EU, US Relations Sink After Trump Tour 07/18 06:26
After a week of the worst barrage of insults yet from U.S. President Donald
Trump, the European Union is looking westward toward the White House less and
BRUSSELS (AP) -- After a week of the worst barrage of insults yet from U.S.
President Donald Trump, the European Union is looking westward toward the White
House less and less.
Making it worse, Trump spent Monday cozying up to EU adversary Vladimir
Putin in an extraordinary chummy summit with the Russian leader in Helsinki.
Never mind. In an age when Trump has made political optics all-important, on
Tuesday the EU struck back. Key EU leaders were in the far east in Japan and
China looking for the trust, friendship and cooperation they could no longer
get from a century-old ally.
Trump's embrace of Putin and the EU's Asian outreach highlight the yawning
rift, widening more by the day, in a trans-Atlantic unity that has been the
bedrock of international politics for the better part of a century, as
countless graves of U.S. soldiers buried in European soil bear witness to.
Trump's abrasiveness and "America First" insistence had been a given even
before he became president. Europe's increasing resignation to letting go of
the cherished link to the White House is much more recent.
After last week's brutal NATO summit where Trump derided Europeans as
freeloaders, EU chief Donald Tusk spoke on Tuesday of "the increasing darkness
of international politics."
"This Helsinki summit is above all another wake-up call for Europe," said
Manfred Weber, the German leader of the EPP center-right group in the European
Parliament, the legislature's biggest.
"We Europeans must take our fate in our own hands."
It was a startling sentiment coming from someone who hails from the same
German Christian Democrat stock as Angela Merkel, Helmut Kohl and Konrad
Adenauer, staunch supporters of the trans-Atlantic link over the past
There have been other signs of the growing European detachment from the
White House, especially after Trump pulled out of the global climate agreement
and the Iran nuclear deal the EU brokered.
"With friends like that, who needs enemies?" Tusk asked two months ago.
Soon, Trump had also piled on economic punishment with punitive tariffs on
European steel and aluminum.
Then came the NATO summit. Already viewed with apprehension, reality turned
out to be worse.
First, Trump called Germany, the powerhouse of the European Union, "captive"
to Russia. Then he suggested that Britain should "sue" the EU over Brexit
terms. Finally, he finished off by calling the 28-nation bloc a trade "foe."
"For Trump, the categories of friend, ally, partner, opponent, enemy don't
exist. For him there is only his own ego," said the head of the German
parliament's foreign affairs committee, Norbert Roettgen.
So little wonder the EU has turned for friends elsewhere --- and found one
Tuesday in Japan, where the bloc said it put in place "the largest bilateral
trade deal ever."
Up to two years ago, that was supposed to be the Trans-Atlantic Trade and
Investment Partnership, or TTIP, trade deal between the EU and the United
States. But Trump quickly let it be known that such an international agreement
would not happen on his watch.
"This is an act of enormous strategic importance for the rules-based
international order, at a time when some are questioning this order," Tusk said
at a joint news conference in Tokyo with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
"We are sending a clear message that we stand together against
Despite it all, until last week there had remained hope that on the most
critical of geopolitical security issues, Trump would remain true to American
ideals. Instead, he unleashed unprecedented criticism at the NATO summit.
Fully extracting itself from the United States, though, is a daunting
challenge for Europe.
Militarily, with the exceptions of France and Britain, the European allies
have lived under the nuclear umbrella of the United States since World War II.
Defense cooperation outside of U.S-dominated NATO is only now taking off and
the blocked Brexit negotiations make such a prospect fraught with uncertainty.
That military dimension, and the bond between Europe and the United States,
have a special resonance in nations like Poland and the Baltic states, which
had long been under the thumb of Moscow before the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Hence, Monday's Helsinki summit was seen with apprehension that Trump might
make dramatic concessions to Putin and leave parts of Europe with too little
protection. In Poland, the 1945 Yalta Conference is seen as a symbol of
political treason because, without Poland's participation and against Poland's
will, it put the country under Soviet control for decades, until 1989.
On Tuesday, there was some relief on that score. Krzysztof Szczerski, the
foreign policy adviser to Polish President Andrzej Duda, said that all those
who "prophesied that the Trump-Putin meeting will lead to a second Yalta were
Despite relations sinking to new lows almost every week, the EU will still
make another attempt this month to mend fences, knowing that trade wars will
hurt all. EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is to visit Trump in
Washington on July 25.