January 12, 2018

SUMANTRA MAITRA: Trump’s Conservative-Realist Approach Will Outlast Trump.

It is foolish to imagine that the interests of United States will cause her to be aligned with the same countries with whom her interests were aligned in 1945, or even 1989. The European Union, for example, under the leadership of Brussels, Stockholm, and Berlin, consistently clashed with Washington on Iran, mass-migration, Jerusalem, Cuba, the Nord Stream gas pipeline, Russian sanctions, and China to name just a few. This rift will only continue to grow.

The failure to understand the simple fact that Trumpism is purely an effect of a failed imperial foreign policy, and not a cause, in incredible to observe. The United States now stands as a hegemon, and now faces what Great Britain faced during the Suez Canal crisis in 1956: massive debt, a disinterested public that wants to avoid any foreign entanglement, new growing peer rivals and structural realities, a bygone unipolar moment, and a new multipolar great power rivalry. In a way, Trump’s strategy simply reflects these structural changes and aspirations of Americans, who are tired of paying their hard-earned cash for this Wilsonian and imperial foreign policy. Conservative Realism is about strength at home and prudence and restraint abroad.

NATO funding remains a major thorn, and while Trump took credit for some countries increasing their funding for NATO, the strategy still makes it a point that countries should pay for their security. Trump is right about rich European countries living on American taxpayers. But it is not true that Europe is supposed to pay for Trump. That’s not how it works. And there’s no way Trump will be able to make Western European countries pay 2 percent of GDP for NATO, simply because there is no longer a Soviet Union to fear. American foreign policy at this stage is more aligned with East and Central European states, which are traditionally socially conservative and are wary of Russian military designs and EU social engineering. That is unlikely to change, and sooner or later, American policymakers will need to adjust to this new reality.

That last point is one Donald Rumsfeld was mocked for making 15 years ago, with his “Old Europe/New Europe” remarks.