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The Transatlantic Continental Drift

The American national-security establishment has long harbored disdain for Europeans' approach to policymaking and geopolitics. But the tenacity with which US President Donald Trump has attacked European allies shows that transatlantic relations have entered into dangerous new territory, and at precisely the worst time.

DENVER – The Earth’s continental plates broke apart and first began to shift hundreds of millions of years ago. But anyone visiting European capitals or following events in President Donald Trump’s Washington can be forgiven for thinking that another tectonic divergence is underway. 

Of course, transatlantic mistrust is not new. In the run-up to the 2003 Iraq War, then-US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld sparked controversy by drawing a line between “old Europe” and “new Europe,” the latter comprising the ex-communist states that were more enthusiastic about following the US into war. In the eyes of many Europeans, Rumsfeld’s goal was to sow division within Europe.

Now Europe must deal with another difficult American named Donald. The Trump administration has pursued an even more aggressive approach to Europe, deeming the European Union a strategic competitor and raising doubts about America’s long-term commitment to European security. In keeping with the Trumpian worldview, the US now views Europe as a freeloader that has taken advantage of American largesse.