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Europe is unprepared for what might happen next in the US

Tonhe west’s two The largest democracies will go to the polls in 2024: European Union The country will vote to renew its 705-seat Congress in the spring, before the United States elects a new president and Congress in November. One of those votes would have a huge impact on Europe, potentially reshaping its entire political landscape. The other will elect members of the European Parliament.

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A specter is haunting Europe – the specter of Trumpism reemerging. The president’s nativist leanings have caused a lot of heartache for the first time, regardless of diplomatic customs. That was before the outbreak of war on the mainland. Now, the prospect of a revival — whether by Donald Trump himself or mutants like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, the strongest challenger to the Republican nomination — is tense disturbed. Everyone knew trouble might be coming. No one can agree on how to respond. Like a deer caught in headlights, Europe is stuck, waiting to see what happens.

Leaders and voters on the continent breathed a sigh of relief when Joe Biden returned the Democratic Party to the Oval Office in November 2020.Unlike President Trump, he didn’t call European Union Not one “enemy” casually questioned NATO. He has a comfortingly boring view on climate change (i.e. that it’s happening). As is customary for U.S. presidents not named Trump, he listened to the Washington foreign policy elite that European diplomats had chatted with for decades. Antony Blinken, President Biden’s secretary of state, speaks impeccable French, suggesting a moral bias in Trump circles. It is rare for the current commander-in-chief not to talk about his Irish heritage. Even so, relations between Europe and the United States have not always been smooth sailing at the moment: look at the controversy surrounding Mr Biden’s green tax cuts, which Europe fears will come with protectionist conditions attached.

If the United States decides to once again strive for Trump’s greatness, the most obvious concern is Ukraine. In an ideal world, the Russian military would be defeated before the next presidential term begins in January 2025. Yet the prospect of an unpredictable leader in the White House was enough to encourage Vladimir Putin to persevere with his botched invasion until then. Because it was American weapons and intelligence that gave Ukraine a head start in the war, including European aid. Trying to guess what a re-elected President Trump will do is a fool’s game; he has said that by striking a deal with Putin, he can end this war “in a day” (more on that below). Mr. DeSantis recently called the war a mere “territorial dispute” between Russia and Ukraine, and said it was not in the interests of the United States to get involved (although he reversed his position after facing an onslaught of criticism). Either way, Europe has no choice but to accept Washington’s decision.

If anything, Europe’s dependence on the US has deepened under Joe Biden. A year ago, Constanze Stelzenmüller of the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank, noted that Germany was “outsourcing its security to the US, its energy needs to Russia and its export-led growth to China”. In Europe today, all three are increasingly in American hands, said Jeremy Shapiro of the European Council on Foreign Relations, another think tank. NATO It remains the guardian of European security, not least because arsenals from Estonia to Portugal have been emptied in favor of Ukraine.Much of the gas that used to flow to Europe via Russian pipelines is now supplied by ships filled with U.S. fracking oil liquified natural gas. Green subsidies have turned the US, not China, into an El Dorado for European companies.

What do you do when your security guarantor is of questionable reliability? France has never fully trusted the United States to defend its interests, but has decades of experience in the game.President Emmanuel Macron pleads with all who might listen European Union Need to develop its own “strategic autonomy” (again: details below).During the Trump administration, he talked about Europe being on the brink, and NATO Near brain death. For those with this renewed Gaullist mindset, little has improved under President Biden. Look at the hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan that caught Europe off guard in August 2021, or Australia’s abrupt cancellation of a large submarine contract with France a month later.

But the French solution to the unstable American problem has largely fallen on deaf ears. Central Europeans in particular don’t trust the security of anyone other than the US, especially France or Germany. Poles and others suspect Mr Macron is pushing his own agenda, perhaps to fill orders for French defense contractors. For now, Europe is united on Ukraine, as its leaders broadly agree with Mr. Biden. If the US changes tack, expect parts of Europe, not others, to follow suit.

it’s time for biden

Even a divided Europe may have a few diplomatic cards to play, no matter who is in the White House. A Republican administration would be as tough on China as President Biden, if not tougher. But if the United States is to isolate its adversary, it needs help from Europe, and Europe just wants to reduce its dependence on China, not kill it.so far European Union Content to continue doing business there: Mr Macron will visit Xi Jinping in Beijing next week alongside European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. Europe’s role as a counterweight may shape American thinking to some extent.

But probably not much. The real problem will be at home. Ever since Barack Obama announced his “pivot to Asia” more than a decade ago, Europe has known it needs to spend more on its own security. Belatedly, Germany and others have pledged to do so. Yet no one thinks this will matter when the next US presidency ends, let alone begins. Europe would thus again be vulnerable to the whims of the superpowers, with European interests an afterthought. Going into 2024, the continent will be full of hope: it lacks the means to prepare for anything else.

Read more from our European politics columnist Charlemagne:
Cucumber Saudis: How the Dutch were too good at farming (March 23)
Europe has led the global assault on Big Tech. But does it need a new approach? (March 16)
Germany is letting domestic squabbles pollute Europe’s green ambitions (March 9)

Plus: How the Charlemagne Column Got Its Name

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