Ted Malloch: Transatlantic Affairs in the Era of Trump
Guest post by Ted Malloch, author of DAVOS, ASPEN & YALE
Following the election of President Trump, a worrying trend has manifested and increased among some of our European allies.
Worries have been voiced over our commitment to the post-war international order, built by the United States after the capitulation of the Third Reich and the Japanese Empire.
In trips to Munich and Brussels, Vice President Pence has recalled the memory of our soldiers, who aided the ultimate price to guarantee the freedom of our European allies. Starting with the blood of those American soldiers, the United States has long poured itself into ensuring a peaceful Europe.
It is important to remember what those brave young men died for.
Democracy is messy and sometimes disappoints.
As Sir Winston Churchill once said, it is the worst system, except for the alternatives. Churchill himself was on the wrong end of electoral surprises – not least when he lost at the ballot box, months after defeating the fascist menace.
Tellingly, he is a figure claimed both by Eurosceptics and hailed as a “founding father of the EU” by Europhiles. We will never know all his private opinions, but cannot imagine him ignoring resounding public mandates.
The Brexit vote that took place on June 23rd, 2016 represented such a mandate.
Once again, recalling our darkest moments serves a didactic purpose: France once abandoned NATO and did not re-establish full participation in the allied forces until 2009, under then President Sarkozy.
Despite this, the organization survived, thrived and remains the cornerstone of the American-led world order – even as we push to update it — and get others to pay their fair share of the burden.
EU President Juncker’s office published a vision of the five directions the EU can move forwards. Recognizing the right of sovereign member states to decide which direction they will pursue, it remains to be acknowledged as a more effective representation of President Juncker’s constituents.
It is not for the United States to say how Europeans should vote in any election, but I for one would congratulate President Juncker for this rare act of humility and hope he will continue to recognize diversity of opinion among Europeans.
Very few apparently desire his and president Macron’s, United States of Europe, putting sovereignty in the European Union itself and not in its member nations.
America remains committed to the exercise of democratic prerogatives by the citizens of the EU.
Their votes should count.
However, it behoves us to address the alarmism, which some European figures are resorting to.
Comparisons to dark historical figures are far too common. The time has come for all parties to accept the results of recent and upcoming elections in May 2019, preparing for improved future of US-EU relations.
Scoring cheap political points by insulting the President of the United States or his representatives is no way to show commitment to a “Europe Whole and Free.”
It was, after all, an American President who coined the phrase; it was American military power that enabled Europe to emerge whole and free from the Cold War.
We are and remain Europe’s best friend and staunchest ally.
One of Secretary Clinton’s greatest mistakes was comparing President Putin’s actions in Ukraine with those of Hitler in the Sudetenland.
It behoves us to remember that the Soviets lost nearly 30 million of their own citizens in their war with the Third Reich. Only 11 Million of these were soldiers – the rest of that amount were civilians.
Refraining from those comparisons is a taboo worth keeping.
Any Russian alive today will have lost family to the Wehrmacht.
European nations large and small suffered at the hands of fascists – from the victims of Guernica, through the horrors of the Holocaust, to the Balkan successor states of our modern time.
Cheapening their memory is a calumny.
As an American who is a strong friend of Europe and a strong believer in liberal democratic ideals that unify the west, it is baffling that we should now be considered “an enemy. “
Those who spent the years after the fall of the Berlin wall spreading democratic values across the former Soviet Union can always count on our admiration and respect.
I was one such party.
We clearly have more in common than the Europeans like to admit. It would be wise to focus on what brings us together, but it must be said: the Trump Administration has its own political priorities: namely: the American people.
President Reagan – another Republican accused of insufficient commitment to Europeans – famously won the Cold War by outspending the Soviets in the arms race.
Little remembered was the commitment he extended to NATO: 2% of the GDP of every alliance member should be dedicated to defense.
This commitment went unheeded over the course of every presidency since.
My fellow Republicans heavily criticized President Obama when he called some of our allies “Free Riders.” As Vice President Pence said last year in Munich, “the patience of the American people is finite. “
We welcome recent commitments by our European allies to increase NATO spending, but America must insist on results, not mere blandishments.
Europe, a rich continent, should shoulder its fair share of the burden for its own defense.
Almost 30 years have passed since President Reagan’s exhortation; we are entering the 6th presidency since the 2% commitment was made. Yet still Europeans say “Later”. Even the nice Canadians fail to pay their share.
The extenuating circumstances always convince: German reunification was miraculous. Having defeated communism, the allies wondered what NATO was for, until the Bosnian wars provided an answer.
The post-9/11 world led to controversial out-of-area operations. Then the bugbear of modern Europe – Financial Crisis – carried them to the present day.
Yet, last year, Germany posted a €6 billion budget surplus.
It is difficult to see that figure and accept the gradualism with which NATO’s 2% target is being complied. During the financial crisis, the EU used its powers to decide spending priorities. I’m sure the great minds of the European institutions will find creative ways to direct those powers towards our common objectives.
If they won’t then there should be consequences.
It remains to be said that some notions need updating. The burden sharing evidenced during the Libyan intervention was disastrous.
President Obama set out to “lead from behind” and ended up purveying the bulk of hardware, as well as the vital logistical functions: in-air refuelling, submarine-launched missiles and other mighty pieces of American muscle.
Devoid of American political commitment to the mission, it was a failure.
Malta and Italy bore the brunt of the costs for this failure.
But the EU paid in political legitimacy during ensuing bickering over refugees. Syria offered a redux: again, European failure to address issues that primarily affect Europe fostered infighting among member states, while millions of refugees streamed into neighboring countries – not the least Europe itself.
This was a problem tailor-made for Europe to step up and solve.
President Trump won on a platform of non-interventionism.
The founding fathers of the American Revolution did not believe in foreign entanglements. Indeed, every successful revolution tempers its resolve to enlighten the globe. “Let us raise a standard to which the Wise and Honest can repair. The rest is in the hands of God”.
President George Washington did not believe in spreading the revolution he led to other countries.
The EU has expanded very quickly, but hasn’t been raising a standard towards which its own citizens can always cast admiration. Now they want a new EU army on the cheap and some call America, “the enemy.”
We say this as friends who wish to see a successful and free Europe.
In a different context, President George W. Bush once spoke of the “soft bigotry of low expectations.” By expressing high expectations for European leadership in Europe’s own backyard, President Trump shows himself a true friend of Europe.
When the Soviets became tired of Leninist vanguards and permanent revolution, they invented the concept of “Socialism in one country”. President Trump will raise the standard to which the wise and honest can repair.
His platform is “Freedom in one country”. That country is the USA first but not alone.
We are committed to defend democracy where it exists, especially in Europe, but have renounced the liberal interventionist; neoconservative notion of spreading democracy throughout the world.
Make no mistake: America under Trump is Europe’s best friend, security shield, and trading partner.
But no longer are we silent participants, a cash machine or a quiet do-nothing idle partner.
America has a new mission: Greatness.
This mission need not clash with Europe; indeed it should revolve around a continued alliance and common Western values that have served Europe and the US so well.
Ted Malloch is the author of Davos, Aspen and Yale