January 16, 2017
Trump doubles down against the EU
James Mattis, Donald Trump's nomination for defence secretary, took a different line on Nato during his confirmation hearing than Trump himself, so one might be tempted to play down some of the president-elects more eccentric comments. But our reading of his interview in the The Times and Bild is different. Trump has doubled down on everything he said about the EU, Brexit, and Nato. After reading this, we are left in no doubt that, for the first time, the US no longer sees the EU as a partner, but as a rival it wants to weaken. This is the passage which struck us the most:
“You look at the European Union and it’s Germany. Basically a vehicle for Germany. That’s why I thought the UK was so smart in getting out.”
Bild is getting into a frenzy over Trump's de facto pre-announcement of import tariffs of 35% on German car makers, and says BMW in particular should reconsider plans to build a factory to export cars into the US. In the interview Trump mentioned several times that Nato was obsolete. He did not want to pull out of Nato, or destroy the alliance, but it is clear that its usefulness to him is at best marginal. He also reiterated that he would offer President Vladimir Putin a deal to end sanctions in exchange for a nuclear weapons reduction agreement.
The Times article also mentioned - without making a big fuss about it - that European travellers to the US might face restrictions starting next Monday. Since most Europeans are eligible for a visa waiver, this might imply a suspension of participation in the Esta registration programme.