Standing up to ‘The Donald’

Staff Columnist

Europe has few good options for dealing with America’s President

Charlemagne, The Economist  May 19th 2018

Tis good to see ourselves the way others see us.

“Remember ‘Love Actually’?  Back in 2003, in the heat of the Iraq crisis,  British hearts were lifted by Hugh Grant’s portrayal of a prime minister publicly humiliating a bullying American president.  In 2018 Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal with Iran is inspiring Europeans to obey their own moments of Grantian hauteur.  ‘Do we want to be vassals who obey decisions taken by the United States while clinging to the hem of their trousers?’ asked Bruno Le Maire, France’s finance minister.  German diplomats are spitting blood.  One magazine urged Europe to join the anti-Trump ‘resistance’.

If that seems a trifle overcooked, the strength of the fury shows the value of the Iran deal for Europeans.  In one neat package it diminished a security threat, bolstered multilateralism and strengthened the transatlantic bond.  The Europeans fought desperately to assuage Mr.. Trump’s concerns, and earned only humiliation.  Their current efforts to stop him slapping tariffs on their steel and aluminium exports next month may be similarly doomed.  The twin pillars of Europe’s place in the world are the multilateral rules-based order and the transatlantic alliance.  Mr.. Trump seems to be forcing  Europeans to choose between them.”

More from The Economist::  “For now, the path seems clear.  Meeting this week in Sofia, Europe’s leaders agreed they would keep the nuclear deal alive.  The options include countermeasures like ‘blocking regulation’ to shield European firms investing in Iran from American sanctions.  Whether they will succeed is an open question; for many European companies, the American market is too important to risk. (Germany exports about as much to North Carolina as to Iran.)

If all this hints at a new readiness to get tough, it is in part because other tactics have flopped.  Emmanuel Macron, the so-called ‘Trump whisperer’, tried flattery; he was ignored.  Angela Merkel’s softly-softly approach found only Trumpian derision.

Mr… Trump paints the European Union as a plot against American interests and has urged its disintegration.  These days European diplomats mutter that only the hard-nosed seem to get results from Mr..  Trump.  Europe is rich and capable.  Perhaps it is time to acknowledge that America can be an adversary as well as a partner.

It seems self-defeating to try to defend the multilateral order using the same divisive tactics as Mr.. Trump.  The WTO, perhaps Mr.. Trump’s next target, is already tottering; it might not survive an escalation between the world’s two largest trading partners.  America’s withdrawal from the Iran deal leaves the Europeans awkwardly lining up with China and Russia to offer sweeteners to the regime in Iran – a serial human-rights  violator and source of regional instability.”

The Economist Finishing:  “Trump 2.0

Yet it would be myopic to blame The Donald alone for the sense of transatlantic drift.  The end of the cold war, and growing threats elsewhere set America on a different geopolitical course.  Even Barack Obama, who believed in alliances and knew how to appeal to Europeans’ vanity, wanted to pivot America towards Asia.  It is hard to imagine a president who would not.  Mr.. Trump’s successors may not share his aversion to partnership.  But nor will they preside over a return to the status quo ante.

But maintaining unity is difficult when many European countries, especially in the east, are not convinced that they must line up with their own continental partners in geopolitical affairs. Only last week  three governments vetoed a  planned EU  statement condemning Mr.. Trump’s decision to move America’s Israeli embassy to Jerusalem.  Standing  up to Mr… Trump feels intoxicating, but Europe’s options are limited by its own divisions and dependence.  If America drops its end of the international order, Europe lacks the strength to support the entire structure alone.”

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