Washington Post: Europe Leaders Shocked as Trump Slams NATO, EU Raising Fears of Transatlantic Split

Washington, – European leaders on Monday took a tough line on President-elect Donald Trump’s comments that the European Union is bound for breakup and NATO is obsolete, raising the prospect of an unprecedented breach of transatlantic relations once Trump comes to office, reported Washington Post.
Trump said in a weekend interview with the Times of London and Germany’s Bild newspaper that the 28-nation European Union was a vehicle for German interests and said that he was indifferent to its fate. He also said he was committed to European defense even as he expressed skepticism about NATO’s current configuration.
According to Washington Post, Trump’s attitudes have raised alarm bells across Europe, which is facing a wave of elections this year in which anti-immigrant, euro-skeptic leaders could gain in power. Most mainstream leaders had committed to working with Trump after Jan. 20, even as they expressed hope he would moderate his views once he came to office.
The full ramifications of a breakdown in transatlantic relations are so extensive they are difficult to total. US guarantees underpin European security. The United States and the 500-million-people-strong European Union are each other’s most important trading partner. For decades, European nations and the United States have worked tightly together on issues of war, peace and trade.
Trump’s comments “caused astonishment and excitement, not just in Brussels,” German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told reporters in Brussels on Monday, where he was gathering with other European foreign ministers at a previously scheduled meeting. Coming directly from a meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Steinmeier said that NATO had listened to Trump’s comments “with concern.” The incoming US president is the first American leader since World War II not to support European integration. The European Union has long considered to be in the US interest, since it created a unified market for American businesses, provided a bulwark against Communism during the Cold War and helped quell the bloody slaughter that cost US lives, among others, in the first half of the 20th century. After the breakup of the Soviet Union, the European Union expanded eastward into formerly Communist nations, a development that leaders there say helped bring rule of law and stability as they modernized their economies.
Steinmeier said that Germany was still trying to assess what actual US foreign policy will be.
For example James Mattis, the retired general nominated to be Trump’s defense secretary, offered straightforward support for NATO and skepticism of Russia at his confirmation hearing last week.
“We have to see what will come out for American policy,” Steinmeier said.
French leaders, who face tough presidential elections in April, also appeared to be scrambling to handle the fallout. Trump allies have expressed support for the anti-EU, anti-immigrant National Front party, whose leader, Marine Le Pen, is doing well in opinion polls. Le Pen lunched in the basement of the Trump Tower last week in the company of a man who has served as an informal conduit for Trump’s contacts with Euroskeptic European leaders, although the Trump transition team denied any formal meeting with the French leader.
“The best response is European unity,” said French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault. “As with the case of Brexit, the best way to defend Europe is to remain united. This is a bit of an invitation that we are making to Mr. Trump. To remain a bloc. Not to forget that the force of Europeans is in their unity.” Some European leaders appeared to preserve the hope that Trump does not truly mean what he says, or that his pronouncements will not be translated into actual policy.
Ayrault appeared to hope that Trump’s cabinet would be the true force of the presidency, saying that he looked forward to sitting down with secretary of state nominee, Rex Tillerson, once he is confirmed to discuss a range of issues of mutual concern to Europe and the United States.
And Luxembourg’s foreign minister, Jean Asselborn, said he thought Trump might change his tune between now and Friday.
“One must hope that the statements of candidate Trump starting Friday will go in a different direction,” Asselborn said. “If the risks are summed up, it would be very destabilizing, which is not in the interest of America.” Only one leader appeared to embrace Trump’s comments, and that was British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson, who said he welcomed Trump’s vow to negotiate a speedy trade deal between the United States and Britain. British trade relationships are in limbo as it negotiates its exit from the European Union.
“It’s very good news that the United States of America wants to do a good free trade deal with us and wants to do it very fast and it’s great to hear that from President-elect Donald Trump,” Johnson told reporters in Brussels.

Source: Qatar News Agency