Trump Was Good for the EU. Too Bad the EU Didn’t Take Advantage

Trump Was Good for the EU. Too Bad the EU Didn’t Take Advantage

Somehow Donald J. Trump seems to be on his way out of the White House some time by early 2021. The ripple effect from his one-term “reality show” presidency is going to be hovering around US and world affairs for quite some time. And European and EU affairs, for that matter.

Trump’s close election loss massively aided by the coronavirus pandemic and the existence of a mail-in voting option in American democracy (apparently hardly so by election rigging and fraud as his tweets allege) has led many in Brussels, Berlin, and other power centers of the EU to let out a big sigh of relief.

The problem is that the sigh of relief is coming from complacent elites from the pre-Trump era whose moral failures, elitism extremes, and unfettered globalization delusions caused Trump’s rise in the first place.

Even with Trump now more or less out of the picture, those Westerns elites, which are the same thing on both sides of the Atlantic for the most part, in the EU as in the US, do not epitomize a return to the “status quo ante”.

Their integrity and capacity to lead of any sorts were already highly questionable even before they had brought about Trump, and are even more so today.

Yet, just as in the United States, many in the European Union are willing to dismiss Trump as a one-time anomaly, a very unpleasant pathology which kind-of just happened, nobody knows why, but, luckily, has now been removed surgically, and everybody can go back to their complacent pre-pathology lives.

In Europe, even more so than in the US, there seems to be very little inclination to look at Trump’s stint as an American president as a foreboding alarm bell, a wake-up call, and overall a very grave warning.

A warning that things shouldn’t go back to their pre-Trump old normal. (They won’t go back anyway.)

And that’s not even mentioning that his election loss by a thread must be seized even more so in the EU to reflect upon the trove of opportunities presented by the Trump presidency that the [European] Union has once again missed.

For the fact of the matter is that Donald J. Trump’s term as president of the United States of America was good for the European Union. Or could and should have been good.

Trump was a blessing in disguise for the EU. Or could and should have been so – had the EU taken advantage.

Trump was about the most categorical wake-up call there could have been for Western elites as a whole, on both sides of the Atlantic: that their ways and approaches to everything – from the economy to identities to justice to world affairs – had been dubious or at least deficient, if not flat-out erroneous. That their ways had been creating way too many losers and way too few winners, with the latter group being quite out of touch with reality on top of that.

But that’s concerning the elites that rule or dominate the West as a whole. That’s an entire debate with relatively simple solutions, for which humility should have replaced complacency a long time ago (which is hardly going to happen in the anti-social media age).

The European Union, though, or at least those in Western Europe and the western part of Eastern Europe who do care for a free, prosperous, and independent Europe, should have been having it easier because its Trump lessons have been far more specific and easy to discern:

High time to be able to stand on our own. High time to be capable of defending yourself without anybody’s help. High time to be able to lead the free world on your own if need be. High time to be able to intimidate and beat back ruthless, criminal dictators, no matter how huge their countries, economies, or nuclear arsenals. High time to be a leader of your own destiny, and high time to be able to exert leadership on the global scale. For the common good. Because your ways are the right ways. And all the more so in an age where climate change is going to strike hard, fast, and soon.

But no. Either nobody in the Europe of the European Union (because places such as Moscow and Istanbul are also Europe geographically speaking) is taking notice, or the Europe of the European Union is plain and simple incapable of any sort of concerted action to that end.

George W. Bush and the neocons weren’t enough for the EU to at least try to learn to stand on its two feet. And now apparently Donald J. Trump isn’t proving to have been enough, either, at least as far as the dominant elites of the EU are concerned.

They seem to be glad the Trump storm has passed, and they can go back to sailing their boats, well, actually, luxury yachts, in the imagined blissfully still waters of the Atlantic and the Mediterranean.

God knows what “damned cowboy” (as goes the famous quote by US Senator Mark Hanna on Teddy Roosevelt’s assuming of the US Presidency in 1901) has to become President of the US of A next for the EU to finally decide to become a power in its own right so that cataclysmic shifts in Washington, DC, wouldn’t be tossing the fate of Europeans in a destiny survival mode any more so than would plate tectonics in other distant power capitals such as Moscow or Beijing (i.e. crucial but not existential because you actually depend on them).

The fact of the matter is that Donald J. Trump as US President was great for the European Union in so many ways. Or at least he created so many opportunities for the European Union, mostly unwittingly so.

Trump repeatedly lambasted the European members of NATO which happen to make up the bulk of the EU as well about their ridiculously low defense spending. That’s not even considering the defense and military efficiency of that spending, if any.

