Property Tycoons and Geopolitics
With Trump soon to occupy the Oval Office, Europe faces a period of uncertainty as populist movements gain confidence and the United States looks inwards.
As if Europe hadn’t been stunned enough after the shocking (yet in hindsight understandable) decision by the British people to leave the European Union, the populist property mogul Donald Trump was elected to be the 45th President of the United States. Many Europeans woke up to a different world and many of their leaders hesitantly congratulated the next president on his staging of what can only be called the political coup of the century.
The election of Donald Trump has grave implications for the people of Europe, and many European leaders were indeed justified in hoping for a Clinton presidency – that is, if Trump does what he said he’d do. President-elect Trump’s potential policies are ones that can have severe repercussions around the world, and for us in Europe, the future doesn’t look too bright.
Because of his “Jacksonian” approach to foreign policy, Trump’s opposition to Nato is particularly worrying for Europeans. Trump is somewhat justified in his frustrations with the current set-up of the organisation; the US props it up by providing a bulk of its funding, yet European members seem to benefit from it the most, particularly with the threat Russian expansionism in Eastern Europe once again a prevalent issue. The US leaving, or at least significantly reducing its contribution to Nato, would leave Europe more exposed, and certainly feeling less secure than it has for the past few decades, which currently makes Europeans uncertain of the future. It also leaves Britain in an arguably worse situation because, now out of the EU, it doesn’t have the same potential to find partners in defence. The remaining European states are able to take advantage of security in numbers. For this reason, it is extremely worrying that Mr Putin is so excited about the next administration that’ll occupy the West Wing, as demonstrated when he congratulated Mr Trump on his win and spoke of the desire to lift the sanctions imposed by the current administration to curtail Russian aggression.
This cooperation could mean the thawing of the Cold-war like relationships between the USA and Russia today, but not for the right reasons.
It is not surprising that the mainstream leaders of Europe – the Hollandes and Merkels – were ambivalent about Mr Trump’s victory, since it threatens to fuel the already growing fire that is European populism. If Brexit threatened to shake the foundations of the European establishment, the US election result threatens to topple it. This election sets a certain precedent and example for when populism can work and it’ll undoubtedly destabilise already wavering governments. This would give the far-right parties of Europe the confidence to push their anti-EU agenda, especially in upcoming referenda and elections. For many in Europe, the election of Mr Trump signifies the beginning of the end for the liberal consensus.
Following its reaction to the migrant crisis and other divisions, Europe is certainly not providing an example of western leadership. Outsiders will now look to the USA not as a pinnacle of democracy, but as an example of how democracy can falter. This makes the decline of US authority around the world a real prospect. No longer will the US have the moral authority to export democracy with the justification of how well it works in their country. Overall, this has implications for Western leadership and its decline around the world.
For Britain however, all is not lost. Whilst it may feel more exposed outside the EU, Britain now has the upper hand in Brexit negotiations. Mr Trump has said Britain would be at the “front of the line” for future trade deals so no longer is Britain as dependent on a favourable deal with the EU. This goes off the assumption that Mr Trump will follow through with what he’s said in the past. Let’s hope that’s not the case for some of his other policies.
For many in Europe the election of Mr Trump - as French President Hollande put it - “opens a period of uncertainty”, which in turn fuels instability and division. Europeans, and citizens from other continents for that matter, need to accept the result of the election and make it work, but never should they forget the liberal consensus that has for so long created stability. It is equally important, however, to be wary of its contribution to the situation we find ourselves in today, which is the beginning of an uncertain term with potentially grave geopolitical implications.