Europe is closely observing the American election this year. It does not take much to realize that the US-EU relation has been dwindling owing to Trump’s choice of adjectives for the region’s leaders and policies, and the overall lack of consensus over key issues like climate change and trade. EU has been called a “foe” and America’s exertion of itself over other countries’ ambitions has also irked the European leaders against putting up with the free world’s tactics.
Boris Johnson might be the only leader siding with a Trump win now. He has a history of being put side-by-side with the American leader, having been termed a ‘British Trump’. Johnson’s cordiality hasn’t punctured like that of Emmanuel Macron’s. Johnson also has a failure similar to Trump’s when it comes to his government’ management of the pandemic. He had toned down the gravity of the situation and also briefly ruminated on unproven ideas. Not to mention the staunch opposition to criticism displayed by both Johnson and Trump. Brexit also has a fan in the American President. Emmanuel Macron was pretty hopeful stepping into his Presidency back in 2017 and this enthusiasm drove Trump into describing his French counterpart as someone who couldn’t let go of his hand – it was quite an unusual remark. In the three years that passed since their first interactions, a lot has happened and the POTUS changed his description for Macron to “nasty” at a point. There’s no love lost between Trump and Angela Merkel either.
With the major leaders, therefore, turning their heads away, Europe will be looking for a new President or at least a new set of policies if America does end up getting Trump aboard a second time. The election does not have a gargantuan impact per se on European politics, but it would be welcome if exchanges became a happy exercise again. As for the problems that Europe has to face within its jurisdiction, no other power can be of aid. The tensions in the neighbourhood and the multiple internal issues like that of Brexit, to name one, will definitely not be affected by a leadership change in a faraway land. That is for the member states to tackle and invest time for.
Hidden in the American withdrawal from cooperative diplomacy is a gem for Europe, some believe. I agree to an extent that this distancing has made Europe deviate from relying on external players for solutions that should be unique to its composition and demographical nature. But hostility of the kind that urges a four-walled, ‘cubicled’ multilateral order would be harmful. Positive collaborations and strategic autonomy must go hand in hand, especially when there is scope for convergence. The step towards the latter has already been taken, thanks to the four years of scorn handed over by the US. But for the first to be realized, the welcoming equation of the past must be reinstated. There’s no harm in expecting the American President to embrace climate action and get the country back into the Paris Agreement. There’s no harm in expecting him to cooperate for equal trading terms.
Whether Trump wins or not, Europe will be expecting an altered foreign policy from the White House – not an over-assertive one. But, irrespective of where this road is headed, Europe should not cleave its strategic autonomy.