Donald Trump has a troubled relationship with Europe. The US President has publicly berated European allies for everything from trade tariffs to defence spending, arguing that EU countries are habitually taking advantage of American generosity. Even would-be ideological bedfellows, such as Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, reportedly have a fractious personal relationship with the President.

Is this just a shift in rhetoric? Observers argue that Trump is merely giving a louder voice to existing and long-held concerns, but they argue there hasn’t been any fundamental policy shift in terms of the transatlantic relationship. In other words, the EU and the US remain the closest of friends and allies, even if they may bicker once in a while. Others, however, argue Europe can no longer rely on the United States and that the EU must take a more independent path.

Want to learn more about the current state of the transatlantic alliance? Check out our infographic below (click for a bigger version):

What do our readers think? We had a comment sent in from Octavian, who thinks the US, under any administration, shares the same basic values as Europe and “sticks with its allies”. In other words, ignore the headlines, the EU-US relationship is as strong as it’s ever been. Is he right? Under the surface, are relations just as strong as ever?

To get a response, we spoke to David O’Sullivan, the outgoing Ambassador of the European Union to the United States. Controversially, Ambassador O’Sullivan had his diplomatic status downgraded by the Trump administration in late 2018, though it seems to have been restored since. Nevertheless, many analysts view the protocol kerfuffle as yet another sign the relationship between Europe and the US is not in a healthy place.

So, how would Ambassador O’Sullivan respond to Octavian’s comment? Is the EU-US relationship fundamentally strong?

I think the answer to that is yes. This is a relationship which has a long history, we have deep ties: both economic and commercial, which are extensive; the security relationship, and our common values, which really do bind us together very closely. We share more with each other than either of us do with any other country or region.

It’s also a relationship which has had its ups and downs. It’s not always been smooth sailing; we’ve had disagreements in the past, and we will probably have them in the future. I also think, just to be clear, that nonetheless we have to acknowledge that just as Europe changes, so America changes. The politics which are currently going on in the United States reflect a debate, an active debate, about the future direction of the United States, and we should not be complacent about the transatlantic relationship. It needs to be reinvented for every generation.

To get another perspective, we also spoke to Lauren Speranza Deputy Director of the Transatlantic Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security. How would she respond? Would she agree with Octavian?

I think that’s right. Overall, while US rhetoric towards Europe has significantly changed under President Trump, US transatlantic security policy on the whole really has not. Yes, Trump has indeed engaged in harsher criticism of the NATO alliance and European allies’ lack of defence spending, but as Octavian said those issues are not new. US administrations have been calling for greater burden-sharing for years, even under Obama with Bob Gates before that. So, if you look at the policy really over the past few years, the Trump administration has really done a lot when it comes to Europe on security and defence, even if most of that has been done by a select few steady-handed advisers on Europe.

[The Trump administration] has invested clearly in the European Deterrence Initiative, which really enhances US presence, activities, exercises, and infrastructure in Europe. It continues to uphold its commitments to NATO through supporting the Enhanced Forward Presence on the Eastern flank, it has continued its presence in Poland and is considering expanding that, despite drawing down in other parts of the world, and it really supported a strong, substantive summit declaration coming out of the Brussels summit last year, which I think were some of the most robust, substantive points that we’ve seen in quite some time.

So, I think, yes, the rhetoric is there, and I do think that that has done some damage to the transatlantic relationship in terms of undermining allied trust. But those values do persist; this is not an alliance of convenience, it’s about shared history, shared values, and shared security. And I think that when push comes to shove, the US will be there for its allies.

Can Europe’s alliance with the USA survive Trump? Is the EU-US relationship still fundamentally strong? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: (c) BigStock – jctabb; PORTRAIT CREDITS: O’Sullivan (c) EEAS, Speranza (c) Atlantic Council

46 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    Shadow Hand

    Trump is more direct and less politically correct but it’s the same USA.

  2. avatar

    If it doesnt then it shows alot about the people we elect in europe.

    I could understand the relationship not surviving if he gets reelected.

  3. avatar

    Can European politicians survive ISDS? (CETA / TTIP / TISA)
    Sooner or later everyone voted for ISDS – containing agreements must be held accountable personally.

  4. avatar

    What do we want? Be stuck constantly at America’s hip and because we are divided and weak rely on them for protection, with the exchange of following them in every foreign policy decision they make according to their interests, not always necessarily ours, or loosen this over-reliance to form new agreements, alliances and relations with other nations or blocks, and form our own foreign policy that suits our needs and interests!

  5. avatar

    Sure can, however EU should invest more in trust with his members within Europe and within NATO members rather trying to scare them out and pushing them away, the only thing that makes Europe and EU as strong as of today is United and Union once those value lost, everything else will collapse as follow

  6. avatar

    Trump has a maximum of two terms, I’m sure European Leaders can start over after that if they have to.

  7. avatar

    Europa will survive Trump but should understant that we are not América s poupets.

  8. avatar

    We have to find our own way with or without United States

  9. avatar

    What do you have against Trump… He is the president Europe need

    • avatar

      can you please elaborate in detail about how exactly?

    • avatar

      I just think. That Trp is not so bad. He defends American interest and American middle class.. He is doing the job American ask….and they claim America first…. This is exactly what European Middle class ask…. EUROPE FIRST… but EU does not defend our interest but the interest of finance multinationals and the world village oligarchy…..
      I just mean that don t blame Trump of doing what middle class expected….

    • avatar

      But please don t tell me I am a nationalist fascist xénophobe and bla bla bla…

  10. avatar

    It can, but first all of the European NATO member states need to start following the NATO contract and pay their appropriate shares for NATO budget. We can’t blame Trump for something that we are doing wrong. Any US president would be rightly angered with us. Just look at the NATO budget and payments the member states are making.

