Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Europe’s Trump Panic

Maybe EU leaders should emulate his call for more defense spending.


By Review & Outlook
The Wall Street Journal
November 15, 2016

The European Union greeted Donald Trump’s election with gnashing of teeth and a typically chaotic “emergency summit” in Brussels over the weekend. Please, folks, get a grip.

This isn’t to say Europe doesn’t have cause for concern. The President-elect’s anti-trade convictions could be economically and politically damaging on both sides of the Atlantic. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) talks between the U.S. and EU may suffer the same fate as the Pacific trade talks did last week.

Mr. Trump’s soft spot for Vladimir Putin could exacerbate divisions between EU hawks and doves on the bloc’s response to Russian aggression in Ukraine. Mr. Trump also questioned America’s commitment to NATO, though he has since walked that back. One of his surrogates, Newt Gingrich, raised doubts about the U.S. commitment to smaller allies such as Estonia, which the former House Speaker described as a suburb of St. Petersburg.

But the EU bears some responsibility for alienating American voters who have trouble understanding the rationale for continued U.S. support for European security or free trade. One of Mr. Trump’s legitimate complaints about NATO is that only Estonia, Greece, Poland, the U.S. and U.K. meet the pact’s minimum requirement of spending 2% of GDP on defense.

In 2014 the newsweekly Der Spiegel noted that Germany, which spends about 1% of its gross domestic product on defense, would be able to deploy a grand total of 10 attack helicopters, 80 jet fighters and one submarine in a war. This in a country with a GDP of nearly $3.5 trillion. Meanwhile, Mr. Trump is the candidate who vowed to increase U.S. defense spending after years of declines under President Obama.

The EU also hasn’t covered itself in glory on trade. French and German politicians declared TTIP dead earlier this year even as the Obama Administration was trying to keep hopes for a deal alive. The EU did manage recently to conclude a free-trade deal with Canada, but only after barely overcoming a veto by Belgian dairy farmers. Decades of demagogy in Europe about the evils of all things American, from genetically modified foods to the “cowboy” instincts of U.S. foreign policy, haven’t exactly fostered a spirit of trans-Atlantic amity.

The truth is that many of Mr. Trump’s foreign-policy leanings remain a mystery, and Europe could help Atlanticists on both sides of the ocean by stepping up its defense commitments and reaffirming its ties to the U.S. rather than abandoning them.

A start would be to ditch the notion that a post-Trump NATO can be replaced with a new EU defense force, as EU foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini and German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen proposed last week. The EU may one day scrape together a viable unified military force, but for now this scheme would replace an existing alliance with a fantasy. Previous efforts have failed, and there’s little reason to believe a new one would do more than give American isolationists another alibi to walk away from NATO.

Equally helpful would be a less vindictive EU approach to Britain’s exit from the Union. Many EU leaders seem eager to adopt antigrowth trade barriers as the cost of inflicting political punishment on British voters. That’s not a recipe for economic success at home or credibility with other partners.

Europeans like to lecture Americans about their political choices even as Americans always seem to be coming to Europe’s rescue. Before panicking about Mr. Trump, perhaps Europe’s leaders should meet him.


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