At a time of European weakness, the victory of Donald Trump could easily be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, sparking an irreversible process of dissolution, irrelevance or stagnation. That was the understanding expressed last week by the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, when he wrote a letter to the 27 European Union heads of state and government in which he described the change of leadership in Washington as posing a threat to Europe.
Despite a simplistic interpretation of his missive by some, there can be no doubt that the former Polish prime minister was not trying to put jihadist terrorism, the post-imperial anxiety of Putin and the arrival of Trump on the same level. Rather, he was quite rightly taking aim at the fact that a Europe that is under attack from outside and in – thanks to a series of challenges, including populism – and immersed in uncertainty due to the process of separation from the United Kingdom, cannot allow itself the luxury of losing what has been the principal inspiration, ally and sustainer of the European project since its origins: the United States.
If Europe is going through an existential crisis it is due to its own inabilities
Let’s say it clearly: Washington is not responsible for Europe’s weakness. If Europe is going through an existential crisis it is due to its own inabilities: economic ones, because it has not been able to generate sufficient growth and employment, nor complete the process of strengthening its currency since the financial crisis of 2008; political, because instead of strengthening its institutions, solidarity between countries and crossed loyalties between Europeans, it has projected an image of weakness and has yielded in the face of populist and anti-European rhetoric; and military, because in spite of the evidence that its security is guaranteed in a completely disproportionate way by the US, it has done nothing in the last decade to prepare for the transition from a multilateral world based on rules, to a multi-polar world where survival of the fittest reigns.
If the arrival of Trump – who is exerting protectionist pressures in the economic field, taking unilateral action on military issues and making isolationist decisions on diplomatic affairs – represents an existential threat for Europe, it is precisely because Europeans take for granted the fact that the United States will always be by their side and will come to their aid in any circumstances. As such, the resounding arrival of Trump should be the loud knock on the door that wakes up Europe from its lethargy and makes it want to reach its coming of age in political, economic and security terms once and for all.
The resounding arrival of Trump should be the loud knock on the door that wakes up Europe from its lethargy
Right now, Europe does not have the opportunity, but rather the unavoidable obligation, to become stronger both inside and out. It should bring together a defense of the prevailing international order on issues such as asylum, human rights and torture with a reinforced role as an open and global economic protagonist. And it also needs to learn to stand up for itself and ensure its own security. This is the only way it can guarantee its own stability, export it to others and contribute to sustaining an international order in accordance with its interests and values.
English version by Simon Hunter.