U.S. verbal attacks weaken transatlantic security relationship, but Europe has few alternatives

Written by David S. Cloud

DEFCON Warning System note: The LA Times, which published this article, does not meet journalistic standards for neutrality.  Their articles are generally designed to promote an agenda, and so should be read with the knowledge that not all sides are usually presented.  Readers should be aware of this when reading.  This article is presented here due to important points that are made by the author with the understanding that there are counterpoints and additional details missing from the presentation.

Deeply alarmed at President Trump’s attacks on NATO and the transatlantic relationship, European governments are rethinking their reliance on the United States as a strategic ally against Russia, but they are unlikely to make regional security arrangements independent of Washington.

Trump has forced the reassessment in recent days by calling the European Union a “foe,” expressing reservations about defending other NATO members, and blasting Germany and other allies — comments he said were aimed at strengthening the U.S.-European alliance but that raised concerns across the continent.

“We can no longer fully rely on the White House,” Heiko Maas, Germany’s foreign minister, said Monday, a position echoed by other senior European officials and diplomats. “The first clear consequence can only be that we need to align ourselves even more closely in Europe.”

But European allies bewildered by Trump’s seeming hostility for NATO must confront a sobering reality: They have few good alternatives for protecting themselves against Russia or other potential adversaries.

“I think they have finally come to the conclusion that they have a president of the United States that they cannot count on,” said James Goldgeier, an American University professor and visiting fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. “But what can they really do? Europe has not developed the kind of capacity it would need to have a more independent defense capability.”

The dominant U.S. role in NATO was by design when the alliance was created in 1949 — to keep Washington engaged in defending Europe, where it had fought two major wars, to deter Russia by vowing to defend Europe with nuclear weapons if necessary, and to prevent Germany from reemerging as a military threat.

Intentionally or not, experts say, Trump is undermining that design. But his actions are not as severe as his rhetoric.

About the author

David S. Cloud

David S. Cloud covers the Pentagon and the military from the Washington, D.C., bureau. In his 30-year career, he has also worked at the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, where he was a member of a team of reporters awarded a 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Sept 11, 2001, terror attacks. He is co-author of "The Fourth Star," which traces the careers and experiences in Iraq of four U.S. officers.