Does the EU want to turn Trump's election into an opportunity? - YASIN AKTAY

Does the EU want to turn Trump's election into an opportunity?

After Donald Trump's election, a state of uneasiness is prevailing around the world. Even in the U.S., various segments' protests against Trump's election occupy the world media. Trump based his election campaign on Islamophobic messages, vowing that he would build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border. Initially, he was hardly taken seriously in politics as it seemed that he wanted to make the best of the rising xenophobia in the U.S. However, after he outdid his rivals in the Republican Party, he began making statements which were of close concern to the foreign policy of both the U.S. and other countries in alliance relations with the U.S. Therefore, Trump's election victory shocked certain circles. There are some reactions indicating that it created a similar shock effect in the EU as well.

The most important reason why Trump's election aroused concern in the EU was that he opened NATO up for discussion. In his presidential election campaign, Trump spoke out about a reservation that has been voiced in the U.S. from time to time. Referring to NATO's well-known Article 5, he said that some member countries did not spend enough on the common defense and argued that this must be revised. According to Trump, the U.S. spending on protecting NATO member states amounted to a fortune, while some countries in NATO did nothing in the name of defense alliance.

Trump's statements first bothered the Baltic states. This was because he lambasted NATO members like the Baltic states, saying that they would be able to benefit NATO's defense umbrella as long as they fulfilled their liabilities to the U.S. Trump's remarks led to a deep concern in the Baltic countries and to a reaction in the entirety of the EU. Despite being advanced economies, Baltic countries have almost no military significance and perceive a historic threat from Russia. So, they meet a large part of their physical security needs under NATO's defense umbrella.

After Trump's election, EU leaders made successive harsh statements. European Commission (EC) President Jean-Claude Juncker said Trump does not recognize the U.S. the way an average American does, claiming that Trump taking the office and beginning to recognize the parts of the world that he was ignorant towards will mean a loss of two years. He somehow put forth the crux of the matter, saying that Trump opening NATO up for discussion might have very dangerous consequences.

EU foreign ministers, with the exception of France's Jean-Marc Ayrault and the U.K.'s Boris Johnson, gathered in Brussels to discuss the kind of a path EU-U.S. relations would follow in Trump's period. Reportedly, Ayrault did not attend the meeting as he had an appointment with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, while High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini attributed Johnson's absence to the Brexit. Miroslav Lajčák, the foreign minister of Slovakia , who is the pro-tempore EU president, made a cooperative statement. This was an indicator of a hope about preventing the derogation of strategic, economic and social relations between the U.S. and EU. Perhaps, he created such a hopeful impression to avoid frightening the U.S.

Interestingly, Democrat Hillary Clinton voiced similar things about NATO in the election campaign, but her tone was softer than that of Trump's. She uttered demands such as the fair sharing of costs among NATO members, easing the U.S.'s burden, and conferring more responsibilities to the EU. Republicans, especially those who were named neocons later, gave the harshest response to Clinton's policies which were considered to be a new kind of isolationism.

Considering the decisions made in NATO summits, the EU conducted studies on an autonomous defense and security policy due to its internal intensification and geographical expansion after the end of the Cold War. It was accepted in the Maastricht Treaty that the EU was based on cooperation on three main pillars: European communities, European foreign and security policy and security forces and justice.

Shortly after the end of the Cold War, the EU began working on a military system that would militarily balance NATO, or at least, correct NATO's shortcomings. Especially the U.S.'s intervention in Yugoslavia despite the EU showed EU authorities that the U.S. could make some defense and security decisions against the union's interests. In this respect, the St. Petersburg tasks defined by the EU itself were a very important milestone in this respect. However, while the EU was trying to develop its own autonomous military and security policy, they continuously claimed that developments were not aimed at weakening NATO or moving the EU out of NATO. The security policy that took form in the following period was also dependent on NATO, especially in the military sense. The George W. Bush administration's criticism of the EU's attempt to evacuate and undermine NATO had a part in the development of affairs in this way.

The U.S. endeavored to make the European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP) moderate as it did not want the EU to leave NATO's influence. Nevertheless, the EU's search for an autonomous security policy did not come to an end. The EU could not resist the bandwagoning request that was made by the U.S. to its allies under Bush's administration. However, the EU's security policy continued with slow steps.

In this sense, the Brexit seems to have brought an opportunity for the EU that no one else is aware of. As the voice and representative of the U.S. within the EU, the U.K. resisted on issues that the U.S. did not want. If everything goes well, the U.K. will withdraw from the union within two years. We can see more frequent news about the EU's security policy as a result of the artificial tension that is increasingly escalating due to Trump's election as U.S. president.


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