Divide Between Europe and Trump Grows Deeper
At the annual Munich Security Conference on Feb. 16, US Vice President Mike Pence, while addressing the crowd of world leaders, advanced the America First agenda. He reiterated demands from the Trump Administration that European allies pull out of the Iran nuclear deal and contribute more to NATO. His speech, promoting a more unilateral approach to US foreign policy, was met with silence from the audience. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and ex-Vice President Joe Biden both received standing ovations after speeches that stressed the importance of multilateralism and allies.
The New York Times reports that in the last days of the conference, “the rift between Europe and the Trump administration became open, angry and concrete.” In addition to withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal last year, President Trump recently announced that he will withdraw troops from Syria and Afghanistan without consulting with allies. At the beginning of the month, he also said that he would suspend the ban on land-based intermediate-range missiles, one of the last important nuclear arms treaties with Russia.
The conference opened with the release of a report titled: “Who Will Pick Up The Pieces?” signaling a shift in the significance of and dynamic within this almost six-decade old conference. The Munich Security Conference used to represent the West as a unified front, working together to resolve issues with the rest of the world. Today, it is proof of the “schisms within the west,” as western leaders bear witness to the breakdown of their postwar liberal world order.
European leaders have become increasingly alarmed by President Trump’s “erratic leadership stance,” as many of his unpredictable decisions have affected security issues in Europe. They perceive the transatlantic relationship as altered for good and do not expect the dynamic between the US and Europe to return to how it was before Trump came to power. Norbert Rottgen, chairman of the German Parliament’s foreign relations committee, told the New York Times that “in the post-Trump era, there is no return to the pre-Trump era.”
A large delegation of more than 50 members of Congress were present in Munich to symbolize that, despite President Trump’s decisions indicating otherwise, the US still stands with its allies. Thereafter, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her delegation travelled to Brussels to reassert their “commitment to the transatlantic alliance.” However, the future of the relationship between Europe and the US remains uncertain.