Trump's tweets expose changing transatlantic alliance

Source:Global Times Published: 2018/11/14 22:05:11

US President Donald Trump has again set a precedent in his Twitter diplomacy. After returning from a weekend in Paris to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the World War I Armistice, Trump sent five tweets blasting his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron and even ridiculing France's surrender to Germany in WWII.

This back-and-forth started with Macron's speech at the commemoration ceremony. With Trump sitting at his side, Macron warned of rising nationalism, saying, "Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism." Although he didn't directly name the US, media outlets suspected the words were pointed at the US president who claimed to be a nationalist and advocates "America First."

Trump then tweeted: "Emmanuel Macron suggests building its own army to protect Europe against the US, China and Russia. But it was Germany in World Wars One & Two - How did that work out for France? They were starting to learn German in Paris before the US came along. Pay for NATO or not!"

The US president seems to have taken the opportunity to vent his long-held grudges. His tweets enable people to look at the extent of the rift in US-Europe relations.

First, there is a hierarchy in the relationship. The big brother takes care of others as long as it doesn't cross a boundary that hurts its own interests. What annoys Trump most is that the US has paid too much for a NATO that primarily serves Europe's security. In 2018, the US earmarked 3.5 percent of its GDP to NATO defense, while France contributed 1.81 percent and Germany 1.24 percent. Only a handful of NATO members have honored their commitment of spending no less than 2 percent of their GDP on NATO.

Meanwhile, it seems all other countries are expected to follow rules set by the US without question. Trump specifically mentioned France's "big tariffs" on US wine, which is surely unfair for a calculating president and must be changed.

Also the US' security role is nearly irreplaceable. Only by ensuring the US' position as world leader is unshakable can Washington be willing to protect its brothers. Some US scholars suggested earlier that Europe follow US arrangements in the military and security fields and make greater contributions to fully supporting a US-dominated security system, as the US' Asian allies do.

The trans-Atlantic alliance has undergone profound changes since the end of the Cold War. With Russia’s influence declining, there is now a difference of opinion within Western society on whether Moscow is still the NO. 1 threat faced by the US and Europe. The US is also shifting its strategic focus to the Asia Pacific region.

As a result, bonds between Europe and the US are not as strong as they once were. In Washington’s eyes, the practical value of ties with Europe has changed, as they are no longer on the same page on some issues.

Macron and other European leaders understand what it means to hand over defense rights to the US and were unwilling to do so especially now that they dealing with such a shrewd US president. Unfortunately they don't have many countermeasures available except for complaint.

While Europe has expressed that it intends to establish its own army, its hands are tied in financial terms. The social fragmentation and stratification in Europe have considerably crippled governments' authority and executive capability while a slumping overall economy and increasing unemployment make government reluctant to enhance military spending. Trump has cut Europe to the quick.

But without US military support Europe will have an extremely vulnerable defense, until it no longer considers Russia as a major target. But this will only happen when fundamental changes happen in the West's relations with Russia.

Trump's tweets reflect the logic with which the current US government handles international relations. When the main builder of current international order starts self-adjustment, what should other countries do?

Newspaper headline: Trump’s tweets expose changing US-EU ties

Posted in: EDITORIAL

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