The United States Is Still A Nightmare For Europe – OpEd


The recent Russian aggression against Ukraine and the US’s staunch backing of its ally have led many to believe that Washington has resumed its former function of ensuring Europe’s security. However, the reality is more complex than it appears. The prospect of Donald Trump’s comeback to the presidency terrifies Europeans, as the Republican’s stance towards the European Union may not be as favorable as the Democrats’.

A troubling trend for Europeans is the rising nationalist outlook on foreign policy in the Republican Party, which appeals to its own base by opposing issues such as immigration, free trade and military interventions abroad, and especially support of Ukraine. Advocates of this perspective argue that the US’s neglect of these matters has enabled its European allies to enjoy the security provided by the United States at the country’s expense and to grow increasingly without bearing any cost in the security environment established. They also accuse Europeans of exploiting the United States in their unequal and unfair bilateral trade relations.

Trumpism holds that the European allies of the United States leech off this country, feed on it, and weaken it in the long run. In fact, the European countries are so complacent about their security and the US’s support that they have failed to respond adequately to the Russian menace and stop its invasion of Ukraine. In other words, why should the United States defend European borders when Europe itself is indifferent to the Russian threats and the US faces an immigration crisis at its own border with Mexico?

One of the concerns that has troubled Europe is the harsh condemnation of some Republicans towards the European Union’s excessive obsession with the policy of strategic autonomy, which they view as a sign of cultural decline. In other words, the new generation of Republican leaders has increasingly shaped their party agenda in contrast to what they call “Wokism” and use this issue not only to challenge Europe but also to clash with the Democratic Party internally. By adopting this approach, Republicans have intensified social divisions and have accused their opponents of neglecting America’s national interests by favoring “identity politics” over national interests, thereby polarizing the society and exploiting it politically. In fact, the Republicans regard the European advocates of ideas such as “feminist foreign policy” or “Moralistic Foreign Policy” as allies of their domestic adversaries and see them as idealists who are out of touch with reality and lack the ability to discern the right from wrong in changing circumstances.

On the other hand, the Republicans are also influenced by the isolationism and anti-immigration sentiment that Trump displayed during his presidency. These kinds of tendencies can also be observed in Europe, which is a cause for alarm for this continent. For instance, the “International Conference of Conservative Political Action” took place in Budapest last year with the speeches of people like Orban, the right-wing Prime Minister of Hungary, which demonstrates the alignment of the views of American conservatives and their European counterparts, and also indicates the estrangement of the United States from some of its traditional, longstanding allies and adherents to its democratic principles such as France and Germany and its proximity to less democratic countries such as Hungary.

In some areas of international affairs, namely such as immigration or isolationism versus interventionism in global matters, right-wing populists have relatively distinct views from their left-wing counterparts. These are precisely the things that created friction between the United States and many countries around the world after Trump assumed office. Trump’s measure of banning the entry of citizens of six Muslim countries, as well as the construction of a wall on the border with Mexico to prevent the influx of immigrants from the country’s southern borders, is assessed in this regard. Moreover, the Trump administration’s tendency to distance itself from international institutions reflected the populist distrust of the elites who govern these institutions and their anti-elitist stance.

Essentially, these populists are distrustful of international and transnational institutions, which leads them to pursue their own interests in foreign relations. They also have a dualistic worldview that divides the world into good and evil, and as self-proclaimed champions of the true people, they are less willing to compromise or back down in international disputes.

Another feature of this mindset in foreign policy is the reluctance to seek consensus and bipartisan cooperation on the fundamental issues of foreign policy and the national interests of the US. This is because populists like Trump regard themselves as the only true patriots of the US and generally dismiss the value of consulting with traditional allies like Europe in the international arena and do not deem them worthy of collaboration. 

To make matters worse for the Europeans, some Democrats are also adopting a populist stance in politics, influenced by the general mood of the American society and in order to appeal to the white working class, especially on issues such as foreign trade and cross-border interventions. This is why some of Biden’s foreign policy decisions are in line with Trump’s intentions and overlap with them. For instance, Biden’s decision to withdraw from Afghanistan without regard for the views of the US allies in NATO was one of these actions, which ironically pleased and welcomed the hard-line Republicans and their supporters. Moreover, Biden’s policies in trade have also shown that domestic considerations have outweighed international obligations. For example, Biden expanded the so-called “Buy American Act” to procure goods needed by the government from domestic production and also mandated manufacturers to use local raw materials, which indicates the growing support of both parties for the “protectionist” approach in US trade policy.

It has not been long since that famous picture where Trump was sitting behind the table and the Europeans were surrounding him, trying to change his opinion. Although the Democrats are more loyal to their traditional European allies than the Republicans, Europe should not only be concerned about the possibility of Trump’s return but also brace for the emergence of a new version of America in 2025. This is because the trends in the domestic and foreign policy of the US indicate that some of the changes that occurred in the past years will be consolidated and even intensified, which will mean more friction between America and Europe on major issues. Therefore, regardless of the outcome of the US elections, Europe has no choice but to pursue “strategic autonomy” and abandon the role of a “subordinate” of the US to avoid the repercussions of these developments.

Timothy Hopper

Timothy Hopper is an international relations graduate of American University.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *