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Trump’s European Trainwreck…1

July 15, 2018

Rather than revealing Washington’s strength, “making America great again,” Donald Trump’s European tour is more of an ongoing political train-wreck, a glaring example of the limits of Washington’s power as he bulls his way from Brussels to the outskirts of London, to Helsinki where he will rendezvous with Vladimir Putin in a few days. Everywhere he goes angry demonstrations – 250,000 demonstrating against him in London, thousands already in Helsinki, etc. The London anti-Trump protests are being described as the largest since the end of the Iraq War and the largest protests ever against another world leader.

Certainly on a public relations scale he’s at rock bottom.

But not so fast.

What is it that he tried to accomplish in his meetings in Brussels, and Great Britain, and how successful was he? As usual all the media buzz tends to cloud unfolding dynamics, not all of which are clear, but some of the main themes are starting to come into focus. In a nutshell, Trump’s goal in the Brussels and Great Britain stages of his European tour is to fan the flames of division. He did just that, to deepen the tensions within the European Union, to keep Europeans fighting among themselves.

The days are long gone when Washington cautiously but steadily encouraged European economic integration, in large measure so that it would be an easier market in which to sell American exports, as well as propping it up as a part of its anti-Soviet campaign. Now the European Union is described as “a foe.”

Furthermore, although his style is graceless – nobody does “graceless” better – in his crude, bigoted, arrogant way, Donald Trump is only building on a long tradition of Washington’s European policy: Keep Europe divided and subordinate to U.S. global interests; keep Europe from its occasionally stated goal of re-emerging as a global power with its own independent regional, political and economic will.

The open, crude political offensive against Europe, specifically the European Union (E. U.) is part and parcel of a global effort to undermine/breakdown regional trading and political blocks that have come together over the past thirty years in Europe, Asia and Latin America. These recent creations,  which Washington tried to frustrate, were attempts to create “economies of scale” in order to have better bargaining power in trade and regional political matters.

As these regional blocks, of which the EU is a classic example, have in part succeeded in consolidating their influence, the result has been a certain though limited freedom of action from Washington dictates. It is precisely these tendencies that Washington hopes to dampen, if not reverse. Weakening the EU strengthens American economic and political influence and dominance over Europe. This is the essence of Donald Trump’s jihad against Europe.

The more I reflect on this portion of the Trump visit to Europe – prior to the Helsinki meeting with Vladimir Putin – the more I am convinced he more or less accomplished what he set out to do. There were two goals:

1.  Strengthen Washington’s hand in NATO. Tighten U.S.  hold over NATO, a goal he seemed to have accomplished. As it has in the past, a strong NATO means a divided Europe. And divided is how Washington has long wanted Europe. Russian “meddling” in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections quite frankly doesn’t amount to a hill of beans compared with Washington’s meddling in European affairs.

The media attention focusing on Trump’s efforts to pressure the NATO member states to “pay their fair share” was a cover for what transpired at a deeper level: stronger control of the organization as a whole, encouraging them to buy more U.S. made weaponry, and to continue with joint military maneuvers and military base development that has characterized the past years.

Shaking down NATO allies to contribute more is a forty-year (at least) campaign that is bipartisan. In Brussels Trump went out of his way to threaten and blackmail the participants to increase their contributions. Nothing new here: both George W. Bush and Obama did likewise. Here in Colorado, some 40 years ago, U.S. Congresswoman Patricia Schroeder, one of Colorado’s most liberal, was beating the same drum. The difference now is that then the United States could shoulder the financial commitment and now, a much less robust country economically, it cannot, so it is pushing “burden sharing” as it euphemistically is called.

Interestingly enough, at the same time that Trump is trashing Europe in general and European leaders in specific, the United States is strengthening its hold on NATO, which might help explain why European leaders were so acquiescent to Trump’s insults. Hard to believe that the alliance could be more acquiescent but that explains why European leaders take such a public thrashing.

The United States has no – absolutely no – intention of walking out of NATO, as it is through NATO, especially in this post-Cold War period, that the United States has been able to keep the key European nations subservient to its will. Remove those U.S. troops from Germany, UK and Italy, there under NATO auspices, and U.S. influence over its allies shrinks considerably.

So not only will there not be a U.S. withdrawal of NATO troops from Europe, but integrating European militaries under U.S. command has been intensifying for some time. It includes annual increasingly brazen and aggressive military exercises closer and closer to Russia, the stationing of U.S. troops and missile defense systems in the former Eastern European Communist countries (and those formerly a part of the former U.S.S.R.) massive satellite intelligence gathering (in the north of Sweden), etc.

In many ways Trump is following a playbook that parallels his 2017 sword-dancing, belly swishing, Middle East trip. There he basically put it to the Saudis, Qataris and U.A.E that while Washington would continue to direct the region’s Middle East policy, its steadfast friends, would have to pay up front a lot more than in the past…and increase their arms purchases from Washington at the expense of other global arms merchants. In exchange, Washington would scrap the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (Iran nuclear deal).

