MADRID – After years of intensifying fragmentation and tension, the European Union may be on the verge of losing its most precious assets: peace, prosperity, freedom of movement, and values such as tolerance, openness, and unity. Will Europeans unite in time to save them?
The danger facing the EU became starkly apparent last June, when the United Kingdom voted to leave. And Donald Trump’s election as US president has made matters far worse. The United States, Europe’s closest and most powerful ally – a crucial security partner and bearer of shared values – is now headed in a very different direction, and threatening to leave a shaken and divided Europe alone in a harsh world eager to tear it apart.
This might sound hyperbolic. Many in the US political class remain convinced – at least in public – that US foreign policy under Trump will be reined in by the more level-headed heavyweights in his cabinet, such as Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. “Don’t worry,” they say, “the worst will not happen.”
But, in my experience, the person who really counts is the one who has the president’s ear. And, so far, all signs indicate that Trump’s inner circle is driving policymaking. In fact, the pronouncements and executive orders of Trump’s first weeks in office convey a singular ideological perspective – the one long espoused by White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, an ultra-nationalist, acolyte of the Italian fascist philosopher Julius Evola, and long-time enabler of America’s white-supremacist “alt-right.”