Two days ago, I wanted to discuss Black Lives Matter and DisruptJ20, a terrorist organization that plans to disrupt the inauguration on Friday (not to mention the traffic in D.C.), maybe ignite a new U.S. civil war, and that instructs its member terrorists how to deal with cops, courts, and prisons. But at the end, I think that these radical loons will stay irrelevant and the following topic is more important.
Donald Trump has given an interview to Bild,
But Donald Trump didn't say anything that the Europeans should be scared of. He just makes sense. Much of what he's saying just reproduces what wise Europeans like me have been saying for many years.
First, Trump has declared his protectionist intents (not necessarily in this interview). For example, he will impose 35% tariffs on German cars (BMWs in particular) produced in Mexico and imported to the U.S. I think that protectionist policies like that are counterproductive from a global viewpoint but it's an important part of the program that helped him to be elected so I respect it.
Lots of Americans just want to have fancy cars like BMW so they may happily add those 35%. I think it's clear that Trump will introduce a couple of these barriers and the U.S. trade deficit will shrink. This will also make America more neutral and vulnerable – because it may depend on the exports. So at some moment, others will revenge to America and America will feel it. Meanwhile, many workers will feel wealthy enough but they will be annoyed that they still can't afford the BMW (which is more expensive due to the tariffs.) The protectionist policies will lose their win-win flavor at some moment, whether Trump and his voters may see that happening or not.
But the truly "geopolitical" topics were those that have shocked the commissars in the European Soviet. Trump said that he will consider European countries to be allies who should be defended but the defense must be more meaningful from the U.S. viewpoint. Moreover, NATO is obsolete. I surely agree it's obsolete. It was designed as a defense of capitalist democracies against a formidable communist bloc. The latter just doesn't exist anymore which neutralizes the original justification for NATO, an answer to something that no longer exists.
It's natural for him to demand some compensation for the U.S. defense provided to Europe and/or equal contributions and defense spending by the allies. For decades, the U.S. has done certain services for Europe and at least in recent years, it was at least debatable whether these unpaid services were net benefits for America. Just to be sure, I am thankful to America's role in ending the First and especially Second World War in Europe – but I also do think that America's activities in those wars were beneficial for America itself, too. It's much less certain – and possibly untrue – that the continued spending in the subsequent 70 years was an equally good investment for the U.S.
Just to be sure, if there were a trans-Atlantic split that would almost smell of a looming war between the U.S. and the EU (or Germany), I would surely prefer my country to be on the U.S. side of this split! ;-) Relatively to America, Europe is a military dwarf. Also, Trump's America is gonna be right while the EU apparatchiks are wrong about most of the contentious issues. Well, I actually think that almost everyone in Europe understands that the EU is not gonna win a war against the U.S. which is why it will adapt its geopolitical thinking to America's – much like Europe did it at so many moments in the recent 70 years (not all these adaptations were helpful ones).
Trump has also criticized Merkel for her catastrophic welcoming policies and culture towards the migrants.
But perhaps even more shocking for the commissars in the European Soviet were Trump's about the European Union. It's gonna break up and even now, the EU is a tool for Germany to fulfill its interests. Well, many Euroskeptics are saying the same. What Germany failed to achieve in the two world wars – the dominance all over the continent – was suddenly obtained "for free" within the EU, as Czech ex-president Klaus reiterated in recent interviews. To say the least, the common currency and other things allow Germany to keep its nearly perfect employment, trade surpluses, and other things.
Well, Trump is clearly a politician speaking on behalf of the working people so he thinks that "lots of work" and "surpluses that are not fully spent and enjoyed" are a great advantage for Germany. Well, I am not a partial defender of the working class (the perspective of a consumer ultimately seems more natural to me) so I don't think that it's such a great advantage. When Germans have to work hard and creatively, create surpluses, and they finally pay this cash to Greeks for the latter not to do anything useful and enjoy their prosperous life under the Mediterranean Sun, I tend to think that it was a great advantage for Greece, for example. But I understand that some people love to work and they need to feel useful so they think that it's an advantage for Germany. ;-)
People may differ in their evaluation who enjoys an advantage but they must ultimately agree about one thing: the European Union is highly heterogeneous which means that various policies, including the aspects of integration, have a very different impact on different parts of Europe. To say the least, this creates tensions, imbalances, and instabilities, and it's a bad thing. Because the European nation states aren't de facto very similar and thinking as one nation, they shouldn't be framed as one nation. A union that tries to behave as a single nation simply doesn't work if the territory isn't appropriately uniform and the countries of the EU are not uniform.
Trump understands it. Even though some people are mainly solving European problems and some people are mainly solving American problems and those two sometimes differ, I think that everyone in the West may ultimately think about both groups of problems. And if Donald Trump were a European, he would simply be a Euroskeptic. It's pretty clear. It's also shown by all the natural alliances – with Le Pen who visited the Trump Tower a few days ago and with many others.
I guess that the Donald is going to be the first Euroskeptic U.S. president.
Even though lots of nonsense has been said about his not being qualified etc., this Euroskepticism shows that he has a much deeper understanding for the European affairs than most others. He sees much of the internal structure of Europe. He even knows 1,001 differences between a Czech wife and a Slovenian wife (and believe it or not, many – but not all – of these lessons actually can be generalized to the whole two nations). The previous U.S. administrations were supporting the ever closer European integration and things like that. Why did they do it? What made so many U.S. politicians and citizens think that Europe should be increasingly integrated or unified? Why were they so close to the pseudoelite of Brussels even though their own power didn't depend on the approval from the EU "capital"?
