The election of Donald Trump has left everyone in absolute shock. Whether you are utterly excited or outraged with the result, the reaction in the rest of the so-called free world has been one of angst.
To better understand why that is, it is important to keep in mind that the perception of the political spectrum is very different in Europe than in the U.S. During the presidential campaign, Trump has been extensively linked to the far-right political movement sweeping Europe, from Marine Le Pen in France to Geert Wilders in the Netherlands. On a continent with a history of atrocities committed by those with similar ideologies, the idea of Trump’s election in the U.S. emboldening these movements in Europe generates a considerable amount of fear. For Europe, the rise of these forces represents, among other things, an existential threat.
WWII may also be a second source of anxiety in Europe. On his last official visit in Berlin, President Barack Obama handed the mantle of the leader of the free world to Angela Merkel, the German chancellor. And although Merkel has been the de facto leader of the EU during its successive crises, this is not a role the Germans want to play.
Having caused two small, unimportant wars you may have heard about—you know, those little things call the two world wars—Germany has proven reluctant to assume a more prominent role on the world stage. Still, Germany has been forced to do so during Europe’s financial and refugee crises, mainly due to the weakness of its EU partners. If the U.S. chooses to take a more isolationist approach, the gap Germany will have to fill will be both economic and political. If Germany has been hesitant with its military spending, imagine what it will be if it has to act as global security guarantor.
Europe may have been judgmental of American interventionism, but on a political level, it is unhappy to be handed this thankless role.
Now, during his electoral campaign, Donald Trump made a number of statements that could be considered worrisome for Europe. From his pledge to abolish trade deal talks, to his disinterest in the Paris climate agreement, to his courting Russia’s President Vladimir Putin—known not only for his strongman governance in his country, but also for his contentious relationship with the West on a number of fronts, from Ukraine to Syria.
The most troubling, however, must be the infamous NATO declaration. It is true that most European NATO members consistently underpay for their defense budget, not reaching the two percent of GDP requirement. It is also true that many of them are unwilling to change that, both for political (mainstream politics are, in general, more left-leaning in Europe) and for economic reasons (some parts of Europe have not yet completely escaped the financial crisis). However, it is stated in NATO’s founding treaties that the protection of its members shall not be conditional. So, however right Trump may be about everyone’s equal responsibility, his saying that the U.S. will not protect its NATO allies unless they pay up represents, as a matter of diplomacy, a serious breach of the treaty.
Nobody knows for sure what will actually happen after January 20th, and the American citizens are definitely not the only ones waiting to find out. However critical the rest of the world may be of the States from time to time, they still need the U.S.
Featured image courtesy of cotidianul.ro