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July 02, 2018

Is Trump out to destroy both Nato and the EU?

The transatlantic political crisis is also progressing in ominous ways. The Washington Post has the story that the Pentagon has undertaken a cost and impact assessment of the withdrawal of US troops stationed in Germany - which is seen as a potential precursor to a US withdrawal from Nato. The paper writes that Donald Trump was apparently shocked when he heard that there were still 35,000 active US troops on German soil. The paper writes that the study is still at a technical level. 

Separately, there were reports last night of a legislative draft that would allow Trump to abandon WTO principles in his trade policies. Officials noted that the legislation was unrealistic and unworkable, but the president seems to be pressing ahead also as a means to build up pressure on the US' trading partners. We may laugh at Trump’s suggestion to Emmanuel Macron that he should leave the EU in order to get a better deal with the US. But we take note when John Bolton is dispatched to the UK to discuss the option of a zero-tariff zone. The US giving the UK a lifeline in case of a hard Brexit is not exactly what the EU wishes to see - and it may drive a wedge between EU member states in the final months of the negotiations. 

The EU, meanwhile, said it would earmark $300bn worth of US goods for trade sanctions if Trump were to go ahead to slap tariffs on European cars.

Where will all this end? Roger Cohen answers the question in his New York Times column with a fictional scenario under which Trump would end US support for Nato and end up destroying the EU. This is what could happen according to Cohen:

"A briefing paper prepared by his national security adviser, John Bolton, is leaked. It defines the president’s strategic objective as 'the destruction of the World Trade Organization, NATO and the European Union.’ Much progress, it notes, has been made toward all three goals. ‘The liberal democratic club is crumbling under the weight of its own decadence and political correctness.’"

We don’t think Trump will succeed to destroy the EU, but he could cause lasting damage. The EU is at greater risk from forces on the inside. (see also our separate article on Matteo Salvini).

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July 02, 2018

Salvini’s empire

Matteo Salvini has no mandate for a euro exit - and he wisely shelved that project for the duration of this administration. His game plane is much bigger and much more intelligent. He spoke yesterday of a Lega delle Leghe - a league of leagues - a European federation of like-minded parties out to usurp power in Brussels. 

In his FT column Wolfgang Munchau says the EU is under an existential threat by two men, Salvini and Donald Trump, both fearless, and both with an agenda to destroy. Munchau writes that Salvini was clever to focus on immigration as a platform to build a political majority ahead of the European elections in May 2019. He expects the two biggest factions in the EP to be a liberal group - headed by Macron - and a populist group, possibly also in a new group, or potentially even a reverse takeover of the EPP post-Merkel. The trouble with the EU, as currently constituted, is that it depends for its survival on Merkel remaining in power essentially forever, and on Salvini and Trump not being in power. Munchau concludes that the EU has turned itself into the Weimar Republic of our age.

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July 02, 2018

Remembrance as a way forward?

The return to the nation state has gained popularity once again all across Europe. And it looks like Emmanuel Macron cannot stop this from happening in France too. The most recent Ifop poll for Journal du Dimanche shows that there is an erosion of the pro-European sentiment. Only a year ago, about 56% were all for more Europe, but today these numbers have come down to 46%. About three quarters are for a reinforcement of national sovereignty, and this includes the electorate of Emmanuel Macron. This return to the nation state, observed all over Europe, is in response to Europe's incapacity to have its own stand in foreign policy, or of member states to agree on how to move forward. These are certainly no easy times. We have seen those tides before. How to move forward from here?

The formidable Simone Veil, a Holocaust survivor and a passionate believer in Europe, was buried in the Pantheon this last weekend. In his speech Macron evoked her as a compass:

"May her struggles, her dignity, her hope remain a compass in the troubled times we are going through ... We owe it to Simone Veil not to let those doubts and crises that sweep over Europe mitigate the dazzling victory that for 70 years we have won over the rifts and wanderings of past centuries."

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