In the last several days you may have seen brief clips of footage from the just-ended Munich Security Conference, specifically two particular moments, one in which a Trump-toadying Vice President Mike Pence is met with humiliating silence upon mentioning his boss to the assembled leaders and diplomats, and the other in which Daughter With Sketchily Defined Administration Duties Ivanka Trump sat stonily as German Chancellor Angela Merkel mocked Trump’s claims that German cars are a national security threat.
If the New York Times‘ reporting is accurate, however, the relationship between the United States and its European allies has worsened considerably more than even those clips might suggest. At this point, angry European leaders are giving up on the American administration entirely.
A senior German official, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak on such matters, shrugged his shoulders and said: “No one any longer believes that Trump cares about the views or interests of the allies. It’s broken.”
Trump has spent the last two years insulting European allies, questioning the value of NATO and its commitments while promoting Russian theories about what should be done in Ukraine, Syria, and other hot spots. European leaders began the relationship with attempts to ignore his provocations and (extremely obvious) ignorance of world affairs, choosing instead to soothe Trump with light flattery; it sounds like those days are behind us. Now, the prevailing mood among leaders is that the Trump-led United States can no longer be trusted or counted on, leading to a new re-evaluation of Europe’s independent security interests.
This is because most nations are generally headed by non-imbeciles. You’d have to be a special kind of stupid to look at Donald J. Trump, ranting narcissist with a gnat’s attention span, a man who has spent his entire life veering between impulsive acts and potentially criminal ones and who has only gotten worse since being given a global spotlight, and trust him to look after your best interests.
The raft of quotes from the security conference instead suggest that allied European diplomats are losing all patience with Trump and his various sycophants, and aren’t being shy about showing it.
When he was told by Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, that the United States would preserve “some capacity” in Syria, the normally diplomatic [French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian] said, sarcastically: “Oh, that’s good news. I didn’t know.” And then he added acerbically, “That fills me with joy.”
Hey now, dunking on the pathetic Graham is our thing. Don’t go stealing our highest forms of comedy from us, Le Drian.
If it was not immediately obvious, all of this is bad news. Donald Trump has single-handedly succeeded in weakening the NATO alliance, leading allies and enemies alike to wonder whether new hostile acts by Russia or other aggressors would truly be met with a coordinated NATO response. Trump is working hard to sabotage the only framework by which Iran is being temporarily convinced to pause nuclear development, has publicly bragged about a unilateral withdrawal from anti-ISIS efforts in Syria, and has given more support than condemnation of Russian attempts to annex Ukrainian territory.
It is not evident that the U.S.-European partnership will simply bounce back once the orange gasbag is out of the picture. The ease with which the American government shunned former alliances and shared vital interests can easily be seen as evidence that this nation cannot be trusted in the future, no matter what the next non-crackpot leader might say. Diplomatic efforts, like financial markets, despise chaotic decision-making.
More to the point, however, is that considerably more damage than this can be done in the remaining two years of Trump’s presidency. Fed-up European leaders now appear to be operating under the assumption that, for at least those two years, if an international crisis strikes, the United States cannot be relied upon as an ally. They are likely right.