Hello and welcome dear reader!
Always a pleasure to know you are happy, relaxed and ready to sit down with me for a few minutes of your time!
So today I thought I would combine my interest in the USA 2016 Presidential Election campaign with my evident passion for all things Europe.
We now know that the Republican Party has selected the controversial (read ‘absolutely mental’ in my English way of understating things!) businessman, Donald J Trump, as its candidate. Racist, sexist, fraud, narcissist call him what you will (and I often do!) many articles are out there about him but I want to look at what a potential President Trump will mean for our lovely continent of Europe. We already know what a likely President Hillary Clinton or President Bernie Sanders would look like for Europe but Trump is if nothing else a totally unknown entity with no clear policy positions in this policy arena.
So let us start with his first major foreign policy speech a few weeks back. It was characteristically superficial and ill thought out but reading between the lines he was essentially outlining a sentiment shared by some more moderate voices in America that Europe needs to up its defence spending. Since WWII America has maintained bases across Europe, in the UK and Germany most notably, but also along the eastern flank in Poland and Romania as well. In Mr Trump’s underwhelming speech he whinged that “after I am elected President I will call a summit with our NATO allies….we will discuss not only a rebalancing of financial commitments but take a fresh look at how we can adopt new strategies for tackling our common challenges.”
First Mr Trump’s breathtaking arrogance in believing he can just “summon” what are the USA’s oldest allies in Europe like naughty schoolchildren will not go down well.
Second as Sean Kay outlined in a Carnegie Europe article about this 2% defence spending pledge, made at a NATO Summit in 2014, increasing conventional defence spending might buy big tanks and long range missiles but they fail to meet the threats Europe faces today. Europe already has two nuclear powers and a formidable and competitive defence industrial base in Germany, Sweden, France and the UK. However, the threats to security in Europe come from refugee flows, terrorism, cyber attacks, Eurozone economic problems and Russia. Now the latter point, Russia, can no longer be met in a Reagan-esque style arms race. The Russians are using their intelligence services and populist political proxies across the European continent to undermine a successful Europe and European structures from within.
When President Obama came to office in 2008 the strategic thinking was that the Asia Pacific region would be the new theatre for any instability. President Vladimir Putin of Russia abruptly changed that thinking when he invaded Ukraine and occupied Crimea in 2014. He has since aggressively dispatched Russian sorties into UK, Swedish, German, Polish and Baltic airspace and territorial waters. Mr Obama has since rectified to meet this new challenge and only last week sent top US fighter jets, the F22 Raptor planes (which travel at twice the speed of sound) to Romania, reports the US broadcaster CNN.
Now, Mr Trump, if he is truly interested in helping to refashion NATO into fighting terrorism and handling the migration flows from Africa and the Middle East (as he argues later on in his rather ham fisted monologue), then he should realise that the European Union (EU) is the perfect fulcrum for this, and it has led the way in finding resolutions to these challenges. For example, the European Commission has stated that it has spent a hefty €5 billion since 2011 to date on assistance to refugees. Yet, only today, on the UK’s Good Morning Britain programme, Mr Trump stated that Britain would be fine outside the EU! It beggars belief dear reader!
Away from his speech, which contains little else of interest to my purpose in this article, his crude comments betray his ignorance of world affairs, including Europe. In a show of utter contempt and disrespect, following terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels, he labelled them “disaster cities” and said they used to be nice but because of their darker skinned residents they were no longer so appealing! If we look at the solidarity shown by European allies after the 9/11 attacks on America and the San Bernadino shootings we can see what kind of a ‘friend’ he’d be to his NATO allies in Europe! Utterly disgusting in my view. European leaders have courageously condemned his proposed ban on Muslims coming to the USA and recently London’s new Muslim Mayor, Sadiq Khan, condemned the proposal and called Mr Trump ‘ignorant.’
This is not to say the perma tanned, thin skinned American businessman doesn’t have allies in Europe. He is popular with his fellow neo=fascists in Rome, Brussels, London and Paris most notably.
In Italy, Matteo Salvini, leader of the Northern League, recently visited the USA and had his picture taken shaking hands with Donald Trump. His Twitter proudly displays the image and both share a sympathy towards Mussolini. In Brussels, Mischael Modrikamen, leader of the People’s Party, stated he “fully supports Mr Trump” and released a video defending the Republican Party leader. In the UK, Nigel Farage distanced himself from the ban on Muslims but said “that we are underestimating his (Trump’s) abilities.” Even though their leader might have held Mr Trump’s ban at a distance Mr Farage’s UKIP party supporters backed the proposal by a two thirds majority! In France, even Marine Le Pen, leader of the National Front, called Mr Trump’s ban “a step too far” but her father lavished praise on the American!
The American former reality TV star, has also made overtures to President Putin in Moscow. Arguably a grave, if not the gravest, threat to European unity and success, Mr Trump has said Putin is “widely respected in his own country and beyond” and Putin has described Trump in turn as “talented without a doubt.” A mural of them kissing has even been painted on the side of a Lithuanian restaurant, mimicking the infamous Brezhnev-Honecker embrace.
In essence what I have tried to do is to string together a vision (albeit a pretty scary one!) of what impact a Trump presidency could have for Europe. He would probably have poor relations with European leaders, akin to the Obama-Netanyahu relationship, where the evident loathing of one another would be obvious in summit after summit, and would serve to fray the strong economic, security bonds which have ensured prosperity and stability across the Atlantic for a generation.
I refuse to jump to the conclusion that the friendship would rip apart, as European leaders such as Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande are pragmatists, but there would be an obvious cooling and no chance of a TTIP free trade agreement. You can also imagine a fair number of justifiable snubs from dignitaries and raucous demonstrations by leftists and Muslims whenever the US President crossed the Ocean.
At least we know he would return the selfies with odious individuals such as Salvini and Le Pen Senior and he would feel more comfortable in the gold encrusted fortress of the Kremlin than the ultra modern Chancelleries and official residences in Berlin or Madrid.
I just hope and pray that this article will never come true and that this piece will be my proudest failure!