How they see us: Europe fears for transatlantic alliance
America is abandoning its European allies, said Berthold Kohler in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Germany). In a joint interview with Germany’s Bild and Britain’s Times just days before his inauguration as U.S. president, Donald Trump called NATO—the linchpin of transatlantic security—“obsolete.” He praised Britain’s impending exit from the European Union as a “great thing” and said he hoped that more EU countries would follow suit. It’s an unprecedented break with more than 50 years of American support for a democratic and united Europe. Trump has shown that “the red lines that America drew in Europe after World War II and has defended ever since have no meaning for him.” America is to be led by a man who “knows the number of his Twitter followers but not the number of NATO members” and who “speaks as if he were not the leader of the West, but a troll from a Moscow suburb.”
Trump might not be a pawn of Russia, but he’s certainly acting like one, said Angelo Panebianco in Corriere della Sera (Italy). Russian President Vladimir Putin has long sought to shatter NATO and the EU, both of which have helped contain Russia since the end of the Cold War. Even before this latest interview, Trump had proposed lifting the sanctions President Obama imposed on Russia over its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. If the U.S. did drop those sanctions, an emboldened Russia would likely embark on more land grabs. A fragmented Europe, meanwhile, beset by Islamic terrorism, will be tempted to “accept Russian offers of aid” and will split once again into Russia’s satellites and opponents. “We are on the eve of a radical geopolitical change.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is up to the challenge, said Miodrag Soric in DeutscheWelle .de. Trump threw several barbs her way during the interview, calling the EU “a vehicle for Germany” to boss around its neighbors and labeling Merkel’s 2015 decision to let some 1 million refugees settle in Germany “a catastrophic mistake.” Merkel must ignore those attacks and stand up for the transatlantic alliance. She should remind Trump that after the 9/11 attacks, Germany and other NATO members sent troops to Afghanistan to fight “for American security.” And she should ask Trump whether he really believes the U.S. will “remain a global superpower” without a united, strong Europe on its side. The U.S. needs Europe, Merkel should explain to him, just as much as Europe needs the U.S.
But if the chancellor fails, we have to face the possibility of a future without U.S. support, said Le Monde (France) in an editorial. By electing Trump, America has reverted to the “deeply protectionist part of its DNA” and concluded it needs no allies. All right: Europe will pursue economic and military autonomy. Maybe this American pullback is a chance for the EU to “finally reach maturity.”