NATO: Are We Seeing The Start Of A Rift With Europe?

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President Donald Trump is back in Washington after his first foreign visits, beginning in Saudi Arabia and ending with a tour of Europe. While the controversial commander-in-chief could have boosted his presidency by promising America’s unyielding support in the aftermath of the Manchester bombing, which has been claimed by ISIS, he instead stuck to his usual playbook of criticizing NATO members for allegedly under-spending on defense. Between that and the bone-crushing handshake he gave to France’s new president, likely in a crude attempt to intimidate, Trump left a bad taste in Europe’s mouth.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has responded to Trump’s recent European visit with sharp words, declaring that the continent can “no longer rely” on others- a clear jab at the United States. President Trump’s badgering seems to be pushing NATO allies away, and the results could be catastrophic for his re-election chances in 2020. Between allies questioning whether or not to continue to share intelligence with the U.S. following Trump’s sharing of such secrets with the Russians and Trump’s belligerent behavior on the stump, America’s foreign policy leadership is eroding quickly. Though not as dramatic as the ongoing Russia scandal, the growing Euro-American rift could be just as harmful to the president’s administration.

Donald Trump needs Europe, primarily for trade and to help combat ISIS. With his administration declaring that it will “annihilate” the terrorist organization, it seems apparent that the U.S. will be increasing its military presence in the Middle East once again. Traditionally, American activities in the Middle East required large bases in Europe, as well as considerable allied assistance. Although the U.S. has not asked for a “coalition of the willing” to help defeat ISIS in the same way it sought allies for both the Gulf War and the Iraq War, it stands to reason that the U.S. will be looking for some war buddies to share the load and provide some positive public relations. 

After badmouthing NATO allies, the U.S. is unlikely to receive many offers of assistance in fighting in Iraq and Syria. Unfortunately, that is the best case scenario. The worst case scenario involves European allies requesting the removal of U.S. forces and bases from their territory, forcing the U.S. to seek new operating centers to conduct its Middle Eastern war against ISIS.  Also, European intelligence agencies could stop sharing tips gleaned from radicals in the region, forcing the U.S. to drastically expand its own human intelligence gathering.

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