Does the EU need to close ranks after Trump's win?

After meeting on the weekend to discuss their reaction to Donald Trump's election, the EU foreign ministers announced stronger cooperation on foreign and defence policy. Trump has announced plans to seek closer cooperation with Moscow. Is this good or bad news? Europe's commentators are at odds.

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Irish Examiner (IE) /

Trump-Putin pact more dangerous than Cold War

The newly elected US president's plans to reverse key elements of foreign policy set alarm bells ringing for the Irish Examiner:

“The most disturbing part of his impending US Presidency is not his misogyny nor - vile though it is - his racism. It is his willingness to engage with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the war against Islamic State in Syria. ...Another departure from US foreign policy is Trump’s contemptuous attitude to NATO which, despite our neutrality, assures Ireland’s safety against Russian belligerence. ... The Cold War between the US and the former Soviet Union was a frightening time for Europe. Ironically, a military alliance between them could be more frightening still.”

Tportal (HR) /

US and Russia guarantee peace in Europe

It is nonsense to see Trump's desire for good relations with Moscow as posing a threat to Europe, Tportal counters:

“Europe is and always has been its own worst enemy and brought itself to the brink of self-destruction with two wars in the 20th century. It was the US and Russia that saved Europe from moral decline and more in the Second World War. And the long period of peace in Europe after 1945 was not the result of Europe coming to its senses but thanks to US-Russian agreements, the balance of power and above all the repression of European nationalism. As long as Europe doesn't move towards a US-style democratic federation of states and remains a loose coalition of superfluous small sovereignties it will continue to depend on a peaceful arrangement between the US and Russia. And Europe must hope that this arrangement is based on peaceful coexistence and a stable distribution of spheres of influence.”

Latvijas Avīze (LV) /

Latvians should keep criticism to themselves

Latvia's politicians must moderate their conduct towards the future US president, warns Latvijas Avīze:

“There are differences of opinion, but that's normal. It is the aggressive position of certain leading politicians that is surprising. First the politicians should answer the question of whether the United States is still our ally. If the answer is yes, then Latvia's political elite should respect the Americans' election result even if it upsets them personally. It is good that Latvia's foreign minister has understood this. With good common sense he should persuade his colleagues in parliament not to make derogatory remarks about Trump and not to doubt his ability to lead his country because such opinions can only harm Latvia's foreign policy and security. ”

Der Standard (AT) /

Trump exposes rifts dividing Europe

Donald Trump's election poses a major threat for Europe, warns Der Standard:

“He is mercilessly exposing the lack of unity among the EU partners. The fact that Boris Johnson, Mr Brexit, immediately sided with the US is no surprise. But we are now seeing Poland, the Baltic countries, the Eastern Europeans in general trying to curry favour with Trump - unlike France, which sees a new chance to raise its profile. There are many fault lines in Europe but now they are becoming visible, just as they did in 2000 when Bush, who started the Iraq war in 2003, came to power. It was then, if not before, that the Europeans were split into two camps, into the hawks and the doves. In 2016 the situation is even more dangerous with all the crises and wars going on in and around Europe.”

El Mundo (ES) /

Stop just watching and take action

Europe must finally present a positive vision to counter populism, El Mundo admonishes:

“There is nothing more politically irresponsible than for our leaders to continue to just sit back with crossed arms. The Brexit and the EU's shameful management of problems like the refugee crisis highlight the need to rethink Europe. In these times of political instability the disillusioned masses need a new narrative that makes them feel proud of their legacy. We need genuine advances in political integration to improve the EU's efficiency. All this requires strong leadership and political will. … We are living in turbulent times in which the citizens see political change as the cure to all their problems and believe the promise of security offered by conservatism in the face of globalisation and multiculturalism. The challenge Brussels now faces is to convince the people that embracing populism is tantamount to falling into the abyss.”

Lrytas (LT) /

Rapprochement between US and Russia would be good

The former director general of Lithuanian State Security Department Mečys Laurinkus sees a potential improvement in relations between Washington and Moscow as a major opportunity for Europe and the world:

“The Kremlin is openly satisfied with the election result. That's not a bad thing because it tempers Moscow's irritation and aggressiveness and will give diplomacy a chance to hold sway. ... Important future agreements between the US and Russia will determine the size of the new wave of refugees that threatens to tear Europe apart. The destruction of the IS could become the biggest and most important event in Trump's term of office, and in that case compromises with Russia would not do any harm. ... Hopefully the pace of the information war will also slow down. Today's propaganda hysteria exceeds all boundaries, and it's time we woke up.”

