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).