Trump stimulated Brexit as another reminder that 1) the EU is actually fragile, not a given, and must be defended; and that 2) the EU is very vulnerable to foreign leaders’ attempts to break it up, especially coming from friendly America.

Trump lambasted Germany and by extension a bunch of other EU member states for their dependence on energy resources from Russia which enriches Moscow, thus enhancing Putin’s post-Soviet revisionist foreign policy adventurism (Trump’s agenda at boosting the sales of US shale gas aside). (Not to mention that Trump’s rhetoric has also touched upon Germany’s overall economic policy within the EU which would benefit from some heavy rethinking – and that has started to happen a little.)

Trump has threatened a trade war prompting the EU executive, the European Commission, which handles the Union’s trade policy, to set Washington straight once again – as it did with George W. with its Florida orange juice tariff back in some of the good old days more than 15 years ago – providing a boost to the EU’s self-image, and the [European] Union seems to be in constant short supply of those.

Trump has shaken the previously considered unshakable foundations of the dominant political correctness in the West, a monstrosity which is increasingly causing censorship and destroying freedom of speech, and thus threatening the very gist of democracy and freedom as we know them.

Trump has exposed time and again, and the entire time, the fickleness of depending for your paramount security on a close alliance with somebody with whom you were supposed to be sharing lots and lots of great values at a time when those values are being rapidly eroded by everything you can think of (from technological change and social polarization to the rise of outside powers).

Time and again, with every other of his COVFEFE-style tweets, many of them adverse to reason, Trump has demonstrated the fickle and fleeting nature of America’s commitment to Europe – no matter that this was not the case during the Cold War and even for a while after it. Hence the immediate need for Europe to stand on its own.

If anybody thinks that any of those things that Trump did, or caused, or signified regardless of his ulterior motives or haphazard randomness (for he certainly didn’t have the well-being of the Europeans in mind) are not good for the EU in terms of showing it how it must change in order to survive and prosper and help others, then they are either delusional, or hate the EU and want to see it gone.

Trump repeatedly got the dominant, ruling elites of the European Union out of their comfort zones. And conventional wisdom isn’t wrong here – getting out of your comfort zone is always good as it helps shake you up in a positive way.

The problem with Trump as far as the EU is concerned isn’t that he caused us discomfort or created dangers for us. The problem is that the EU has once again failed to take history’s very obvious, even obnoxious hints. The problem is that the EU is once again missing the opportunities to change for the better presented by the constant crisis in world politics that the Trump presidency was for the most part.

The problem is that instead of waking up to the dangers of the world and the need to stand up and be resolute and responsible rather than indulge in the pleasures of doing-nothing-ness, the ruling elites of the EU preferred to spend the last four years whining about how bad Trump was, and how dumb the Americans were for electing him.

And now, rather than recapitulate on what has happened, and what has been going wrong, all these same elites do is engage in excessive rejoicing. As if Uncle Joe Biden and his Vice President and likely successor are going to bring the world back to 1992 or some other happy place in the time-space continuum.

It’s hard to say whether the lessons from Trump’s rise and relative fall now should loom larger in America or Europe, in the US or in the EU. In America, however, in their pointless “culture wars” (of whatever value that is the heck considered to be) they are at least excused due to being emotional.

In Europe, though, there is no excuse. There is no excuse to not making the European Union stronger, self-sufficient, independent, morally sound, and leadership capable by shedding off false ideals and fending off conceit and pretenses.

Far outpacing George W. Bush in that regard, Trump has been the ultimate wake-up call to the need to end the EU’s security dependence on America once and for all.

And perhaps even more importantly, Trump is the ultimate demonstration that Europeans must stop immediately the copy-pasting of America’s specific internal divisions, rifts, and ideological conflicts and their transfer on European soil – a highly regrettable process which has been going on for decades for no rational reason whatsoever.

Regardless of how little sense those animosities are making in the US, they make even less sense in the societies of the EU countries.

As a US President, Donald Trump has unwittingly presented countless potential blessings in disguise for the European Union. It is a shame that the complacent elites and the good general populace people of the EU doen’t seem to have appreciated and taken any advantage of them. For their own benefit and the benefit of the global community.

Ivan Dikov


(Banner image: Video grab from EC press office)

Ivan Dikov is a Bulgarian journalist and author. He studied political science / international relations and history at Dartmouth College and later in Sofia, in the Eastern Balkans. He’s served for five years as the editor-in-chief of Bulgaria’s largest English-language media – As a freelancer, he has collaborated with media from the US, the UK, Germany, and Australia.

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