De Morgen (BE) /

EU could be left naked and helpless

A close alliance between the US and Russia would have dramatic consequences for Europe, De Morgen warns:

“What Trump has said on Syria since his election confirms that the future president will try to partner up with Putin. Trump doesn't care about what Assad is doing to his people. ... This is precisely Putin's position, and also that of all the far-right parties in Europe that sympathise with Moscow. If the US does forge an alliance with Russia we will face a dramatic shift in the balance of power. If Putin realises he has carte blanche he will continue with his strategy in Ukraine and perhaps repeat the 'Ukraine trick' in Estonia and Latvia, where a fifth column of ethnic Russians is waiting. If Trump does what he said he would do - namely nothing - then the fragile EU will suddenly be standing naked on the world politics stage.”

Jutarnji list (HR) /

Time for a Security and Defence Union

It's time the EU made itself strong for the future, Jutarnji list urges:

“Trump is an even bigger unknown after the elections than he was before them. The most dangerous thing about him is his unpredictability. So only time will tell if 'The Donald' really wants to - and can - withdraw militarily from the world. Because until now the American arms industry has had every US president wrapped around its little finger! But for the European Union, the question should really be: In view of Trump's disinterest in Europe, Putin's annexation of Crimea, Erdoğan's blackmail tactics with immigrants, France's fanning the flames of evil in Libya, and the Americans' and Brits' involvement in Syria and Iraq, do we want everyone to go on doing their own thing? Or shouldn't we strengthen the Union economically and finally establish the common Security and Defence Union - our European Union?”

Postimees (EE) /

Trump's unpredictability is a trump card

In his campaign, Trump left open the question of whether he would defend the Baltic states against a possible Russian attack. Nevertheless fears about what Russia will do after Trump's election are unfounded, commentator Taavi Minnik writes in Postimees:

“So far there has been no indication that Trump and his team have taken concrete steps to move closer to Russia. When people talk about Trump's unpredictability, or rather his lack of strategy, this is precisely the quality Putin used in recent years to gain an advantage over Obama and Kerry, and they couldn't deal with it. From now on though, Washington has the trump of unpredictable behaviour in its hand, because the Kremlin won't know what to expect from the new man and his team.” (RU) /

Putin's camp counting chickens before they hatch

The conservative camp in Russia is delighted at Trump's victory, but questions the euphoria:

“The flipside of the doomsday atmosphere among Russia's liberals regarding Trump is the incomprehensible euphoria of the conservative patriotic wing. At least, they think, Putin will get along better with the American version of his friend Silvio Berlusconi. This may be true. But Moscow will still have a hard time getting along with the White House Trump is moving into. He and those around him who were responsible for the political components of his election campaign are people with a right-wing conservative Reaganesque mindset. … And in keeping with Reagan's understanding of peace through strength, Trump has already promised to scrap Obama's programme of 500 billion dollars in military spending cuts.”

Ziare (RO) /

Isolation would damage US interests

"Make America great again" was the slogan of Trump's election campaign. But that can't mean the US will retreat into itself on foreign policy issues, journalist Ioana Ene Dogioiu writes in Ziare:

“I don't believe that an isolated America that backs down from its role as leader of the free world can be great. Because America's greatness is based on it expanding its role in Nato and developing its international relations - even in places where Obama hesitated to do so. An America that eats obediently out of Putin's hand and neglects Europe - like in the interwar period - cannot be great. It would be an America that subordinates itself and pays a high price for it, as it once did on the beaches of Normandy.”

Pravda (SK) /

Europe must pay for its own defence

With Trump's election a phase of uncertainty begins that will force Europe to show more commitment to ensuring its own security, Pravda believes:

“Trump's statement that he would not risk going to war with Russia over Estonia, for example, raises the question of collective security in the context of the North Atlantic Alliance anew. Yes, we still don't know how much of what he said was campaign rhetoric. But what is clear is that we are on the threshold of an insecure era. ... We have to prepare ourselves for a situation in which the US no longer guarantees our security to the extent we have grown accustomed to. Rich Europe will have to pay for its own defence. The chaos in eastern Ukraine, the civil war in Syria and the ongoing refugee crisis oblige us to be self-sufficient.”

Star (TR) /

New US government will include Moscow in alliances

Trump's foreign policy will strike out in a new direction, Star predicts:

“Trump's views lead one to believe that Western industrialised states could become his targets because they are exacerbating global crises [for example the refugee crisis] but trying to duck out of contributing financially to the countermeasures. … In short, the new US will frequently be at odds with Europe. And it is more likely to partner up with Brexit Britain, Turkey, Israel and later on Saudi Arabia. And unlike in the past it will not lead the alliance against Russia but instead actively include Russia. If all this comes to pass it will be advantageous for Turkey.”

