Is EU looking at an international tabula rasa – what systemic realities are left when Trump’s foreign policy one-liners on Europe and NATO hit earth?

By cousin von Erich

In on-going divorce proceedings with Britain, a Euro under massive pressure, a political volte face climate of growing nationalist and EU-scepticism – the remaining 27 EU countries are struggling to embrace the dissent and to somehow muddle through a cringing 60th anniversary in Rome. That said, Brexit did not trigger a much-feared domino effect as of now. Dutch Geert Wilders 20 seats did not make the cut and polling in France do not suggest a Marine Le Pen win in May. Thirdly, unless the results will be favourable to Alternative fur Deutschland in vast number – currently polling at a shaky fifteen percent – the Germans are expected to continue their support for EU.

In any event, there has been a major disruption in political paradigms that culminated in a Brexit. The member states do not exhibit the same willingness to accept national constraints and the overall concept of legal limitations on sovereignty in favour of a supranational body. Whichever analysis applied in explaining the causes and remedies – confronted with economically insurmountably mismatched member states, massive migrant influx and imminent security risks from Islamic terror – EU is not coping well. The European Union is learning the hard way that the notion of converging vast socio-economic, political and cultural diversity under what is basically a one-fit subscription under very little democratic control – is well… psychedelic.

EU is now looking at damage control, as it were – discussions on à la carte solutions, multi-tier, multi-speed cooperation – flexible types of membership and choices you can opt in or out of, new modes of cooperation that allows to take part in certain policies to different degrees. Hopefully, issues of transparency and inclusiveness, and how to address the democratic deficit will be addressed. Braced for a rocky ride, Europe holds her breath for the election results of France and Germany in May and October.  

Don’t get too comfy…

To add insult to injury, Trump now persist with the NATO-2-percent issue and America First protectionism. Looking beyond the good cop bad cop bluster by Trump and by Pence at the Munich Security Conference in February, the geopolitical reality of the matter is that Trump is just upping the demands of the Obama administration – however heavy handedly – there is no political incentive for a fundamental change in the US/EU defence relations from a US perspective – let alone a GOP support to this end.

So far, the EU countries have been scrambling to up their defence budgets individually, already urged by the Obama administration in 2016, and more so in view of Putin’s military engagement in Ukraine. With the current state of affairs in Europe however – the idea of rallying support for an ambitious independent supranational EU defence umbrella as envisaged by President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker in 2015 – seems a tall order. A fundamental change in the US/EU NATO relations is not around the corner. Political realism still points to NATO as the primary defence organization. What Trump wants is for the member states to stop mucking about and to start pulling their weight.

There is a caveat though – Trump is probably going to add to expanding right wing fissures in EU assessing the Russian conflict a somewhat contrived scenario riling up the Crimean secession/annexation as a this-could-happen-to-you blue-print anywhere in Western Europe. Compared to the internal disruptive dynamics of national self-interest facing the EU, Trump’s impact on the EU is likely a rattling of the cage to improve his bargaining position and up the EU’s and European countries’ international commitments. Pro or an anti-EU is of little consequence compared to Trump’s case-to-case dedication to make good deals for America. As he has said “EU does not matter very much.”

A US agenda that would actively pursue a collapse of the EU and the Euro in hoping to profit on bi-lateral agreements is far-fetched. Faced with the instability a fully disintegrating EU would spill, the odds are that the Trump administration is settling for a functional EU. Already there is change of tone in the zero-sum game vocabulary from the Presidency.

What matters to Trump is the 50 billion vs 125 billion EU/US trade deficit – with the evil eye on Germany. Trump’s protectionist policies will affect all EU trade partners. Some might argue – negatively. Trump has stated that BMW would face a 35 percent import duty for foreign-built BMW cars sold in the U.S. He also urged BMW should scrap plans to open a new plant in Mexico and build the factory in the U.S. instead. BMW plans to start building 3 Series sedans at San Luis Potosí in 2019.

In an interview with CNBC, 22 Mar 2017, German CDU/CSU Deputy Chairman Michael Fuchs rectifies a couple of starting points to mind in the following talks on EU and US protectionism and trade. Addressing the trade imbalance between EU and US, Michael Fuchs clarifies that Germany has made 270 billion in direct investments in the US, and created more than 900.000 jobs in America. US made 27 billion in FDI investments in Germany – a tenth. Job creation has been negligible. Secondly, the great irony is that the biggest exporter of cars in the states is – wait for it – BMW!