Year one of the Trump administration has been uniquely unnerving. Yet the trans-Atlantic security community has also been breathing a sigh of relief, because many of their worst expectations seem to have been averted: trade wars, an attack on North Korea, the end of NATO. The conventional wisdom in Washington, DC and many European capitals today is that—despite a president who continues to defy conventions—U.S.-European relations have largely normalized. There is certainly evidence for a normalization of U.S. foreign policy, not least in the president’s formal endorsement of NATO’s mutual defense clause, and the reinforcement of American contributions to reassurance and deterrence in Eastern Europe. But Trumpism needs to be recognized as a massive discontinuity. Trump is the first postwar American president to question the liberal order as such. In its purest form, the “America First” doctrine has implications for the EU and some of its member states (especially Germany) that should be of intense concern to Europeans. This paper outlines the existing logic of the trans-Atlantic alliance, that has been flipped on its head.
A publication within the framework of the initiative Brookings - Robert Bosch Foundation Transatlantic Initiative (BBTI).