Europe should prepare to defend itself without America

Europe desires a fundamentally disinterested protector, but the European countries better realize that America’s unwillingness to provide that security will continue to grow, writes Jeremy Shapiro in this insightful piece in [War On The Rocks] [WTHR link]:

But presidential incompetence and the public’s lack of interest is a weak foundation on which to build a durable foreign policy. The disinterested nature of America’s security relationship with Europe means that its commitment to the continent is usually first in line for the foreign policy chopping block. For a public that wants to put America first, it is particularly hard to explain why America should protect a relatively stable continent of rich democracies. Trump has made a lot of rhetorical hay out of Europe’s freeriding on America. Neither the American foreign policy establishment nor their European allies have found an effective political counter-argument.

All of this creates a deep challenge for Europe. Europe has an intense strategic and psychological dependence on the United States, yet Trump’s America, and arguably any future America, is both uninterested in, and unable to fulfill, its traditional role in Europe.

The states of Europe should be preparing for that day. But, as the mild reaction to the radical Trump presidency shows, internal divisions mean that by and large they are not. For all the upsetting changes in America and Russia, for all the crises that have rocked Europe in the last several years, and for all the destabilizing developments in Europe’s neighborhood, E.U. member states clearly prefer the old bargain that has served them so well. For the most part, they will cling to it until its demise becomes clearer than truth. In the meantime, no one will block Trump’s photo opportunity at the next NATO summit.

In my story about the Danish submarine debate I described how Danish rear admiral Wang and German commodore Reineke expressed fundamentally different expectations about the probable American support in case of a regional conflict in the Baltic Area:

Wang’s argument was that […] Denmark would […] find itself in a position where the navy must play the offensive role in a mission to escort troops to the Baltic states under the support of allied forces counting several carrier strike groups located in the North Sea. […]

[T]he German point of view was that the regional powers must be prepared to manage a conflict in the Baltic Sea without external support from allies.

Jeremy Shapiro’s argument supports the German position.

Leave a Reply