The infighting among Republicans could paralyse the United States’ political system, already crippled by partisan divisions.
And all this is happening under an internationalist president keen on supporting Ukraine. One can only imagine what might happen if former US president Donald Trump wins November’s presidential election. Trump’s recent speeches, including his 90-minute diatribe at February’s Conservative Political Action Conference, have underscored his desire for retribution against individuals, countries, and institutions he perceives as having wronged him. European Nato members appear to be at the top of this list, which does not bode well for Europe’s security.
Trump’s desire to withdraw US support for Ukraine goes beyond his aversion to extended military conflicts. Trump holds Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky personally responsible for his first impeachment and views many of America’s top Russia experts, even those who worked for him, as complicit in this debacle. Trump’s stance on Nato is equally personal, as evidenced by his recent threat to allow Russia to “do whatever the hell they want” to “delinquent” member countries.
Over the past three years, in preparation for a second Trump presidency, a sophisticated ideological ecosystem has focused on transforming his personal grievances into actionable policies. The Center for Renewing America’s concept of “dormant Nato,” whereby the US would keep the nuclear umbrella over Europe but withdraw ground forces from the continent, is a prime example.
To be sure, Trump is not the first US president to criticise America’s European allies for not contributing sufficiently to the alliance. But the “dormant Nato” proposal goes beyond mere “burden-sharing” to advocate a new policy of “burden-shifting,” calling for a transfer of responsibility from the US to its European allies. Under this plan, a European general would become the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe (SACEUR), the US would commit to halting Nato enlargement, and the US military would shift its focus from Europe to China.
Despite the real possibility of a Trump victory, European governments have been slow to acknowledge this agenda’s ominous implications. But with Ukraine struggling to defend itself, the difficulties of getting a supplemental funding bill through Congress have compelled US policymakers to face reality. Many in Washington are frustrated with the Ukrainians, particularly with Zelensky’s failure to pivot from offensive to defensive tactics and his reluctance to draft men under the age of 27.
American policymakers also seem bewildered by the divisions within Europe. Last month’s European Council summit underscored the European Union’s contradictory approach. While European governments are finally serious about defence and how to finance it, self-indulgent squabbles – particularly between France and Germany – persist, and leaders display a baffling lack of urgency.
Over the next six months, European countries must figure out how to secure essential ammunition and bolster their defence funding. They must also devise a plan to strengthen Ukraine’s position, because Russian President Vladimir Putin is unlikely to negotiate if he believes that Ukraine is on the verge of defeat and that its Western backers are losing their resolve. Europeans pushing for a ceasefire now are effectively shooting themselves in the foot.
Against this backdrop, many fear that June’s European elections could catalyse a global shift toward the far-right. But a recent report by the European Council on Foreign Relations suggests that while far-right parties are rising in polls across Europe, this trend does not necessarily herald the emergence of a global Trumpian movement. Even in Hungary, just 28% of respondents said they would welcome a second Trump term.
The most compelling case that mainstream European parties can make in the lead-up to the elections is the urgent need for a geopolitically oriented EU. Regardless of the fate of the US aid package, Europeans’ future should be determined by their own electoral and political processes, not by American political dynamics. This is the only way to prevent Europe’s political theatre of the absurd from becoming an outright tragedy. — Project Syndicate
Related Story