Best columns: Europe
Trump’s win is a boon for Deutsche Bank
Much has been made in the U.S. of President-elect Donald Trump’s rumored ties to Russia—but what about to Germany? asked Jan Dams. Our biggest bank, Deutsche Bank, is invested in Trump up to its ears and has every reason to cheer his election. Many banks refused to lend to the real estate tycoon because of his multiple business failures and bankruptcies, but Deutsche Bank stayed loyal, lending him some $2.5 billion since 1998. Fully $364 million of that went into Miami’s Doral Golf Club and Trump hotels in Chicago and Washington in the past few years. “The twist?” All those loans are due by 2024—but they can be renegotiated. That’s where a Trump-led Justice Department comes in. The Obama Justice Department has levied a $14 billion fine against Deutsche Bank for “shady real estate dealings”— including a repackaging of subprime loans that helped precipitate the 2008 financial crash—and the bank was set to negotiate a settlement. Now, though, it has “every incentive” to wait and see if it can get a sweeter deal out of President Trump. As U.S. financial writer David Dayen has pointed out, Deutsche Bank has leverage over the incoming American president. Will Trump put his own interests ahead of his nation’s?
Putting a populist in the Élysée Palace
The result of America’s election could be a sign of things to come for France, said Laurent Bodin. Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right, xenophobic National Front, is running for the presidency in 2017. Most polls show that she has an excellent chance to win the first round in April, so the outcome depends on whom she will face in the May runoff and what the turnout will be. It’s true that “the populist wave is progressing everywhere,” and many are predicting a triple win of “Brexit, Trump, Le Pen.” But Trump’s win might galvanize “those who, on the Left and Right, cannot resign themselves to seeing the extreme right come to power in France.” We still have six months to convince voters that Le Pen’s brand of nativist nationalism is not in France’s best interest—or their own. But Trump’s victory and the U.K.’s vote to exit the European Union have shown that we are living in a social media age where “simplistic ideas and conspiracy theories flourish.” The Brexit voters believed the lies they were told about an easy return to full sovereignty; Trump voters believed he would reverse globalization and restore manufacturing jobs. What will French voters believe? Trump’s win proves that “nothing is impossible in a democracy.”
How they see us: Europe loses faith in an old ally
No more relying on NATO to keep Europe safe, said Nikolas Busse in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Germany). U.S. President-elect Donald Trump said on the campaign trail that the Atlantic alliance, the pact that has safeguarded the Continent for nearly 70 years, is “obsolete” and that the U.S. “will only protect its European allies if they pay enough” for the privilege. His comments couldn’t have been made at a more dangerous time: Russia has doubled its military budget over the past decade and is increasingly aggressive on the international stage, sending troops into eastern Ukraine, gobbling up Crimea, and bullying the Baltic States. Even if Trump were to walk back his remarks, he has “aroused doubts about America’s commitment and loyalty.” Will the U.S. defend a small, faraway country like Estonia from Russian aggression? “If the answer to that question is not ‘yes,’ but ‘maybe,’” then deterrence is at an end.
That’s why Europeans must start contributing more to our own defense, said Stephen Glover in the Daily Mail (U.K.). Each NATO member is supposed to spend at least 2 percent of its gross domestic product on defense, yet only five of the alliance’s 28 nations meet that target. The U.S. is responsible for 70 percent of all military spending by NATO members. “This is grossly inequitable.” If Trump does slash the U.S. contribution to NATO, Europe must fill the gap—and that’s where a post-Brexit U.K. can make itself indispensable. “A Europe threatened by Russia, and with America in retreat, needs us more than it has for a long time.”
We shouldn’t panic yet, said Vygaudas Usackas in Vakaru Ekspresas (Lithuania). Trump is unpredictable and may not have meant what he said. During the campaign he threatened to withdraw U.S. military support from South Korea. But two days after being elected Trump promised that he’d be a “steadfast and strong” ally to Seoul and would protect the nation from North Korea. Anyway, whatever Trump decides, he is not a dictator. Lithuania “still has friends in Congress,” and many of them have a strong commitment to NATO. Our own President Dalia Grybauskaite has said, “No matter who is president in America, we always have confidence in America.”
Well, I don’t, said Sylvie Kauffman in Le Monde (France). Unless Trump decides to “entrust his foreign policy to a team of more conventional Republicans,” his victory spells the end of the U.S. as a champion of Western values. The current threat to the West is the rise of “autocratic capitalism dominated by a strongman,” as in Russia, China, and Turkey. Trump shows “no antipathy” toward that model. He favors protectionism over free markets and unilateralism over alliances. The oppressed will not be able to look to him for help. Instead, it will fall to German Chancellor Angela Merkel to “take up the mantle of defender of universal values in the free world.”