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

The cracks in Trump-Europe relations are becoming a precipice

Earlier this week European Union refused to include the United States in its list of “safe countries, “Which means that American travelers will be unwanted within the block in the foreseeable future, due to the obvious numbers of coronavirus infection in the United States. Controversially, the list includes China, the country of origin of the virus, subject to reciprocal agreements.
EU officials insist the decision is not political and is based entirely on epidemiological evidence, hoping to reassure US President Donald Trump, a man who has attacks the block several times.

However, others privately admit that Brussels wanted to make the pill more enjoyable for the American public, they could add sugar coating. “In the past, I see that we may not have included China to keep the United States happy,” said an EU diplomat, who is not authorized to give a brief account of how the decision was made.

It may seem a stretch to take this incident as evidence of a rift in transatlantic relations until you put 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 DC is to engage 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 the last few years, Brussels has been sticking to its weapons on major international issues, as Trump is tearing everything apart. Consider the Paris Climate Agreement, the nuclear deal in Iran, 5Gand you are beginning to see a pattern of behavior in which the EU could be seen as a country of China with its oldest ally. Of course, this may be a heterogeneous reading of the situation, given the deep, established connection between Europe and the United States, but in this context, any perception of friendly attitudes towards Beijing inflicts real bruises.

“Knowing what we know about China’s data, how it behaved during the pandemic and the White House’s position, I think we would prevent them in another world,” the diplomat said. This other world he is referring to is not just the world before Trump took office.

A Brussels official working on EU foreign policy but not authorized to speak on the protocol said the shift from Europe as a geopolitical priority began with former US President Barack Obama.

“Obama is not as close to the Middle East as previous presidents, which is geographically a European problem. And he was shifting his priorities from Europe to China and Asia,” the official said.

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However, longtime observers of the alliance believe that it has been strained for the last four years – and will 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 competitor, which means tensions can be expected if he gets a second term,” said Velina Chakarova of the Austrian Institute for European and Security Policy.

She said that while the EU was taking steps to “build stronger autonomy in the field of security and defense”, Trump was trying to “undermine such efforts through his attacks on European NATO members, as well as through economic and trade measures”.

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

The EU diplomat acknowledges this characteristic of a hostile US administration that goes out of its way to avoid working with Europeans. “The problem is that UK officials who want to work with Europe while in contact don’t have a mandate from the government to get involved in any serious way. They’ve hung on as long as they can, but if we get a second Trump term, then we’re in real trouble. “

President Trump has criticized the bloc several times.

According to Chakarova, this is the reason “the EU institutions and the leaders of the member states hope that Joe Biden will be elected in November … he is for multilateralism and he is expected to strengthen ties between the United States and Europe. “

CNN asked numerous officials from EU institutions and diplomats from both sides of the Atlantic for comment. Most declined to comment; several admitted that they believed this to be the case. A European diplomat said: “We will dance with the one on the dance floor, but it doesn’t take a genius to see that cooperation between the EU and the US is weaker at the moment.”

Asked to comment on the EU’s potential turnaround in its historic ties with the United States, a State Department spokesman said: “The United States and the EU share a strong, lasting partnership based on shared democratic values ​​and governance, respect for human rights and the rule of law. , deep economic ties and a commitment to transatlantic prosperity and security. This long-standing partnership is vital as we coordinate many international efforts. “

However, Biden’s potential victory would not be a quick fix for the transatlantic partnership. “The question is not really whether you can return the connection to where it was, but if we can persuade the United States to rejoin the Western order,” said the EU diplomat.

“The US and EU geopolitical guidelines for Asia, the Middle East and trade, respectively, have already begun. The difference now is that we believe the West should move as a whole.”

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

Of course, none of this means that the transatlantic alliance will cease to be important. It will remain central to what the West represents, and the United States will always be a more important ally for Europe than China could ever be. In addition, the EU’s big plans to engage more with China have been dealt a severe blow by the Covid-19 outbreak.

However, this fading veneer of heat – with a Europe looking for a new place on the world stage when the global role of the United States becomes inherently more unpredictable – can only be seen as good news for those against whom these historically Western powers have united. not so long ago.

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