Sunday, December 11, 2016

How Europe Responds to the Trump Shock?

The Trump shock is inflicting tremendous malimpacts on global security as Donald Trump launched “America First”, that he would repeal American alliance network, in order to save the cost of overseas defense. Furthermore, Trump even praises Russian President Vladimir Putin, and suggested concessions to Russia over Crimea and Syria. Therefore, European nations are seriously considering joint regional defense, in case the United States falls into terrible isolationism under the Trump regime, while Russian threats are growing.

The most critical problem of Trump’s foreign policy is an extreme obsession with costs and benefits. There is no denying that America spends disproportionately on defense, as it accounts for 70% of NATO total. Since the Cold War, any US president or presidential candidate has been demanding burden sharing to European allies. However, hardly any of them have doubted that it is America’s vital interest to maintain European security by NATO. However, Trump is overturning this, as he does not believe in American power as the global public goods. In view of his extreme zero-sum views on international politics, Europe needs to boost defense spending, and remind him how much contribution they make to American wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Balkans. Otherwise, Trump would not cooperate with European allies, as to the issues like Russia and the Iran nuclear deal, and just pursue his own perceived interests of the United States. Also, European nations must show strong unity to save the Trans-Atlantic alliance from Trump’s dire pressure (“Does 'America First' mean EU defence at last”;Centre for European Reform Bulletin; 22 November, 2016).

At the NATO military official meeting in Berlin on November 30, European allies concluded that they increase defense spending (“Defense spending boost best answer to Trump: EU, NATO officials”;Reuters News; November 30, 2016). For this objective, the EU announced a plan to found a common defense fund for regional defense cooperation, particularly in research and innovation. It is expected to lower the unit cost of newly developed aircrafts, and assist the local defense industry. Despite Brexit, Britain considers collaborating with the EU on defense research and procurement (“Spurred by Trump and Brexit, EU plans five-billion-euro defense fund”; Reuters News; November 30, 2016). This is vital to boost joint efforts, since Britain is a leading military power in Europe. Contrary to Eurosceptic reputation, Britain has led major joint defense projects like Tornado and Eurofighter Typhoon, while supposedly more Europhile France has joined neither of them. From this point, Anglo-German cooperation is the key to the regional defense initiative. A British engagement with EU defense efforts would facilitate non-European democracies such as Japan, Australia, and India to make some contribution to it. Japan joins the UK led Meteor air-to-air missile project, and Australia provided a test site for BAE Systems’ Taranis stealth drone. Non-European participation in some projects, would help common European defense to overcome the Trump shock.

Also, I would suggest that Europe keep in mind that mainstream defense officials in the United States do not share pro-Russian views of Trump and his National Security Advisor nominee Michael Flynn. To the contrary, American military leaders are critically concerned with increasingly aggressive Putin, and regard Russia as the primary threat. Meanwhile, Europe worries that Russia would act boldly in Ukraine and Syria, before Trump is inaugurated (“The US military now sees Russia as its biggest threat”; Business Insider; December 5, 2016). Also, Robert Kagan at the Brookings Institution testified that Russia was shaking confidence in Western political heritage, like sponsoring the far right, and plotting for more refugee flows from Syria to Europe, while people are growing skeptical American power and devotion to the stability in conflicted areas, at the Senate Armed Services Committee on December 6.

As mentioned above, American foreign and defense policy circles do not share Trunpian views of the world. The transition team may be appointing former military senior officials, but it is too simplistic to make a sweeping generalization simply by professional backgrounds. Notably, Flynn was a complete heresy in the military and intelligence community when he was in the Army. This is a tip of iceberg to show the erratic nature of the foreign policy lineup of the Next President. Trump has neither diplomatic philosophy, nor sufficient number of reliable advisors. He will have to rely on established national security communities in the end, if he is seriously dedicated to the presidency. Europe can work with bipartisan foreign policy establishments in the United States. American allies in the rest of the world share common interests with European nations to manage the Trump shock. Everything after January 20 presidential inauguration looks dismal, but there are some ways to manage the crisis.