USA What could Europe expect if Trump becomes president?

The world situation is fragile and there is great concern that Donald Trump will return to the White House. What would a second Trump presidency mean for Europe’s security? What influence does he already have?

Former US President Donald Trump once conducted world politics via Twitter. He overrode norms and customs and always put the USA first. During his term of office from 2017 to 2021, the Republican canceled various international agreements and threatened the NATO states with the USA withdrawing from the alliance.

He repeatedly attacked Germany harshly, but was more uncritical when dealing with Russia. He instigated trade conflicts with China and the EU. What happens if the ex-president moves back into the White House?

Of course, it is far from clear whether the 77-year-old will make it in the end. Trump is still fighting for his party’s candidacy in the Republican primaries in the USA – but so far he has been successful. For the presidential election in November, everything currently points to a rematch of the race between him and the Democratic incumbent Joe Biden. If Trump ultimately beats Biden and becomes US president again, he is likely to cause additional chaos in a world that already seems to be unraveling.

Collapse of Ukraine, collapse of NATO?

Trump’s new foreign policy would certainly have dramatic consequences for Europe’s security, especially for Ukraine. Trump rejects further US aid for the country attacked by Russia, but rather sees the European countries as having a duty. As he himself says, he gets along particularly well with autocrats like Russian President Vladimir Putin. He claimed several times that he could solve the war in 24 hours. In any case, the former real estate mogul prides himself on being a master of negotiations.

Historian and political scientist Liana Fix from the Council on Foreign Relations, an independent think tank in Washington, expects that Trump would hold talks with Moscow: “It is likely that he will try to negotiate with Russia over Ukraine’s head. ” Trump could, for example, propose a peace deal on the condition that Ukraine does not join NATO and accepts to cede the Russian-occupied territories in the east of the country.

This would create completely new realities – not only for Ukraine, but in Europe as a whole, says the scientist. She thinks it would also have an impact on the question of how self-confident and aggressive Russia would behave beyond Ukraine in Europe, especially towards NATO states.

In order to weaken NATO, the US does not need to formally withdraw from the alliance, says Fix. A breach of trust would be sufficient, for example by withdrawing all US troops from Europe and questioning Article 5, the obligation to provide assistance. Although Congress could try to intervene, in the end the president has military command and decides on the US troop presence and their possible withdrawal. “NATO’s currency is mutual trust,” says Fix. If trust were lost, the alliance would also be weakened.

Trump is already influencing geopolitics

The fact that Trump is already casting a long shadow ahead is clearly demonstrated by the domestic political dispute over further US aid for Ukraine. Biden’s administration is unable to provide military aid to Ukraine due to a deadlock in parliament. It fails primarily due to resistance and a lack of willingness to compromise from Republicans – especially Trump loyalists. “The polarization that Trump is bringing to the country, the change in the Republican Party towards a more isolationist party, is already happening – Trump doesn’t even have to be president yet,” says Fix.

The fact that Trump could potentially be re-elected in November not only influences politics in the country, but also the decisions of powerful players on the world stage. It causes governments to delay certain decisions in the expectation that they can negotiate a better deal with Washington under a President Trump.

Harvard professor Graham Allison analyzes Putin’s calculations as an example in an article for the journal “Foreign Policy.” In the months as a stalemate emerged in Ukraine, speculation grew about the Kremlin leader’s willingness to end the war, he writes. But now Putin is likely to hope for a President Trump. The chances are good that Trump will create conditions that are much more favorable to Putin than any that Biden can offer today and that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky would agree to at this point. “From Putin’s perspective, it makes no sense at all to make any concessions before the elections,” says Fix.

From friend to negotiating partner

It is clear that the character of transatlantic relations would change under Trump. During his first term in office, Trump dealt with Europe in a way that was primarily driven by interests and less based on a common basis of values, says Fix. “That means that he always wanted something in return for what he saw as concessions that he made to his European partners.” It will stay that way. “Europeans will be partners among many with whom Trump will negotiate deals.” It is unlikely that Trump will value the Europeans more than, for example, the autocracies with which he also tries to do business.

And if Trump returns to office, he will be more confident than ever – as someone who has prevailed against all odds and disabused those who thought he was a blip in history. “The first time you can say: This is the exception to the rule and foreign policy will continue to be reliable,” says Fix. “The second time you have to ask whether Trump isn’t the new rule.”