Donald Trump likes to present himself as a deal maker. Yet the president’s record in office suggests he likes to break deals as much as make them. Under Trump, the United States has abandoned a series of international agreements, including withdrawing or signalling an intention to withdraw from the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia, the Iran nuclear deal, and the Paris climate agreement.

In October 2019, the White House effectively abandoned America’s Kurdish allies in Syria. Mr Trump has questioned NATO’s Article 5 collective defence clause. He has threatened Europe with tariffs and trade wars. He has publicly trashed multilateralism and pointedly withdrawn from United Nations bodies including the UN Human Rights Council.

America’s allies have noticed. French President Emmanuel Macron warned in November 2019 that the EU can no longer rely on America for its defence. He believes it is time for Europe to “wake up” and forge a more independent and self-reliant path.

What do our readers think? We had a comment sent in from Ginster, who agrees the EU can no longer depend on the United States. Our commenter argues simply that “Trump is unreliable”.

To get a response, we spoke to Dr. Hans Binnendijk, Senior Fellow at the SAIS Center for Transatlantic Relations and formerly a US National Security Council Senior Director for Defense Policy. What would he say?

President Trump has made a number of comments and taken a few actions which could certainly lead some people to believe that the United States is no longer as credible an ally as it has been over the past 70 years of the NATO alliance’s history. He said in his campaign that NATO is ‘obsolete’, he has raised some questions about Article 5, and certainly his decision in Syria to walk away from the Kurds there who have been fighting at our sides – all of this does raise questions, and I have seen that European public opinion polls indicate a very low degree of confidence in the United States right now, in large measure because of Trump’s policies.

Having said that, it’s also true that support for the NATO alliance is stronger today in the United States than I’ve ever seen it. In public opinion polls, 75% or more think we should maintain or strengthen our commitment to the alliance. There have been near-unanimous votes in the House of Representatives in support of the alliance. Since 2014, the United States has put together what is now called European Deterrence Initiative (EDI), which is about 8 billion dollars a year now, and we have moved some troops back into Europe. So, the picture is complicated…

To get another perspective, we also put Ginster’s comment to David O’Sullivan, former Ambassador of the European Union to the United States (2014-2019). What would he say?

Well, I think America is a very vibrant democracy and is clearly going through a phase of disruptive politics through the election of President Trump, and this is having a destabilising effect on relations with many allies. On the other hand, I think many of the fundamentals in the relationship with Europe remain extremely solid, and the last word has not yet been spoken on where America finally ends up on these issues.

So, I think it’s a fair point – and this was a point picked up by President Macron in his recent interview in The Economist – I think we as Europeans have to acknowledge that things are changing in the United States. The challenge for us, I think, is to distinguish between what is specific to this administration and may evolve in the future, and what are real shifts in fundamental American thinking about America’s role in international relations. That’s the challenge and I think probably the jury is still out on that question.

Can Europe still depend on the US? Or has America’s unilateralist turn made it too unreliable an ally? 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: (cc) Flickr – European Council President; PORTRAIT CREDITS: Binnendijk (c) Defense News


27 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    Paulo

    Does Europe have to depend on the US?

  2. avatar
    Ivan

    No china is the only one we can trust, if greece expect help from Europe or USA agsinst the turkish then greece Will be destroy, i Hope Europe soon talk to europeans about the greek petrol and gas reserves, not only that we are corrupt and forøget Pay taxies

  3. avatar
    Oscar

    Can yes. It can should it no it shouldn’t. It should be a partnership not dependance.

  4. avatar
    Olivier

    It should have been settled 30 years ago. We built Europe for this reason

  5. avatar
    Vivian

    Due to the cultural affinity the US and the EU will always trust and rely on each other.

  6. avatar
    Hugo

    We need to stop waiting for USA
    . They just want destroy EU and rule as they want. Europe need to focus again.

  7. avatar
    Maria

    EU is a failed continent, now needs the USA, as in the first and second Was. Disgusting our politicians.

  8. avatar
    Jan

    As the question is listed under global/security I’ll comment only on that aspect. Yes, I think at the end of the day, Europe can count on US military intervention and security if the need arises whether it is Trump or whoever the next US president is.

