The fraying transatlantic alliance
Hello and welcome to this edition of weld weekly from the financial times. I am answer venture Johnny the world news editor and this week, we're looking at transatlantic relations as the Trump administration appears to turn its back on its traditional European allies in a sign of Washington's shifting allegiances, the US president on Monday, welcomed Hungary's, illiberal leader, Victoria, Alban to the White House days, after his secretary of state abruptly cancelled a meeting with Germany's Angela Merkel joining me on the line from Washington DC is Dmitri, Sevastopol, oh, the F, Washington bureau chief and from Belene guy. Chaz on our between VERA chief my first question goes to you Dimitri. Donald Trump was fool of praises for Victoria ban on Monday. He congratulated him for his quote block up against refugees from Syria, and he's work to protect the Christian communities. Can you give us a bit of details and explain why this visit is so important and telling we'll, I think one of the things that we've learned about Donald Trump over the last two years. This is one of the things that many Europeans have concerns about is, he seems to want to solve up to leaders who are far -tarian strongmen, you know, very hard line. You know, there's a long list, whether it's early on in Turkey or on in Hungary Kim Jong on North Korea, who Donald Trump said he fell in love with or Vladimir Putin in Russia Trump when he meets these leaders at least publicly doesn't criticize them for some of the things that they're doing their own countries to threaten democracy on the other hand, he seems willing to criticize Anglo Myrtle, or Theresa May or president McConnell, France. So there's a kind of cost me come seems to like something to these strong, tough solitary leaders. And yet, he at the same time he seems to be dismissing some of the concern. Means pushing away, European allies of America who have helped maintain the kind of peace across the trans Atlantic now for seventy years. As you said, the relationship has fuss deteriorated since Donald Trump kimchi office. The US needs key. European is have diverge on a number of issues. Can you list them for us? I mean, it's really wide from climate change trade, Iran. Well, I mean, from the very beginning, it's a long list, one of the things that President Trump today early in his presence. He was he withdrew the US from the Paris climate accords which sent ripples across Europe and the rest of the world later on in his tenure, he withdrew America from the around nuclear deal that America and some of its European allies had signed with Tehran in twenty fifteen on that has led to convert more bellicose stomps on Iran. He also has been incredibly critical of NATO now in criticizing NATO. He's not the first president, President Obama and President Bush frequently said that NATO allies needed to pay more for their defense. I remember travelling to your puts on rump sell the Robert Gates and they were constantly sending this message of Europeans. But Donald Trump has done it in a much more aggressive way. And I think one of the most heading examples was last summer in Brussels out of NATO summit, he was very critical. Angela Merkel both in public meetings and in private meetings and he's shocked many of the leaders who were in the -tendance. So I mean, there are other issues there as well to do with hallway and five G telecom networks and other things. But I think there's some of the main ones that have really created a false lines in the transit onto relationship guy intending to, you know, defense. Secretary of state. Mike Pompeo cancelled a meeting with medical less tweak invoking rising tensions in the Middle East. What was the reaction in betting? I think those zoo Hora that it was seen very much as a snub, it was supposed to be his first trip to Berlin, since he became secretary of state, and it was very hotly awaited. And he just didn't turn up. And I think there was shock that he then went on to Britain. And even so they all Tricia Canterbury. So, you know, even just in Welby was more important to him as a priority. Angela Merkel those real dismay, lots of Coventry in the German press, basically saying that the US German relationship is now, basically in TATA's on, what are we going to do about this, this feeling of crisis really in a relationship, which has been one of the main pillars of Germany's post-war identity really for seventy years now. Why do you think that Mr. Trump targeted Gemini, in particular among its European on is what's your assessment of that? Well, they're personal reasons as well as political reasons. The chemistry between Angela Merkel and Donald Trump has never really worked. You know, she really comes across as associate professor, and he's like the naughty boy who didn't do his homework, he doesn't like being lectured, and Michael does have a tendency to lecture, one of the first thing she did when he was elected president. She sent him a message saying will look forward to working with you, but very much on the basis of our shed values of respect for human rights, and democracy, and so on that was perceived. As a real slight to Donald Trump. Basically a smackdown saying you're going to have to behave need didn't take Hymie to that. But there are other aspects. It's not just the chemistry America is very antagonist very exercise by Germany's failure to meet its commitment, which gave in two thousand fourteen to spend two percent of its GDP on defense. It's nowhere near that target and in fact recently published its budget estimates for the coming years, and it looks like it's actually going to go down as a percentage of GDP is spending on the military. So that was seen as a real red rag to Donald Trump's bull. And he's also, I mean, there's a very famous interview he did with playboy magazine from the ninety s where he complained about how many German cars that were on Fifth Avenue in New York, and he's had Macedo and BMW in his science for many, many years. So it didn't surprise the Germans a tool that he started talking about imposing. Import tariffs on European cars, and he's been complaining for longtime about the size of the German, current account surplus, which, of course, a lot of Germany's allies in Europe of also join attention to over the years. What do you think all the far reaching consequences for Germany? What are the Germans, what kind of lesson? They're drink from this facility