International trade loomed large in the dual NATO/Russia debacle perpetrated by President Donald Trump during his recent trip to Europe. As part of Trump’s baffling campaign to undermine the west and promote the interests of the Russian Federation, he reportedly advised French President Emmanuel Macron to leave the EU if he wanted to get a better bilateral trade deal with the United States.
That was just one of the more recent developments in a string of actions which included Trump’s refusal to join the G7 joint statement, his imposition of tariffs on steel and aluminum from US allies, his proposal to readmit Russia to the G7, and his calling the European Union a “foe.”
As pointed out in a recent article in Foreign Affairs, Washington now “aims to compete in Europe rather than alongside Europe” and the US “will try to pick off European countries by dangling bilateral trade deals in front of them…” Besides the deal Trump offered Macron, such a strategy could also include pressuring the United Kingdom into signing a free-trade agreement with the United States over one with the EU.
It also appeared the US will “exploit its greatest leverage, its defense and security commitments, to get short-term deals on trade.” “It will dole out defense dollars to the most loyal,” the Foreign Affairs article argued, “while punishing those who stand up to it.”
If Trump is able to actualize this strategy, it may mean a more independent Europe, militarily, diplomatically, and with respect to trade. “Germany, which is Russia’s largest trade partner, could flex its economic muscle to push back against Putin,” the article noted. “Europe should continue to engage the United States and push for its interests, but first and foremost, it should seize the moment to develop a vision for Europe’s role in the world.”
Trump’s approach, the article concluded, is “shortsighted.” “The web of alliances and common values that undergird transatlantic relationships form a much stronger counter to China and Russia than do raw economic or military resources,” it added. The Trump administration’s predatory and divisive policies power in Europe “will be offset when Europe looks elsewhere for friends.”
China is trying to attract European countries with economic incentives, and if the US remains antagonistic Europe may start to look eastward.