In recent years, when Republicans have criticized President Obama's approach to foreign policy, they invariably complain that his priorities are backwards. America's allies, the argument goes, no longer count on us, while America's adversaries no longer fear us.In a foreign policy speech delivered in April, none other than Donald Trump, reading from his trusted teleprompter, argued
, "[O]ur friends are beginning to think they can't depend on us. We've had a president who dislikes our friends and bows to our enemies."The entire line of attack has long been deeply ironic. Under Obama's presidency, the United States' international reputation has improved considerably over the Bush/Cheney era, and our allies' confidence in our leadership has grown. Now that Trump is poised to take power, however, anxiety and mistrust among American allies has reached levels unseen in generations. The Washington Post reported
European leaders grappled with the jolting reality of President-elect Donald Trump's skepticism of the European Union on Monday, saying they might have to stand without the United States at their side during the Trump presidency.The possibility of an unprecedented breach in transatlantic relations came after Trump -- who embraced anti-E.U. insurgents during his campaign and following his victory -- said in weekend remarks that the 28-nation European Union was bound for a breakup and that he was indifferent to its fate. He also said NATO's current configuration is "obsolete," even as he professed commitment to Europe's defense.
To put it mildly, the president-elect's weekend comments have rattled much of the world. As we noted
yesterday, Trump sat down with two European newspapers for an interview in which he dismissed NATO as “obsolete
”; criticized German Chancellor Angela Merkel
for assisting Syrian refugees (whom Trump referred to as “illegals
”); said the United States “should be ready to trust
” Russian President Vladimir Putin; and endorsed
the further unraveling
of the European Union.The Post
added that Trump's attitudes "have raised alarm bells across Europe," as America's traditional allies come to the "painful realization" that Europeans may no longer have "the full backing of their oldest, strongest partner."The article went on to note, "The full ramifications of a potential breakdown in transatlantic ties are so extensive, they are difficult to total.... For decades, European nations and the United States have worked tightly together on issues of war, peace and wealth."This has been the backbone of the world order for generations, and in the United States, there's been a steady, bipartisan commitment to the Western alliance. American allies counted on this international partnership to endure.And now countries around the globe are anxious, if not terrified, because Americans elected an erratic amateur who says he intends to shuffle the diplomatic deck, partnering not with U.S. allies, but with a U.S. adversary -- Russia -- which apparently played a role in putting Donald Trump in the Oval Office.To borrow Trump's own rhetoric, America's friends are beginning to think they can't depend on us.Vox's Zack Beauchamp had a good piece
yesterday on the global landscape.
Bashing NATO and the European Union, and alienating Germany, is a plan for tearing apart US relations with the EU -- for weakening the agreements that underpin America's status as the sole superpower and that maintain peace on the European continent.It also means that Trump is talking about radically reshaping US foreign policy in a way that would significantly boost Putin's influence while leaving America's allies scrambling to figure out where they stand and how much they can trust in the future stability of an international system that has brought unprecedented economic strength and stability to the continent for decades."What Trump proposes is [American] geopolitical suicide," Daniel Nexon, a professor at Georgetown who studies great power politics, writes at the Lawyers, Guns, and Money blog. "Make no mistake: you should be very worried right now."
About a year ago, a reporter asked President Obama whether Trump was “already doing damage” to America’s reputation. “The answer … is yes,” Obama responded
. “I think that I’ve been very clear earlier that I am getting questions constantly from foreign leaders about some of the wackier suggestions that are being made.”This dovetailed with reporting from the time about international “alarm
” over Trump from officials in Europe, the Middle East, Latin America, and Asia.
A senior NATO official was quoted telling Reuters
last March, “European diplomats are constantly asking about Trump’s rise with disbelief and, now, growing panic.”That was when Trump was still one of several GOP candidates. Now that he's poised to take office, our allies' disbelief and panic is far more acute.