Donald Trump’s overwhelming victory in the caucus of Iowa has made even more real the prospect for which Europe has been preparing for several months, that of a second term for the Republican candidate, probably more effective in terms of his ability to put his plans into practice because, this time, he will know how to do operate the levers of power in the institutions of the United States, absolutely unknown to him when he arrived at the White House in January 2017.
“2024 is going to be a crucial year. Europe and the West have a lot at stake, our democracies and freedoms are going to be tested. Not only in the elections to the European Parliament, but also for the presidential elections and the United States Congress,” Belgian Prime Minister Alexandre de Croo warned on Monday when presenting in Strasbourg his country’s priorities for his turn in office. European presidency of the Council. “If 2024 turns out to be another ‘America First’, then more than ever we will have a Europe alone. We should not fear this perspective, we should embrace it by building a Europe on more solid, stronger, more sovereign, more autonomous foundations.”
“We learned the lessons” of the Republican’s first term, they repeat from Brussels
From an economic point of view, however, the prospects of a Trump victory on November 5 are clearly negative for Europe, says the president of the European Central Bank, Christine Lagarde. “If we draw lessons from history, the way he governed during the four years of his mandate is a clear threat.” [para la economía europea]. Just look at its tariff policy, its commitment to NATO or the fight against climate change. In those three areas, in the past, the interests of the United States were not aligned with those of Europe,” he noted in an interview on French television France 2.
A few days ago, European Commissioner Thierry Breton narrated a conversation that he witnessed in 2020 between the then North American president and the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, in Davos. “You must understand that if Europe were attacked, we would never come to help you or support you,” the American leader allegedly told the German woman. It is not clear that those were Trump’s exact words – other sources do not remember them that way – but the messages he sent during his presidency were not very different, hence the alarmed reactions to his possible re-election in the main European capitals.
This is not the case in Budapest. Although Trump once confused him with the president of Turkey, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and the Republican leader have recently developed an intense bromance at a distance that makes the defenders of European values and principles stand on end.
De Croo’s comments, proposing embrace rather fear a second term for Trump, join a chorus of more optimistic voices that want to see in this possibility an opportunity to deepen European construction. The EU that the Republican would find if he returned to the White House would be very different from the one that existed seven years ago. His first term was a rude awakening regarding the reliability of the American ally’s commitment to European security. In parallel, the pandemic and the war in Ukraine have pushed the EU to take giant steps in its integration (creation of a massive recovery fund with common debt issuance, joint purchase of vaccines, European financing for military aid to Ukraine …). “We learned the lessons” of Trump’s first term, repeat European sources in Brussels.
At the same time, with an open war on European soil and Trump’s well-known approaches to Ukraine, the consequences of his victory would be greater for the EU, which will not be able to maintain support for Kyiv alone. Even with Joe Biden in the White House, the counterweight of Congress has not been enough to maintain aid to the country. The 55 billion euro assistance package has been blocked since October in the Lower House.
Although with Biden Europe has healed some wounds from the Trump era, the protectionist policies of the US have reaffirmed the need to advance the strategic autonomy of the EU in all areas. In a few months, reality may put those purposes to the test.