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The Trump Effect Takes Europe

If disaster can be averted in this year's US presidential election, a second-term Biden administration will be able to count on a much better partner in Europe, owing to the mobilizing effect of Donald Trump's candidacy. European leaders are finally realizing that they urgently need to get their act together.

MUNICH – Not for the first time, the central figure at this year’s Munich Security Conference was someone not in attendance. This year was Donald Trump’s turn.

Like most participants at this annual “Davos of Defense,” I desperately hope that the presumptive Republican candidate will forever remain a former president. This is not merely out of sympathy for my American friends, who see him as a danger to the future of their republic, but also because I fear what he would do to the global order. As a European, though, I am somewhat grateful for Trump’s existence. Even if he loses the election this November, he could end up becoming the European project’s unwitting savior. He has forced Europeans finally to rethink the core assumptions that have been hamstringing them with regard to the war in Ukraine, Europe’s own defense, and European political unity.

As the war in Ukraine nears the end of its second year with no end in sight, Trump’s candidacy is focusing European minds about what victory and defeat might entail. Everyone’s ideal outcome is for Ukraine to recover all its territory. Watching the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s widow, Yulia Navalnaya, take the stage in Munich hours after learning of her husband’s death, it was impossible not to recoil at the thought of giving Vladimir Putin even one square inch of Ukraine. But as the war of attrition grinds on, it makes less and less sense to consider the matter only in territorial terms.