Cracks in the Trump-Europe relationship are turning into a gap

Cracks in the Trump-Europe relationship are turning into a gap

Earlier this week, the European Union refused to include the United States in the list of “safe countries”, which means that American travelers will be unwanted within the bloc for the immediate future due to US coronavirus infection numbers. Instead, the list includes China – the country from which the virus originated – subject to mutual settlement.
EU officials insist the decision is not political and is based entirely on epidemiological evidence, in the hope that it will reassure US President Donald Trump, a man who has repeatedly attacked the bloc.

However, others privately admit that if Brussels wanted to make the pill more palatable to an American audience, they could have added a sugar coating. “In the past, I have seen that we may not have included China in keeping the United States happy,” said an EU diplomat, who was not authorized to speak on how to make the decision.

It may seem a stretch to consider this incident as proof of a rupture in transatlantic relations, until you place it in the current geopolitical context. It’s no secret Washington is less interested in European affairs these days. And it is well known that European nations are actively seeking greater diplomatic autonomy than America. This is especially true for the 27 member states of the European Union.

One of the ways in which Brussels believes it can distance itself from the DC is to work with China as a strategic and economic partner, reducing its dependence on one of the world’s superpowers by balancing its relationship with the other.

In recent years, Brussels has stuck to its weapons on major international issues as Trump tore everything apart. Consider the Paris Climate Agreement, the Iran Nuclear Agreement, 5G, and you are beginning to see a pattern of behavior in which the EU could be seen as aligned with China over its former ally. Sure, it can be a generous read of the situation, given the deep, established link between Europe and the United States, but in this context, any perceived friendship with Beijing is causing a very real bruise.

“Knowing what we know about China, how it behaved during the pandemic and the attitude of the White House, I think in another world we would keep them away,” he said. The other world he is referring to is not just the world before Trump took office.

An Brussels official who is involved in EU foreign policy but is not authorized to speak on the spot said that the transition from Europe as a geopolitical priority began under former US President Barack Obama.

“Obama has not been so closely interested in the Middle East as previous presidents, which is geographically more than a European problem. And he is changing his priorities from Europe to China and Asia,” the official said.

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However, longtime observers of the alliance acknowledge that it has been strained for the past four years – and it will only get worse if Donald Trump defeats former Vice President Joe Biden in this year’s US election. “Trump sees the EU, especially Germany, as an economic and trade rival, which means tensions could rise if he takes a second term,” said Velina Tsakarova of the Austrian Institute for European and Political Security.

He said that as the EU takes steps to “build stronger autonomy in the field of security and defense”, Trump is trying to “undermine such efforts through his attacks on NATO members in Europe as well as through economic and trade measures”.

The Brussels official explains that Trump’s “break from the multilateralism” on major international issues such as Iran, combined with the US taking “less responsibility for European security”, has accelerated European thinking to take a step away from America and “doing our thing in the world stage.”

This characterization of a hostile US government that avoids cooperating with Europeans is what the EU diplomat acknowledges. “The problem is, DC officials who want to work with Europe while in contact do not have “The government has taken it seriously. They have been hanged as much as they can, but if we take a second Trump, then we are in real trouble.”

President Trump has repeatedly criticized the bloc.

That, according to Tsakarova, is why “EU institutions and leaders of the Member States hope that Joe Biden will be elected in November … he is in favor of the multilateral and the expectation is that he will strengthen ties.” between the US and Europe “

CNN approached many officials from EU institutions and diplomats on both sides of the Atlantic for comments. Most declined to comment. Many acknowledged that this was true. A European diplomat said: “We will dance with anyone on the track, but we don’t need genius to see that EU-US cooperation is low at the moment.”

Asked to comment on a possible EU axis away from its historical ties with the United States, a State Department spokesman said: “The United States and the European Union share a strong, enduring partnership based on shared democratic values ​​and governance, respect for human rights. and the rule of law, deep economic ties and commitment to transatlantic prosperity and security. This long-term partnership is vital as we coordinate a number of international efforts. “

However, a possible victory for Biden will not provide a quick solution for the transatlantic partnership. “The question is not whether you can bring the relationship back to where it was, but whether we can persuade the United States to rejoin the West,” he said.

“The geopolitical axes of the United States and the European Union for Asia, the Middle East and trade have already begun, respectively. The difference at the moment is that we believe the West must rotate as one.”

And even if Biden returns to the Obama-era policy of Europe, there is no guarantee that in four years he will not be replaced by someone more radical than Trump. “The fundamental changes that are taking place in the United States are likely to remain and we need to adjust, making the best of the relationship we can. These changes are structural and not just one-man,” said the Brussels official.

Of course, none of this means that the transatlantic alliance will stop being important. It will remain central to what the West represents, and the United States will always be a more important ally of Europe than China could ever be. After all, the EU’s major plans to work more closely with China were a major blow to the Covid-19 outbreak.

However, this weakened veil of warmth – with Europe seeking a new place on the world stage as the US global role becomes inherently more unpredictable – can only be seen as good news for those who joined these historic Western powers. so long ago.

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