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The Year Ahead 2019

Transatlanticism, Interrupted

Trump administration officials tell anyone who is worried about the fate of American alliances to ignore the president’s tweets and pay attention to his policies. But it is precisely Trump’s policies that are doing lasting damage to America’s most important relationships.

BERLIN – Of all the smears that US President Donald Trump has made, his mendacious claims about the European Union are perhaps the most egregious. “Nobody treats us much worse than the European Union,” Trump said in October. “The European Union was formed in order to take advantage of us on trade, and that’s what they’ve done.”

Obviously, nothing could be further from the truth. Yet whenever I raise concerns over comments like these with friends serving in the Trump administration, I always get the same response: ignore the rhetoric and the tweets; pay attention to the policies. Should those of us who worry about America’s longstanding alliances be reassured by this argument?

On one hand, some of the Trump administration’s policies – not least the significant increase in funding for the European Deterrence Initiative – do indeed reflect a firm commitment to America’s European allies. But, on the other hand, such policies are not enough to counter the lasting damage that Trump is inflicting on the transatlantic relationship with his destructive rhetoric and evident contempt for Europe.

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