US President-elect Donald Trump’s criticism of NATO in a Times interview has triggered a huge backlash on Twitter, now at 82,000 tweets and growing.
Editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic tweets: “NATO is the most effective military alliance in history. The president-elect of the country that created it thinks that it is ‘obsolete.'” His disbelief is akin to that experienced by Remainers during the Brexit. Astonishment that the UK, one of the founding members of the European Community, would turn on its own invention.
Trump’s comments come directly after NATO sent 4000 troops to Poland and other EU countries for exercises in a pointed message to Russia. US and EU sanctions followed Russia’s annexation and re-absorption of Crimea. Fears have not subsided over Russia’s intentions towards Ukraine.
Although he’s not yet in office, Trump said he may drop sanctions against Russia if he gets along with Vladimir Putin and Russia ‘helps us’. He rejected CIA reports that Russia was trying to discredit him: “Russia has never tried to use leverage over me. I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA – NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!”
The EU was on the list of Trump targets in the Times interview. The US president-elect said the Brexit was ‘a great thing’ and predicted that other member states would leave the EU. He criticised the union as a vehicle for Germany, and said he’d do a post-Brexit deal with the UK.
It’s clear that Trump’s lack of political experience and diplomacy could cost the international community dearly, even before he enters office. Decades of post-war relationship building between the EU and US are at stake. Alarmed at the political shift towards NATO, the EU is boosting its own defense capability, fearing Russian aggression. Trump’s tough New York style negotiating positions originate from his business background, but politics and diplomacy are an entirely different field to business.
Method to the madness?
Does Donald Trump have a plan towards the UK and the EU? The Brexit is already spreading instability between the EU and UK. British Prime Minister Theresa May said she is prepared for a tough Brexit, with no access to the EU’s single market. But that would dearly cost the UK economy in terms of growth, export markets and future opportunities. Political instability combined with slow economic growth are not good circumstances.
There may be a method to Trump’s unorthodox approach to the establishment. If Trump keeps his promise to the UK to make a favourable trade deal, it could go a long way towards mitigating the effects of the Brexit. An EU-US trade deal would effectively split the UK from the EU trade-wise, and it would take some considerable time before the economy adjusts. But it would provide the UK with a market to replace the EU, provided the adjustment can be made to export goods and a free flow of human resources between the US and UK. Given Trump’s conciliatory rhetoric towards Russia, UK-Russia relations could also warm up after he takes office.
It all depends on his concrete policies after the inauguration on the 20th of January.
Meanwhile, Theresa May’s speech on January 17th outlining her Brexit plan boosted the Pound Sterling and calmed market fears.
“A key talking point and comment that played a critical role in the Sterling’s resurgence was how Theresa promised a parliamentary vote on Britain’s deal to leave the EU. Overall, the speech provided investors some direction on how the UK government plans to tackle Brexit with the optimistic evaluation of the UK’s exit negotiations rekindling investor attraction towards the Sterling,” said Lukman Otunuga, market analyst at FXTM.