On Friday At Noon, Donald Trump will Become The Ultimate Guarantor Of The West’s Security.
Yet, just days away from the White House, the President-elect is sparking transatlantic turbulence by expressing fresh disdain for the two institutions that have been the bedrock of post-World War II peace, stability and prosperity NATO and the European Union.
It is too early to tell how the Trump administration will shift America’s stance toward Europe, since details have been at a premium both during the election campaign and the transition when policy often has been announced 140 characters on Twitter.
But European governments worried about Trump’s arrival in the White House now have new reasons to be fearful.
Fresh comments by Trump in an interview with two European journalists raise the extraordinary scenario of a new American president who seems to question the fundamental purpose of Western security infrastructure — an unthinkable prospect ever since the defeat of Nazism and throughout the Cold War.
The President-elect warned that NATO was “obsolete,” criticized German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s policy of welcoming Middle Eastern refugees as a mistake, and predicted the United Kingdom would not be the last nation to leave the EU.
Although he said Europe could still count on US security guarantees and that he felt “very strongly” toward the continent, Trump’s comments on NATO were a stunning departure for someone who will be President in a few days.
“No one in mainstream political life has ever questioned NATO and US membership in it,” said Jamie Kirchick, a journalist who specializes in foreign policy and the author of “The End of Europe: Dictators, Demagogues and the Coming Dark Age,” to be published in March.
While other US presidents and officials have long vented frustration at the failure of all NATO members to meet their funding commitments, “never have you had someone come out and say NATO is obsolete,” Kirchick said.
Former US ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder expressed the sense of unpredictability in a tweet, warning: “Trump is more critical of NATO, EU, & Germany — all close allies — than he’s ever been of Putin & Russia. We’re entering an upside down world.”
Trump argued in a press conference last week that it would be an “asset” to America if he could forge a good relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, defending his openness to dialogue with a leader who many of his own fellow Republicans view as an unrepentant enemy of the United States.
Trump’s new salvo means Europe’s leaders can no longer console themselves with the thought that Trump’s contempt for the transatlantic establishment and tolerance for the world view of Russian President Vladimir Putin can be easily dismissed as the fungible rhetoric of a populist campaigner that will disappear once he’s confronted with the responsibilities of being President.