable its companies to keep doing business with Iran while avoiding secondary sanctions from US regulators.
In an opinion piece, Mark Leonard, director of the European Council on Foreign Relations, writes that "the US president is a bully, and like any other bully, he will keep trying to push European leaders around - unless they find the courage to push back."
"To have a strong transatlantic alliance, the EU will need to develop the tools to think for itself and stand up for its own interests and the international order that underpins them," Leonard said.
Trump has now created a wide collection of 'the other' promoted as threats to the US, delusions that only create real hostilities. Beleaguered at home and distained abroad, he finds himself increasingly alone with his fantasies.
Jon Van Housen and Mariella Radaelli are editors at www.luminosityitalia.com