2. The second, closely related objective was to strike a blow to the European Union which for all its problems has proven a more difficult trading partner than Washington expected. Trump is attempting to reorient U.S. foreign policy by downplaying or dissolving multi-lateral economic and political relations. No doubt for the Europeans, the European Union has long been a step on the road to the region re-emerging as a world power. This Trump – and not just Trump – hope to block and will do everything in their power to do so.

Donald Trump has set his sights on, immodestly and crudely as is his style, the European Union itself, going so far as to call it “a foe.” This is a startling remark given U.S. postwar relations with (Western) Europe. In part, Trump is responding to the new realities created by the process of European integration since the early 1980’s, making the European Union a more difficult partner with which to negotiate trade deals. Trade relations were less contentious when the United States could deal with the different European countries bilaterally.

With John Bolton by his side every step of the way, Trump sought to do whatever possible to intensify the tensions within the European Union to deepen the contradictions to such a degree that it will become dysfunctional – even more so than it currently is – and eventually collapse de jure or de facto. 

Every blow he struck was calculated. Some were obvious, others will be revealed in time as a result of secret deals the details of which we don’t know (possibly with the French).

  • The savage personal attack on  Angela Merkel and the inaccurate silliness about German getting 80 or 90% of its natural gas from Russia is meant to discredit, to completely humiliate Germany as the engine of European development and to make it difficult for Germany to have normal relations with Russia.
  • The open criticism of British Prime Minister Theresa May (“I told her what to do – she didn’t take my advice”) was meant to push her to a complete break with the European Community and make her more dependent on the United States.
  • His open call, flirting with the European far right in England and elsewhere, is also an attempt to strengthen the right-wing nationalist elements throughout the continent who are for pulling out of the E.U.
  • Trump went to cause division and he did; that is what his nods to the super-nationalist proto-Nazi elements and his racist remarks about immigration are about – intensify the tensions within the European Union and Europe in general  to such a degree that regional unity – a fragile entity these past years – would split apart. With the antagonisms between the wealthier northern countries and the economically weaker southern ones (Greece, Spain, Portugal) running deep, an immigration crisis threatening to blow open the political consensus in many nations and European unity as well, it might not take that much to push the whole edifice over the edge.

Trump has fanned those flames, knew what buttons to push, and has pushed them, creating a weaker Europe and thus one more easily subjugated both economically and politically. Afraid of the consequences to improve ties with Russia, but increasingly uneasy, if not downright bitter about the turn in relations with Washington, the ruling classes in Europe have “no exit strategy” for the relationship.

As a result, they will continue to flounder and Washington, be it Trump or a Democratic Party president, will continue to kick them in the knees (or a bit higher), their response being a meek thank you – I needed that. From a personal view-point, I don’t know what was more pathetic – Trump’s crude, antagonist behavior or European Council President Donald Tusk’s pitiful response.

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Trump’s European Trainwreck …2; The Trump – Putin Summit in Helsinki.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The NATO Meeting

5 Comments leave one →
  1. William Conklin permalink
    July 15, 2018 9:44 pm

    Hi Rob:

    Thanks for another informative article. It seems to me one of the worst problems that Europe faces is the immigration from the countries that were destroyed by Bush, the Saudis and the Queen of Chaos. Could this problem destabilize Europe?

  2. July 15, 2018 10:02 pm

    Bill – Immigration is one of the levers Trump is trying to pull to divide and conquer…but there are other considerations – despite its many problems, the growing ability of the European Union to defend itself in trade negotiations with Washington, Europe’s energy dilemma looking at an unstable Middle East as a source of much of their energy they know they need to diversify…and that includes Russia and Iran, etc. etc…multi-issue conflict, finally they are caught in a certain moment of global capitalism where their options for expanding their economic activities are hamstrung by old alliances…

    • William Conklin permalink
      July 16, 2018 7:49 am

      Thanks Rob, and then I wonder how the United States will deal with the high speed train that China is building which will unite the economies of Eurasia, Africa and Europe. Are our leaders ready to be an island in a pond? And what happens if the dollar loses its hegemony as the backup-currency of the world? Meanwhile, the Middle-East has been turned into a junk yard containing a huge prison camp that is about to turn into a huge death camp and an Orange Clown runs the whole thing backed up by a Christian Fascist. I couldn’t make this stuff up!

      • July 16, 2018 4:17 pm

        When a system implodes…as the world capitalist system is in the process of doing, strange things happen. The implosion isn’t something that will manifest itself today or tomorrow, it is a slower historical process, the beginning of which we are experiencing, witnessing. There are two questions that come to mind from where I’m sitting..
        1. Will the U.S. decline be graceless (a la Trump) or more graceful (a la Obama) – at this point it seems to be a kind of alternation between the two
        2. What will replace it globally, a system more environmentally friendly, economically and politically democratic or will it be Trumpty-Dumpty land the world over?
        Stakes are high.
        Cheers, Rob

Trackbacks

  1. Trump’s European Trainwreck…2 – The Trump-Putin Summit in Helsinki, a Chance for Improved U.S.-Russian Relations, Derailed by the Mueller Indictments | View from the Left Bank: Rob Prince's Blog

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