The Risks for Europe in the Era of Donald Trump
by Alisdair Gray, International Analyst for the Global DIY Summit
We have all probably become used to the unthinkable happening by now. Because in the last few months, the unthinkable has happened twice. First Brexit, and now President Trump. Two outcomes that polling experts, political commentators and the financial markets never thought possible. But looking back, it is easy to see why they happened, and from there, to start to predict where they might lead.
The election of a political outsider to the most powerful job in the world could well be a game changer for international relations for the next 20 years. The new US President has brought right-wing populism into the White House, getting through an electoral college system designed to prevent that from ever happening.
Mr Trump will be feeling particularly emboldened by the voters’ acceptance of his way of doing things, and ready to make good on his most offensive and outlandish policy suggestions. Because he cannot lose. If the policies fail he can blame Washington. If they are ever put in place, he looks like a genius. His two best known policies, building a wall with Mexico and banning people from muslim countries entering the US can easily be presented as being effective against immigration and terrorism, no matter what happens.
That is where he has been so clever. Mr Trump looked at issues where the US operates liberal policies, claimed they would lead to catastrophe, and then applied a very simple and outrageous solution to them. So the US doesn’t have reliable data on Mexican immigrants entering the country? No problem, with the Trump wall, success or failure can never be measured as there is nothing to compare it to. The 911 terror attacks were all about foreign nationals entering the country. But now the threat is from home grown jihadists. Again, no problem. If an attack occurs again, Mr Trump can just say “we should have done my no entry policy before.” He simply cannot lose.
So with that in mind, I would suggest we must accept that all of the things Mr Trump has threatened to do, will actually be done.
For Europe that means a downgrading of NATO, US hostility toward multilateral trade deals and the end of TTIP, and the most worrying of all, outright support for right-wing populists challenging democratically elected governments in Europe. Within days of Mr Trump’s election, Marine Le Pen’s National Front party was contacted by his campaign chief with offers of help. Trump himself has tweeted that Nigel Farage should be the next UK Ambassador in Washington. These are hostile acts, and the EU may need to get used to the US no longer being its primary ally.
This also brings the threat of Russia into play. Russia’s aggressive posture in the Ukraine and what appears to be a deliberate attempt to fuel the refugee crisis in Syria has seriously destabilised Europe. Without the US around to act as a counterweight, the EU needs to make a decision to either allow Russia a free hand or step up and begin the process of really integrating defence and foreign policy.
The EU will also have to do something it is not terribly good at: acting quickly and decisively before a crisis emerges. Because the crisis is already in full swing.