Our European allies have every reason to fear Trump’s return

President Biden at the White House on March 11, 2022. (Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post)

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz recently offered unusually effusive praise of President Biden’s leadership. “I think that Joe Biden is someone who is very clear, who knows exactly what he is doing and who is one of the most experienced politicians in the world, especially when it comes to international politics,” he said in the wake of a Group of Seven meeting that finalized a $50 billion loan to Ukraine backed by frozen Russian assets. He added that Biden has “pursued a policy that has led to proper economic development in the country, that has helped to ensure that peace and security are in good hands and that the U.S. is actually playing its role in the world.”

Such praise from a critical ally contrasts with the sneering rhetoric of Republicans. Moreover, it reflects the degree to which Biden has repaired U.S. alliances frayed under his predecessor and forged a united front in support of democracy and European security. The New York Times conceded that the G-7 “was another example of unchallenged American leadership of the West, especially on contentious issues of war and peace.”

Scholz’s comment gave a glimpse into European leaders’ anxiety over the possibility that felon and former president Donald Trump — an avowed isolationist, cheerleader for Vladimir Putin and all-around foreign policy ignoramus — might return to power. Retired Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman told David Rothkopf, writing for the New Republic, “A Trump victory in 2024 would undoubtedly lead to the end of American support for Ukraine.” Without U.S. support, Vindman argued, Ukraine would likely be forced to negotiate away its territory, handing Putin a victory of immense importance. At that point, Georgian, Moldovan and Ukrainian European Union membership would be a dead letter, and the Baltic states would fear for their own territorial integrity.

Biden understands all too well the allies’ panic. On his D-Day travels, he explicitly argued that NATO must resist aggression in order to keep faith with those who gave their lives to free Europe 80 years ago. “There’s nothing new in a modern U.S. president traveling to Europe to invoke the shared history of victory over tyranny,” CNN reported. “But no other commander in chief has done so after his predecessor tried to destroy democracy to stay in office.” The fear of “a return to the chaos Trump inflicted on European allies” remained palpable throughout the visit and thereafter.

The danger to the West posed by Trump makes hawkish Republicans’ genuflecting to Trump all the more galling. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) took a “victory lap” (with his Senate allies lining up to spoon-feed praise to the New York Times) once the Ukraine aid bill belatedly passed. He told the Times, “Obviously this was a Republican problem. … For most of this time, I sort of felt like I was the only Reagan Republican left.” In light of his professed concern for Ukraine, his hypocrisy in embracing Trump is jaw-dropping.

What precisely does he think will happen if Trump, whom he now backs, is elected again? The “Republican problem” exists because Republicans have dutifully lined up behind a Putin poodle whose return terrifies our democratic allies. Rather than stand up to Trump, as Liz Cheney and others have done, McConnell and some Republican hawks will pocket credit for saving Ukraine while backing the candidate who would surely sign its death warrant.

Furthermore, whatever ills that would befall Europe in a second Trump term would not be confined to Europe. “The Trump administration will challenge European policymakers across a range of issues: from China to trade, climate to the Middle East,” warned a trio of authors from the European Council on Foreign Relations. “Worse, another nightmare lurks beneath the potential foreign policy shocks: an international coalition that could emerge as a framework for populists in Europe to establish special ties with Trump’s Washington.” They added, “Trump’s re-election might well embolden the populist right in Europe to obstruct common EU policies and initiatives more forcefully.”

Weakness among the Western allies on Ukraine would almost certainly be interpreted as a green light for China to expand its influence in the Far East and Africa — and for Russia to double down on its inroads in the Middle East, with increased support for Iran and Syria. Those Republicans who claim to be supportive of Israel should understand a Putin-Trump partnership would embolden Israel’s enemies and Iran’s state-sponsored terrorist groups.

There is little wonder that propaganda from Russian media sounds so similar to what comes from Trump and his MAGA media supplicants. Russia and the Trump campaign have a common goal in preventing Biden’s reelection. The last thing Russians want is four more years of Biden maintaining solidarity in Europe, resisting Russian aggression, and asserting U.S. economic and diplomatic dominance. If the Kremlin had designed him in a Moscow laboratory, it would have been hard-pressed to come up with a patsy as useful as Trump.

American voters should be forewarned. They cannot be in favor of both American “exceptionalism” and Trump; they cannot celebrate our superpower status and then cheer the candidate who would undermine it.

Source: The Washington Post