PARIS – US President Donald Trump has shaken a transatlantic alliance that had long seemed unshakable. In a January interview, he labeled NATO “obsolete” and the European Union a “vehicle for Germany.” The EU will soon collapse, he predicted, with a succession of countries following the United Kingdom out. The United States, his position suggests, would be more than fine with that.
With Trump, the world is becoming accustomed to shocking declarations and shameless reversals. But his stance on Europe is worrisome. From his enthusiastic support of Brexit to his expressions of mistrust regarding German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the leader of Europe’s main ally seems intent on weakening the EU at a critical moment in its history.
Trump is not alone in his administration in cheering for the EU’s demise: his chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, embraces ethnic nationalist parties – like Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Front in France – that seek to bring it about. Trump’s reported pick to be EU ambassador, Ted Malloch, told Greek television that he believes Greece should have left the eurozone four years ago.
But even more worrisome than the US administration’s doubts is the wavering confidence of many EU leaders. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, for example, openly frets about the deep divisions among EU member states over Brexit and questions whether “the Hungarians and the Poles want exactly the same things as the Germans and the French.”