BNS (LT) /

No alternative to remaining friendly with EU

The US won't turn its back on its old ally Europe, news agency BNS believes:

“Russia's and China's muscle-flexing will likely put an end to any plans for US withdrawal. After Moscow's aggression in Ukraine the US decided to send a brigade of American soldiers to Poland, thus moving almost 1,000 kilometres closer to the Russian border. Transatlantic relations will also be strengthened by Beijing's desire to gain a stronger foothold in Europe. Some Republicans are telling the Lithuanians that Trump will even bring the TTIP with Europe to a successful conclusion. Congress resolutely supports Nato and won't let Trump lift the sanctions on Russia.”

Financial Times (GB) /

Dictators of the world, rejoice!

The fact that a populist, illiberal politician like Trump has been able to conquer a flagship democracy like the US will undermine the fight for freedom and human rights around the world, journalist Roula Khala complains in the Financial Times:

“Thanks to Trump’s election victory, democracy will gain a bad name and autocrats around the world will feel emboldened. Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian leader responsible for his country’s ruin, is cheering today. As is Vladimir Putin, the Russian president who has backed Assad’s war and has been praised by Trump. I can almost see the tears in the eyes of advocates of political reform, human rights, women’s rights. I can almost hear the whispers of despair. If a populist, bigoted and misogynist message wins votes in America, the land of idealism and democracy, what chance is there for more troubled parts of the globe?”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

The ball is now in Germany's court

If Trump takes the route of isolationism as promised, Germany will have to assume more responsibility than ever before in the world, Süddeutsche Zeitung predicts:

“For Germany, the world could change even more than it did with the fall of the Berlin Wall. If he doesn't want to break his election promise Trump will focus more on America than any of his recent predecessors have done. It's highly likely that he will also remove the last remains of the defence shield the US had planned to set up over the old Federal Republic, over Europe and later over reunified Germany. Washington assumes the brunt of the burden in international crises? That will change. America supplies most of the humanitarian aid in emergencies? Not to be expected anymore. … Germany will have to take on more responsibility internationally. Not because it's fun but because the phase of sitting back and letting others do the work is over.”

Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

Moscow now has a free hand in former USSR

Trump will no doubt give Russian President Putin a free hand in Ukraine, Rzeczpospolita believes:

“Of all the problems America now faces this one will no doubt the the easiest to solve as far as Trump is concerned. It is unlikely that there will be a 'new Yalta' [the conference between the US, the UK and the Soviet Union on the division of power after WWII]. But there has always been talk in the US of exchanging Syria for Ukraine, so to speak, meaning that America gives Russia free rein in the former USSR in exchange for the Russians withdrawing from the Middle East. Such a scenario is probable because Russia's offensive in Syria has put too much strain on the Kremlin. Furthermore, there are still people within the US establishment who back the idea that Russia should retain its influence in the former Soviet empire.”

Õhtuleht (EE) /

Everyone warned against Reagan, too

Eastern Europe is not lost yet, Õhtuleht writes hopefully:

“Donald Trump's victory testifies to the voters' dissatisfaction with the current situation and their desire for something new. ... What is not very believable, however, is that the borders of the US will really be closed. ... But a greater focus on domestic affairs means less attention will be paid to global issues. We must renew our efforts to prevent our new partner from believing we are the suburbs of St. Petersburg and can simply be brushed aside in a trade-off process. But the situation is not hopeless. ... Ronald Reagan's election was also terrifying for many. In retrospect he turned out to be the most useful president in Estonia's history when he demolished the Iron Curtain. In the same way Trump has every opportunity to go down in the annals of history. What remains to be seen is how.”

Tages-Anzeiger (CH) /

The end of the US's role as global policeman

Trump may actually improve US foreign policy, Tages-Anzeiger counters:

“ As regards foreign policy Trump wants to say goodbye to the global policeman concept, one that costs the US billions and has left the country with a host of war veterans. ... Have the US foreign policy interventions of the past 30 years at least been successful? No: today Haiti is a failed state, as are Afghanistan, Somalia and Iraq. Syria and Libya, where Obama intervened half-heartedly, are no better off. Kosovo and Bosnia are corrupt formations that are drip-fed by the EU, and in Ukraine the misguided policy the US pursued in alliance with the EU has practically led to an open war. And things might have been even worse under Hillary Clinton.”

Večernji list (HR) /

Europe needs to take its fate into its own hands

Europe's fears that irrational upheaval is imminent are hugely exaggerated, Večernji list asserts:

“There will be no dramatic changes. Share prices and currency markets will stabilise. The US is currently the world's only safe economic and monetary haven, so investors and lenders won't turn their backs either on the American market or on the dollar. The likely end of the TTIP will mainly hurt Europe. While Trump's America dedicates itself more to domestic issues Europe will have to shoulder more responsibility for its own security. And in view of the unstable geopolitical future that awaits us, that is not such a bad thing.”

More opinions

Hürriyet Daily News (TR) / 10 November 2016
  Trump faces mammoth tasks in foreign policy