Donald Trump said last weekend that the European Union is unimportant to American security and NATO is “obsolete”.
Supporters of Trump’s anti-globalist agenda aren’t surprised by his consistency and candidness.
But these European leaders made no bones about expressing their own opinions on dealing with Donald Trump in the months and years ahead.
According to The Washington Post:
“European leaders grappled with the jolting reality of President-elect Donald Trump’s skepticism of the European Union on Monday, saying they might have to stand without the United States at their side during the Trump presidency.”
Donald Trump has never minced words when describing his so-called “skepticism of the European Union.”
So what has European leaders so wary of transatlantic cooperation after Trump takes office?
The President-elect’s comments last weekend were no different.
In an interview with Michael Gove of The Times in London and Kai Diekmann of Germany’s Bild newspaper, Trump expressed he cared little about the fate of the European Union and thought it was on its way to a break-up.
The President-elect said,
“People want their own identity, so if you ask me, others, I believe others will leave… I don’t think it matters much for the United States.”
He went on,
“You look at the European Union, and it’s Germany. Basically a vehicle for Germany.”
He made a point to say he thought German Chancellor Angela Merkel had committed a “very catastrophic mistake” by allowing the E.U. to open its doors to migrants and refugees.
However, Trump did say he intends to start off his presidency with the same level of trust for both fellow international leaders, Angela Merkel and Vladimir Putin. “I start off trusting both,” he said. “But let’s see how long that lasts. It may not last long at all.”
Merkel responded to Trump’s comments like this:
“Let me say it again. My views on transatlantic questions are known. The president-elect made his points again. Once he is in office — which he is not at the moment — we will, of course, work together with the American government. Then we will see what sort of cooperation we can achieve.”
Donald Trump will make the first American president since the mid-20th-century not to support European integration.
On their way into a big election year, many European bigwigs are concerned about the potential for anti-immigrant, nationalistic leaders to gain power, as opposed to those most interested in integration and bloc governance.
Numerous European leaders, as reported by The Washington Post, have communicated hopes that Trump and his administration will change their tune on the E.U. after Trump takes office.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told reporters that Trump’s statements and general perspective toward the E.U. has “caused astonishment and excitement” and that NATO had listened to Trump’s comments “with concern.”
A former Austrian diplomat and current member of a Brussels-based think tank, Carnegie Europe, Stefan Lehne, said:
“Over the last decades, the United Sates has played a huge stabilizing role. And when this stabilizing role of the U.S. around the world falls away, because they’re doing transactional deals, that will create lots and lots of messes which will implicate European interests.”
Outgoing U.S. Ambassador to the E.U. Anthony Gardner said:
“U.S. cheerleading and support has been welcomed. If there isn’t someone like a [Secretary of State John F.] Kerry or an Obama… reminding people of the importance of the European Union, then there’s a vacuum.”
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said pleadingly:
“As with the case of Brexit, the best way to defend Europe is to remain united. This is a bit of an invitation that we are making to Mr. Trump. To remain a bloc. Not to forget that the force of Europeans is in their unity.”
And finally, Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister, Jean Asselborn, apparently hopes after Trump’s inauguration, he will magically depart from his promises and change his tune regarding globalism:
“One must hope that the statements of candidate Trump starting Friday will go in a different direction. If the risks are summed up, it would be very destabilizing, which is not in the interest of America.”
But Trump shows no signs of moderating his open-minded stance.
One sign of this, along with his consistent anti-globalist leanings, was his willingness to negotiate a trade deal with Britain after they voted to leave the European Union in Brexit.