    • avatar

      NATO is a joke, first of all NATO members all ready are paying billions on armaments” made in USA ” not just the same specs or calibers or what ever
      Pure American weapons some times forced to bye by diplomatic pressure even if they don’t need them or doesn’t meet their demands …
      surprisingly us made weaponry can be found in every conflict around the globe
      As for the protection NATO offers..
      Even NATO members aren’t respect each other borders and engaging in arms racing that usually ends up in bloodshed..

  11. avatar

    Yes. Trump will be defeated by Mrs Warren on the next elections.

  12. avatar

    USA and Europe alliance are for ever since they both defeated cruel Nazism and Fascism.Inclunding of course Britain and RUSSIA

  13. avatar

    Until such time as Europe starts taking defense seriously and contributes substantially more (ie in the order of 4%of GDP minimum), and ensure a coherent military posture (ie one not beholden to knee jerk political movements)….then it will continue to be beholden to the USA and sit uncomfortably beneath its military and nuclear shield….though how much longer will the USA put up with having to fund protection for an increasingly ungrateful and whining “partners” is questionable…why should they continue to spend trillions of dollars when europe refuses ?

  14. avatar

    The alliance will survive even if the EU is doing all it can to boycott it. Trump is trying to get the European nations in NATO to abide to treaty spending parameters and is trying to push the EU to balance its trade deficit with the US. Nothing to weird, he is the President of the USA he is working to fulfill american interests, and he is not being crazy in his demands.

    If the alliance shouldn’t survive the Trump administration the fault would lie in the Eurocrats, and it would say a whole lot about them and their agenda.

  15. avatar

    The question is: Can the USA survive Trump? The lost credibility of the USA around the World is devastating and will have economic consequences, sooner or later. On the other hand, Europe should not look for an “external enemy” to justify its own faults.

  16. avatar

    It is better to be more independent and connect in situations with common goals. Cyprus has gas reserves and now US corporations are drilling we have had Obamacare style health insurance forced on us against nearly all the citizens will, including doctors. Interesting coincidence. I suppose it is the offer on the table before the coup option.

  17. avatar
    catherine benning

    Can Europe’s alliance with the USA survive Trump?

    Trump’s no different to Obama, Clinton, Bush, et al. The only different is, he is not so easily willing to fall behind the globalists, as he was not their choice in that position. Clinton would be far worse than he.

    I’ll give it to him, he is trying to change the depth of poverty he sees in the Western world. I wish he had the courage of Roosevelt, that way he would be a great leader. The Glass Segal Act being the first move he should take to reinstate. However, the money men behind austerity would be very unhappy indeed.

  18. avatar

    It is just rhetorics. America strongly relies on Europe. It would be against American interests to loosen ties with Europe.
    But his rhetorics might turn out beneficial for European unification just like the Brexit trouble is.

  19. avatar
    Calin-Cristian Delavale

    The alliance is not related to names. Globalization cannot be shut down politically. We have to fight through performances and collaboration.

  20. avatar

    EU is not in right track. Maybe it doesnt survive, because the Europeans dont agree with the leftist beaurocrats from Bruxel. Trump is doing his job quite well till now.

  21. avatar

    Europe needs to take up some loads of the USA instead of flirting with Russia. First step would be to stop buying Russian natural gas . It’s not Trump. Its common sense.

  22. avatar

    Europeans should never doubt the alliance…
    If Europe is fulfilling its security obligation, America for sure will defend Europe!
    We should never forget that we have deep common roots…America is a true United Europe!

  23. avatar

    President Trump is correct Europe should pay for it’s security the US has been paying 80 per cent of the bill for years
    In the last year Europe has started to pay it’s way the US will allways back Europe

  24. avatar

    Tramp is the best. I wish we had such politicians in Europe.

  25. avatar

    Without Merkel and co. A big YES!

  26. avatar

    In the future Europe and USA> will be as one. and soon Europe will lose all its country’s and officially become states. This will happen in a couple of years. , the people of Europe will no longer carry a passport with the name of their country on them all passports will be EU. same as it is in USA>

  27. avatar

    Never, don’t forget the Trump action. And Romania as the European country, still needs its citizens, to enter as tourists in the US with a visa!

  28. avatar

    Yes ,TRUMP is the boss of Earth!

  29. avatar

    Yes but that is not the point. USA politics are becoming disfunctional and erratic. International relations are shifting. Europe needs to stand up and have its voice heard. It cannot just rely on USA.

    Europe needs more Free-trade-agreements globally. Needs more diplomatic missions. More integration with Africa and the Middle East. Less fighting with Russia. More pragmatic policies. And then this will given time to build internally. Internally many problems need solving. Industrial strategies to develop core-new technologies and industries of the future. More about economic competitiveness rather than enlargement. Europe needs to solve debt issues. Education needs improving. Infrastructure. So many internal things. But setting out our external foreign policy to a sensible tune will ensure Europe can do internal re-balancing.

  30. avatar

    I think that the alliance between the EU and the United States is a choice that could yield many benefits:
    – there would be lower probability of war
    -military forces would be more powerful
    -trade would be easier as customs would not be paid

  31. avatar

    We are a colony of the US not allies. This must stop.

  32. avatar

    If the EU reforms, yes. Anyway the EU will not survive itself and the wave of immigrants that it swallows.

  33. avatar

    Trump yes, but next president no.

  34. avatar

    EU, must Change. Trump is not the problem.

  35. avatar

    Why is suddenly Trump being blamed for the USAn foreign policy, which has been the same for decades?
    If it weren’t for Obama years, EU market would have expanded with Russian and Asian markets, and EU economy would have become much stronger than the USAn.
    We have only EU politicians to blame for the situation!

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