Trump's threat of attack: will Europe join in?

In the wake of Trump's threat to attack in Syria, the US government is apparently divided and has yet to reach a clear decision on military intervention. Voices in Europe now ask what stance the US's allies should take. Commentators focus particularly on France, Germany and the UK.

Open/close all quotes
De Volkskrant (NL) / 13 April 2018

Confused zig-zagging

Trump's unclear strategy in Syria is making things difficult for the European alies, De Volkskrant observes:

“For the first time the European countries face the decision of how to deal with Trump in a war situation. As opposed to with his predecessors it's not clear what he will do. ... For the British in particular there's a lot at stake. After Brexit the country wants to be a champion of freedom, peace and progress in a troubled world. The biggest challenge for May is currently the 'special ties' with the Americans. She wants a good relationship with Trump but she needs to avoid running after him like a slave. Everyone knows what happened to Tony Blair after he supported the invasion led by George W. Bush in Iraq.”

Badische Zeitung (DE) / 12 April 2018

Merkel's cautiousness the right approach

Europeans should follow Merkel's lead in defining their own positions, the Badische Zeitung recommends:

“Whereas France and Britain are doing their best to rein Trump in by springing to his side militarily, the Merkel government is trying to pursue a middle course. The chancellor and foreign minister have sided with the allies while at the same time making clear that the military option is not an option for them. Some may see this as another example of the shilly-shallying people in other countries like to accuse Germany of. However this cautious position accounts for the fact that there can be no military solution in Syria. And it increases the likelihood of remaining in dialogue with Russia while maintaining a tough stance. And that is a good thing.”

Causeur (FR) / 12 April 2018

France would do better to act as mediator

In assuring Trump of his support Macron could be striking out in a new foreign policy direction, military expert Hadrien Desuin fears in Causeur:

“The US and Russia don't want to agree on an investigation by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. The best role for France would be to get the two major powers to sit down at the table once more. ... If France hit Syria without a UN mandate this would mark a truly neo-conservative shift in Emmanuel Macron's foreign policy, and the first big diplomatic mistake of his mandate. So far the president has sought a balanced role for France. This moral interventionism would mean a break with the Gaullist tradition and a return to the Occidentalism of Sarkozy and Hollande.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) / 13 April 2018

Macron pushing to the front

The eagerness with which the French president has sided with the US is counterproductive for Europe, writes Franco Venturini, an international politics expert, in Corriere della Sera:

“It seems that Macron's main motivation is to replace Merkel - whose relations with the White House have become strained even though she is planning to visit the US soon - as the US's privileged partner in Europe. That is not necessarily in the interests of the Europe that Macron is boldly seeking to reform. And it will hardly prompt Trump to turn a blind eye at the debate on the Iran agreement on May 12. On the contrary. Now that John Bolton is advising Trump, Iran could well be the next target.”

The Sun (GB) / 11 April 2018

Expecting the UN to solve the crisis is naive!

There is no alternative to harsh reprisals, The Sun believes:

“That might not necessarily mean a traditional military strike, though if an international coalition were formed and firm intelligence suggested that targeted, limited action would destroy Bashar al-Assad's chemical weapon stocks, this newspaper would support Britain's involvement. Cyber-attacks could well be just as effective. Either way, waiting for the UN to solve this crisis is a fantasy. Russia has been vetoing resolutions condemning Syria for years. We mustn't be scared of standing up for what's right.”

Turun Sanomat (FI) / 12 April 2018

A laboratory for cruel experiments

Turun Sanomat laments the UN Security Council's inability to find a solution to the war in Syria:

“On Monday night the Security Council was unable to agree on setting up an unbiased investigation into the use of chemical weapons in Douma. ... The measures of the major powers, and by extension of the Security Council, appear undignified and childish in a situation in which the killing of innocent civilians is entering its eighth year. Syria has become a playground and laboratory in which military power and the size of the leaders' egos are put to the test at the expense of the civilians.”

Gość Niedzielny (PL) / 11 April 2018

Threat of a war between the major powers

The war in Syria may now take on entirely new proportions, Gość Niedzielny warns:

“Everyone knows that the drama in Syria cannot be resolved without Iran and above all Russia, which helped Assad. A resolute US attack on Syrian targets would represent an attempt to recoup former loses. However, it threatens to unleash a far more serious conflict. This time the result could be a direct confrontation between the major powers. On foreign terrain, of course. And as usual claiming victims among the civilian population - far more than those who die in the presumed attacks using chemical weapons.”

Die Tageszeitung taz (DE) / 11 April 2018

Don't become Trump's minion

Trump is becoming a real threat, the taz warns:

“Trump, who campaigned for election as a non-interventionist and critic of war, has not only boosted the number of US soldiers in Afghanistan since he took office, now he's also put together a cabinet that is so belligerent it represents a new security risk for the world. ... If the international community were to go along with Trump's call for an air strike in Syria it would give the struggling US president the boost in popularity that he urgently needs in this election year. But for future relations with Iran, Russia and ultimately also North Korea it could have unpredictable consequences. Instead of relying on such a dangerous partner, European countries would do well to finally develop their own strategies.”

Kurier (AT) / 12 April 2018

Shoot first, ask questions later?

With its threats the US is once again rushing in where angels fear to tread, Kurier criticises:

“What lies behind the recent trend of shooting first and asking questions later? You don't have to be a Putin fan to see that the poisoning of the former double agent Skripal and his daughter reeks of Russian secret service involvement. But is the fact that it 'reeks' enough to justify the furious attacks that the British prime minister and half of the EU have made against Moscow? You don't have to be a staunch defender of Assad to see that he probably did use chemical weapons. But is 'probably' sufficient grounds for a Western intervention in Syria, where the West has already had a hundred reasons to intervene and yet failed to do so?”

Ria Novosti (RU) / 11 April 2018

US experienced in backpedalling

The US may also decide not to launch any attacks in Syria, Ria Novosti hopes:

“Long ago in 1962 [the year of the Cuban Missile Crisis], when a world war suddenly became a real threat the US was able to exercise restraint and back pedal. ... And recently, in the conflict with North Korea the US deployed aircraft carriers and threatened to destroy the regime, but then held back. ... There is good reason to hope that when Trump's 48-hour deadline runs out the leadership of the Western hegemony will have the strength to switch off YouTube and switch on its logical thinking. And distinguish between its lust for war and the reality. Because, as The Times reported, even British Prime Minister Theresa May, who doesn't want to repeat the tragic experiences of her predecessor in Iraq, has asked Trump for real proof.”

More current debates

Le Monde (FR)
El Periódico de Catalunya (ES)
Novi list (HR)
Helsingin Sanomat (FI)
Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE)
Rzeczpospolita (PL)
The Times (GB)
The Guardian (GB)
Die Tageszeitung taz (DE)
LB (UA)
Die Presse (AT)
De Volkskrant (NL)