Wednesday, February 19, 2020


The two pillars of the Atlantic Alliance are wobbling. The US administration's view of Western Europe is mostly negative. The Western European view of all things Washington is marked by intellectual bewilderment. While most Europeans wish that the former trust and sympathy might be restored, few believe this might happen in the near future. Trump is already considered the winner of the November US presidential elections and it is expected that his most unappealing patterns of policy making and settling scores by tweet will be let loose. 

The recent traditional anual Munich gathering of Western leaders showed how the existing gap is becoming nastier and personal. The American secretary of State has become almost an unwelcome persona non grata in the EU. France and Germany no longer hide their antipathy versus an administration that is so blatantly adverse to any form of moral or intellectual empathy. The French president is trying to arrive at some form of modus vivendi with Russia before Trump sells out. The unrest in Eastern Ukraine is very well-timed by Moscow, given the American president's antipathy towards Kiev. If Trump goes to Moscow in May, he might be tempted to play for the media and come up with yet again another trick in the bag. 

Europeans had better face the new reality. Trump is changing the world as it was. He does the same for the US, which is no longer the country with the checks and balances of yesterday. They are becoming the political fiefdom of a right-wing coterie, which found in this president the perfect errand boy for a conservative take-over. It is remarkable to see how this Jacksonian-like power grab is able to take hold of all branches of  government. Culture, trade, justice, climate, science, education are all under fire. The Democrats and the liberal elites are losing the battle for hearts and minds.

What can Europe do?  It stands between an ally it no longer loves and Russia it cannot really trust. The alternative of 'Finlandisation' by consent is becoming real. The accelerated disenchantment with all things American could even make such an outcome appear as the lesser evil  Some see such a radical U-turn as a way to safeguard Europe's needs for (Russian) energy. The former Atlantic security guarantee could be swapped for a more pedestrian arrangement. Europeans argue that Americans should abstain from imposing their Huawei-type of  hysteria on Europe's energy policy arrangements.

A reversal of strategy would still be very hard to arrive at since the Eastern borders--the Baltic states in the first place--would require an iron-clad security model. Some argue that the new American grueling ways should be endured instead. One should be aware that the damage resulting from eight years of this turbulence risks being hard to reverse. 

The most worrisome trend in all this is the break of collegiality and personal sympathy which prevailed from the FDR/Churchill days to JFK (the Suez crisis between the US and France, the UK and Israel was short-lived). Europe might not have a better choice than to return to a new Gaullist concept. Macron is certainly revisiting de Gaulle's freelancing ways. He walks a dangerous path. To be disenchanted with Trump is normal. To become anti-American is a mistake.

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