longer term. Do you think there's a realization that Germany, and Europe must be more independent from a defense point of view, or, you know, foreign policy point of view? What is your sense? Absolutely. I was at a conference, whether we're talking about this and one speaker said Germany's success is built on three elements integration with the EU the transatlantic security guarantee on Germany's access to open Mockus worldwide and Trump threatens all of those three things. So there's a sense, here that there's, it's kind of existential threat posed by Trump's America first ideology tool. All those things that have made Germany, such a huge success over the last few decades. So that definitely is a feeling that they have to respond in some way. I mean it's very tentative at the moment, though, I mean, for example, that talking about developing much more of a kind of foreign policy. Competence in the EU and more of a sort of independent defense posture, and, you know, maybe getting rid of unanimity, and you decisions on foreign policy, so that they can have more qualified majority voting not come thing, but it's all relative tentative. And even when they do talk about building up their defense capabilities that gets them in hot water with the Americans. We wrote the story saying, how America was criticizing the latest initiatives for military cooperation between EU countries, the Pescara the permanent structured cooperation initiative, and EDF the European defence fund because they feel that it's not really compatible with NATO that it produces. Much duplication and diversion of scarce defense resources and it sets up a necessary competition between NATO in the EU. And so the sense of frustration in Europe over this is light. You tell us we need to do more far defense, and then we try and do it you complain. So the relationship has Radi scrunchy at the moment as we can see on the number of different fronts. Exactly. So they have this quantity move from the US. Do you want to jump in Dmitri? It's true that every time Europe speaks about more independence on the security from the US gets angry and gets a letter warning. But on the other hand, you know, you get a sense that the US is kind of retreating from Europe. What's your interpretation? Well stuffing element of Donald Trump getting a little bit of taste of his own medicine, sometimes when the European say that they want to their own defense capabilities. But I think it's also important to stress that this issue between the US and Europe on defense spending it really isn't just Donald Trump issue. And he is the one who is addressing it in a much more assertive, much more aggressive on some people would say overly aggressive way. But it's something that has stretched back now for more than a decade in the US the US than constantly saying to the European countries, particularly Germany because it is the biggest economy in Europe that they need to spend more. So I think it's an issue that's not going to go away, even if Donald Trump loses the election in twenty twenty I think a democratic president will be much friendlier to traditional US allies and I was just in New Hampshire on the campaign trail with Cory Booker and Beethoven, Joe Biden on all of them were talking about the need to rebuild on to strengthen American alliances with Europe. But notwithstanding that I still think. Whoever's president after twenty twenty is still going to put pressure on Europe to spend more money on defense, and if Germany and some of the other countries who haven't miss this two percent target haven't reached it, then I think you're still going to have tensions on that issue just to go back to one thing that guy said, I really do think the car issue is critical. I mean Donald Trump has how the being his bonnet about cars for a long time at the end of this week. He's going to potentially decide whether to put tariffs on imports of European cars. So this really is something that's a trade relationship is something that really gets him. And also when he was in Europe last year. Another thing that he criticized glimmer pool for is the Nord Stream two pipeline that will bring Russian gas into Europe and Donald Trump and some of his team are saying you want us to spend money to defend you against Russia, and yet, you're buying Russian gas on the other hand, the European say, hold on a second. You're the president who has criticized by the Putin, for orchestrating a campaign to interfere in the American elections. So there's a lot of things crossing the Atlantic and. It's very hard to see how any of this gets any better while Donald Trump is in office tensions, are escalating in the Middle East over Iran, with rising threat of war, and some echoes of cheese than three when the US in some European countries disagreed, on whether to war with Iraq. Dictates us Adam Hussain to meet you what all the broader security ramifications of this poor transatlantic relations. Are we entering a new testing phase? Well, the big question that's emerged in the last few days in Washington is are we returning to the early years of the Bush administration where it appears that there was a constant drum beat among Iran hawks for the US to take military action against Iran. Now, we know that on both in the national security advisor has asked the Pentagon to dust off its war plan for Iran. Not the caveat there is at the Pentagon has funds for everything, and there periodically dusting them off. But when a story comes out that they're dusting them off, Iran at a time when Mike Pompeo secretary of state. John Bolton and others are being very aggressive in the rhetoric towards around it raises questions as to whether the US is contemplating taking most reaction, and I think, not something that would be a huge divide across the transatlantic. I mean as much tension as two walls, when George W Bush invaded Iraq. You remember relations then between George W Bush Gertrude or Germany were extra very odd because since the war in Germany. But I think we would see something that will be exponentially worse. If the US did take any kind of military action in Iran. So people are watching very closely right now to see whether this is just on both in on the hawks making bellicose noises. Just too scary round or whether there's actually something fundamentally happening behind the scenes. My thanks to Dmitri and guy that was really fascinating. And that's it for this week till next week goodbye.