  9. avatar
    Ludwig

    A major military conflict between the atomic powers is no longer conceivable today, the climate would no longer be able to withstand the impact. Nuclear plants represent also a huge danger in the case of war.

  10. avatar
    Róbert

    Under republican majority in Congress, for sure. Under democrats, maybe.

  11. avatar
    David

    No not while this mad max is in power.

  12. avatar
    George

    U can only depend on being occupied by USA-military (just ask Germany), which can then allow for USA to push for its own agenda, and their agenda is NOT strong Europe, as that will compete with USA-markets.
    Face it – if we had closer ties with Asia, our Economy would have squashed USAs. How convenient ;) that the Russians are again “enemy number one”.

  13. avatar
    Enric

    USA is the big brother and the EU the little one. Sometimes we can relay on them but never trust.

  14. avatar
    Jude

    Europe has to rely on itself ….and have free policy towards any other super power. ….even militarily. ..we must only rely on ourselves and stop being puppets.We have the brains and what lacks is goodwill.

  15. avatar
    Manuel

    absolutly…
    EU is the the hands of Wall Street, Goldman Sachs and other criminals, nothing we can do…

  16. avatar
    Bódis

    We are allies.
    Can the US still depend on the EU?
    The EU refused to support Trump in renegotiating trade with China, so China now dumps the steel that it couldn’t sell in the US on the EU.
    A strategic industry will be ruined, industrial production and GDP will be impacted, and tens of thousands will lose their livelihood because of the incompetece and political posturing of EU leaders. Yet nobody talks about it becase we enjoy so much free speech and free press.

  17. avatar
    Marleen

    I think it all depends if Trump is re-elected next year – if he is then No, Europe can absolutely not depend on the US anymore. If a democratic candidate wins on the other hand I think transatlantic relations will flourish again.
    I do take issue with the word “depend” though – Europe should in no case depend on the US – being dependent on someone suggests that you can’t survive on your own. I think that Europe should definitely not be dependent on the US. However, it does need to be able to trust in its partners, especially that they will uphold agreements. And under Trump a whole lot of trust has been lost…

  18. avatar
    jthk

    Why Europe should be sacrificing to make the US great again? How can Europe depend on a declining superpower who is now withdrawing from all peace-making treaties, not paying for the United Nations and who has released itself from using nuclear weapon, when the US has more than enough nuclear weapon to destroy the whole world do not know how many times!

  19. avatar
    jthk

    Ever since World War II, Europe has been depending on the US for postwar reconstruction and development when China has been under serious sanction on everything. After more than 7 decades of depending on the US, Europe is crying to prevent itself from decline, while China appears to be rising confidently. What can we see here is that Europe has been going to war to sustain the hegemonic power of the US, while wasting resources that should be investing for development. Macron is totally correct, NATO is brain dead for it cannot bring peace and security to Europe, instead, the US unilateralism has been causing damage than benefit to Europe. The Arab Spring has led to the influx of refugees but Obama had abandoned everything and rushed back to the Asia Pacific for the containment of a rising China. The sudden withdrawal of over 60% of the most advanced US troops to Asia Pacific has left a rising ISIS and humanitarian issue of refugees for Europe to handle… Has not this exactly demonstrating a brain dead process of NATO too?

  20. avatar
    jthk

    Anyway, the US is using its entire strength for the containment of China, the Indo-Pacific system is dominating over the NATO. The US has leaving behind a brain dead NATO to secure US dominance in Europe, while trying to establish a minor NATO in Asia Pacific and India. The US has no money and no time to take care Europe. Europe has to depend on itself as Angela Merkel has once said recently. Just don’t know why she has changed her mind…

  21. avatar
    Dan

    Europe can always rely on the US,it cannot however rely on it’s current president,but rest assured NATO will still be here long after Trump has died in prison.
    What can’t be allowed to happen however is to go along with this ridiculous idea of Europe creating it’s own army.it’d be a mirror image of the current EU, totally dysfunctional.Putin would love it.

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