I think that the main answer is sort of amusing but true and it's an interpretation of Henry Kissinger's notorious question "What is the telephone number of Europe?" In other words, he asked "Whom should we call?" when something geopolitically important happens and Europe needs to be talked to. Well, the answer obviously is that Europe doesn't have any single telephone number – and in fact, just like Asia, Europe cannot be talked to. Europe isn't a centralized country. It's not a country at all. And this statement isn't vacuous. You may pretend Europe to be "basically" one country but it just won't behave in that way.
(Kissinger has never made the statement about Europe's telephone number, it's a myth. His attitude to the unification of Europe was pretty much opposite. He was fed up e.g. with a Dane who apparently spoke on behalf of Europe but seemed incompetent to Kissinger.)
This statement has several levels. An average U.S. citizen has lousy knowledge about geography and she would surely prefer if there were one country called Europe – she wouldn't have to remember some complicated things and she would still know a lot about the Old Continent: it's a country! Well, it isn't. But even if you talk about people who do know that there are many countries in Europe, the idea that "Europe should have a telephone number" reflects some deep misunderstanding of Europe. Those people may understand that there are many countries in Europe but they may still think that these countries are just different names for territories and those territories may be integrated as easily as the states of the U.S.
Well, this is not the case, either. Europe not only contains many countries; but this fact is much more than an administrative convention. The different countries in Europe are often vastly different. They contain the individual "concentrated flavors" of many things that are mixed in the U.S. melting pot (which also contains some Asian and Native American ingredients – but the European ones are obviously the key).
In the U.S., you find pizzerias everywhere. You can find them almost everywhere in Europe as well but there's still a place where they're more standard and it's... Italy. You drink the Champagne across the U.S. and retailers are making the profit out of it everywhere. But only one country in Europe collects almost all the profit from the Champagne and it's called France. Muslims are found at many places but there's only one (half-recognized) country in Europe with an overwhelming Muslim majority and it's Kosovo.
Some countries of Europe run big trade (or budget) deficits, others run surpluses. Some nations really hate Russians, others think that Russia is basically an OK partner. Similarly, some countries are really obsessive allies of Palestine and other Arabs, even in their fight against Israel, other countries are "obviously" friends of Israel whom they view as the natural ally in the mess of the Middle East. It's a mainstream opinion to be welcoming to Muslim migrants in some nations but only fringe groups in other nations try to welcome them. Some countries are overwhelmingly Christian while their neighbors are overwhelmingly atheist. Some of the Christian countries are Catholic, others are protestants, the third group is Orthodox. And I could continue for a long time.
Europe is simply not uniform.
Even if you were looking at Europe from the viewpoint of the superior U.S. army, you wouldn't "imagine" that Europe is a single country that can be conquered as a whole. To conquer different countries or parts of Europe would require very different strategies, very different considerations, very different risks. Assuming that your plan is more nuanced than the carpet nuclear bombing of the whole continent, you simply need to learn something about the structure and inhomogeneities of Europe. Even Hitler could have told you quite something about these matters.
Austria was a country where he was born and where he enjoyed an even higher approval than in Germany. So it was easy to swallow it. Czechia could have been conquered easily because Czechoslovakia had both a significant German minority and lousy Western allies. Moreover, almost all the other Czechs turned out to be cooperative enough with the national socialism, anyway. Slovaks got their formal independence. Poland was defeated due to its obsolete army. Many countries on the West side from Germany were conquered easily due to a combination of weaker armies and their sympathies towards the German power. But the U.K. just wasn't broken and it defended itself.
Meanwhile, it made much more sense for Hitler to respect the neutrality of Sweden, Switzerland, and Portugal. If you do some particular business in Europe, you simply run into the fact that Europe isn't one country – and cannot be "approximated" by being one country – in any way!
Also, you could phrase a related question: While you may admit that Europe isn't unified, should it try to be? Now, this is a utopia that may become someone's dream. But does it make any sense? What if I told you, dear Americans, that you should integrate yourself with Brazil, Venezuela, Mexico, Chile, Cuba and others and create a truly unified America? No one is even talking about such a thing but it's not too different a plan from the unification of Europe.
It's clear that Donald Trump's views are much closer to the views of Europeans such as myself than the opinions of the unelected commissars in the European Soviets. If the U.S.-EU relationships got as bad as the U.S.-Russian relationships were recently and there would be a talk about wars, everyone would know that unlike Russia, the EU just couldn't possibly have a chance to defend itself. So I think that it won't even happen.
I hope that long before such a scenario emerges, the tensions will go away (also) because much of Europe will actually choose leaders that are compatible with Donald Trump, if I have to choose the adjective carefully. ("Compatible" is inclusive enough – for example, I think that the main Czech currently ruling politicians are "compatible with Trump" while President Zeman is clearly much more than just compatible.) Because America is unavoidably an important role model for Europe, I do think that Trump's victory will help similar, e.g. anti-EU (and anti-Muslim-migration), politicians to do well in the coming and future elections. Whether the European commissars like it or not, we're almost certainly going to see that there's nothing wrong about having a leaders such as Trump. And some European politicians could be like him. Lots of people may see that the years of demonization of these politicians were years of lies.
After some time, a critical percentage of the EU may be rebuilt to the image of Donald Trump and his natural soulmates. And by that moment, the trans-Atlantic tensions will obviously subside.
The members of the European Soviet, the general secretaries of the European Union parties, and other unelected institutions are saying that Trump's views about Europe are dangerous for Europe. In reality, they're mostly dangerous for these deceitful unelected individual parasites happily living somewhere in the ivory tower between Brussels and Strasbourg – and all major European capitals. You are not the same thing as the population of the European continent, dear comrades, and you should better internalize this fact as quickly as you can.