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Will Trump get European defense off the ground? Not sure…

The first meeting between Obama and newly elected Donald Trump was more consensual than expected (credit: US White House)
The first meeting between Obama and newly elected Donald Trump was more consensual than expected (credit: US White House)

(BRUSSELS2) Will the election of Donald Trump to the American presidency be a reason for Europeans to come together and find reasons to act more together, to strengthen European defense and industry? We can hope for it, wish it. Some say it and express it. But the opposite could just as well be possible and must be considered.


Do not leave me…

Donald Trump's few words on NATO can certainly appear as campaign remarks. They will inspire European leaders who do not want to see NATO diminish its role nor the Americans stop investing in it. This is therefore not the time to create the slightest bit of uncertainty for Europeans or possible alternatives that could allow Washington to take advantage of it. This movement has already started. In several countries (Belgium, Germany, etc.) leaders continue to step up to demonstrate the usefulness of NATO. And the NATO Secretary General sounded the alarm (read his exclusive interview with B2: A European defence, yes, but in addition to NATO). You will then have to go to the checkout…


Yes… I will pay more

What Donald Trump said about transatlantic solidarity – no solidarity without a European effort – can give rise to various interpretations. At first glance, the American ambition is to quantify the American effort to the European effort. This is called burden sharing. Trump is concretely following in the footsteps of his predecessors (Bush, Obama). It's up to Europeans to take charge of themselves a little more, with an increase in defense spending budgets (1) but also greater risk-taking. A speech which is not free from contradiction on the American side. Because if this rise in power of the Europeans is desired, the Americans ultimately do not want it to be too autonomous.

Buy American or I'm off!

Secondly, Trump's remarks are more of a trade negotiator's attitude. The threat of providing more assistance to Europeans must be taken as a desire to ensure the loyalty of Europeans. And it works, judging by the declarations in European capitals. It is accompanied by a desire to have a greater return on investments, in the purest style of the “I want my money back” principle. In other words, if the Americans provide part of the European defense, it is up to the Europeans to pay more, in kind if necessary, by buying... American. In all this logic, we are quite far from strengthening an autonomous European defense...

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

Lire: Trump elected, Europe will have to move its buttocks!

(1) The target of spending 2% of GDP on defense is an idiotic target. Without a spending plan on a European scale, it risks leading to scattered purchases, a waste of money as there has been in the past, and will not as such resolve the shortcomings that persist.

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

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