Europe's Foreign Policy Options in the Era of the Trump Administration

Trade conflicts, Washington’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, or relations between the USA and North Korea: There are plenty of topics to discuss in the transatlantic partnership. This is why the Robert Bosch Stiftung, in cooperation with the Brookings Institution, hosted a lunch talk with Bruce Jones, vice president and director of Brookings’ Foreign Policy program, at the Foundation’s Berlin offices. The subject of the talk: “American Foreign Policy in the Age of Trump: Rhetoric, Reversals, and Reality.” The event was moderated by Constanze Stelzenmüller, Robert Bosch Senior Fellow at Brookings.

Robert Bosch Stiftung | June 2018
Bruce Jones talking to Constanze Stelzenmüller
Manuel Frauendorf

Constanze Stelzenmüller asked Bruce Jones, how Europe could act more united on the foreign policy front.

In her analysis, Ms. Stelzenmüller noted that many Europeans are deeply unsettled by President Trump’s way of treating friends and allies and asked about Europe’s scope of action. Mr. Jones emphasized that the "rest of the West" can still do a lot, such as stepping up its efforts to build and expand its own diplomatic initiatives and strategic capacities to weather the current period of unpredictability in U.S. foreign policy. Nevertheless, Ms. Stelzenmüller pointed out, Europe would remain dependent on the U.S. foreign policy strategy in many cases, such as the decision of the United States to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal. In announcing this step, the Trump administration presented Europe with a fait accompli, forcing the latter to find its own approach to dealing with the new situation and its consequences.

Ms. Stelzenmüller further asked how Europe could act more united on the foreign policy front. In general, Mr. Jones replied, his preferred foreign policy mechanisms were multilateral institutions with a small group of powerful states at their core able to lead the way and take charge, in contrast to the often problematic principle of unanimity in EU foreign policy. According to Mr. Jones, a prime example of a European core group was France, Germany, and the UK negotiating with Iran in the run-up to the nuclear deal.

In the subsequent Q&A session, the approximately 90 guests, among them many alumni of the Robert Bosch Foundation Fellowship Program that held their annual meeting in Berlin, continued to discuss with the two experts. The lunch talk was part of the Brookings – Robert Bosch Foundation Transatlantic Initiative (BBTI), which aims to build up and expand resilient networks and trans-Atlantic activities to analyze and work on issues concerning trans-Atlantic relations and social cohesion in Europe and the United States. As part of the initiative, researchers from the renowned US think tank The Brookings Institution publish independent analyses and recommendations for some of the most pressing challenges of our time. A series of high-profile public events in Europe and the US are organized in cooperation between the Robert Bosch Stiftung and Brookings.