Saturday, October 20, 2018


Most Europeans are repulsed by the behavior of this American president who acts more like a bouncer than as a statesman. The erratic is overtaking the rational. In less than one week, Trump overruled decency (yet again) in the Saudi "Ekaterinburg" nightmare, hit multilateralism in another bilateral trade blackmail with Japan, departed from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty without real NATO consultation, and let the gutter rule his vocabulary. Americans will have no better alternative than to run for opiates if the mid-term elections were not to bring some form of solace.

European disgust is hard to disguise but it cannot be allowed to divert from ominous developments closer to home. The populist tide is rising and tensions in hard-core EU--the Franco/German arc--are multiplying. The Brexit talks are stuck along the Irish border issue and the skills of the EU negotiator Michel Barnier cannot overcome the political impasse Theresa May finds herself in. As a consequence, the EU also looks stuck, all the more so in that Claude Juncker, president of the Commission, lacks both charisma and empathy. Another president--Margrethe Vestager?--, and a more aggressive Commission are urgently needed.

In the short term only Benelux, the Nordics, and Greece are able to stem the contrarian waves, but for how long? Anyway the Franco German engine must continue to lead, be it with a French accent. Unfortunately President Macron has more IQ than an inclusive touch. In Europe too, "Fake News" and alternative truths, multiplied by covert action (from Russia) and histrionics from Trump, rule the waves. Rightist pressure groups multiply and a toxic air starts to invade the corridors of power and the transparent ways of democratic debate. If there is no short term intervention, the Italian or Polish scenario may well proliferate. Nobody will miss Juncker (who?) but the repetition of the scenario of Churchill or de Gaulle's sendings off - for who or what under the present circumstances - would be disastrous. Also, Europe cannot let itself be lead on the anti-American path, which would accommodate the agenda of many. At present it has no other alternative than to consolidate its own profile, proximity, identity, and projection until the Trump/Pence "Strindberg couple" is demoted.

In the future the Atlantic "Commonwealth" of ideas, values and interests needs to be revisited. This can only be done between mature, informed, professional partners. The United States must address this current cultish take and the EU had better handle its internal Fourth French Republic-like problems and looks. A future waiting /cool off period is needed so that both sides can come to terms with the damage done. In America, the Trump/Cromwell coup will have longer term consequences before the governance can return to normal. Too much has been sabotaged or overtaken. The territorial gains of the extreme right will be difficult to fight. The memory of a country was given away to a pawn shop.

Europe has not come to terms with the absolute nihilism of Brexit, which is creating such a headache because it was the result of a hangover, not the qualitative algorithm for history books. The withdrawal is heart- and brain- breaking because the outcome is too bleak for all to imagine. There is no Shadenfreude in watching Theresa May veering from panic to denial. Besides, this will be a deal between two losers. The United Kingdom lost an empire. It need not lose its dignity. Europe without the UK will miss a debatable but certifiable expertise, more familiar with the world at large. Former Prime Minister David Cameron tried to play Faust but lost. One cannot fool the devil.

The near future might hold unpleasant surprises for a divided West and events will be closely monitored by mainly (but not exclusively) two onlookers--China and Russia--who see Trump stumbling and Europe repeating the usual soliloquy made by Donald Tusk, president of the European Council. Bad movies are hard to watch. Bad actors might hasten their unhappy end.

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