What Trump’s Brexit comments Mean For The Future of European Defence Cooperation

Trump administration

On Thursday, Trump produced yet another blunder. This time, at the expense of the UK’s attempts to build a proper relationship with Europe post-Brexit[1]. He proclaimed that if Britain chose a ‘soft-Brexit’, they would receive ‘no deal’ from the United States. As an Englishman, it brings an issue, which has been building since his inauguration, to the spotlight. Namely; the future of a cooperative Trans-Atlantic security partnership. It begs the question: Why are we holding out any hope for increased Anglo-American cooperation?

Trump is content blackmailing his closest allies, holding them to ransom in a modern incarnation of ‘Gun-Boat diplomacy’, despite the supposed positive relations and shared values of our two nations. The EU is not unpredictable; it is reacting to Britain’s choice to leave the European Union, any malicious action is not warranted per-say but could have been predicted. It is only rational for the EU to limit membership perks to club-members, otherwise ‘club membership’ is rendered meaningless. Trump’s comments are not reactionary in any sense, rather they are divisive and incendiary, seeking to reduce the options of a nation that has faithfully supported America one tactical blunder after another. Europe should no longer perceive this alliance as a ticket to security, with America’s pivot east, coupled with the administration’s volatility, it is likely that alliances with the superpower will become more of a hindrance than anything else in the years to come. If we assume that Trump wins re-election, then the next 6 years of trade wars, fiery rhetoric and aggressive manoeuvring will leave America prepared to fight a foreign adversary, one that Britain likely has little quarrel. The lack of nuance with which Trump talks of Brexit merely highlights the current need to transform Europe into an independent security entity. That is not to say cooperation is not possible, cordial relations are desirable, but they should not be a requirement.

Britain must salvage any deal we can get from the EU, all European countries should increase their military spending and accept that America is no longer the ally it once was. The situation for the UK is rapidly deteriorating, and it looks like we have run out of friends very quickly. We need to stop acting rashly and do whatever we can, within the context of the current situation, to cement our military and political cooperation with our neighbours. For the first time in history, Europe is relatively cohesive, whereas America is destabilising the global system in an unpredictable, creating a void of volatility. There is no grand strategy for Trump, and he has made it entirely clear that allies who share his purported values are considered on par with demagogues and dictators.

Britain has relinquished its military capability, instead relying on our ally of erratic temperament and sizeable strength. This strategy has worked, for the most part, since the UK handed over its status as the leading global power after the Second World War. Likewise, all of Europe followed suit, relinquishing their power, replacing it with cooperation with America. Trump believes NATO should increase its military expenditure[2]. He is right. It is imperative that allies in NATO, primarily in Europe, decide on a joint security strategy, one that maintains an aggressive stance against would-be benefactors of America’s demise. It is still, despite what many in the West fear, unclear whether Russia is the menace it is perceived to be. It is still too early to tell indeed whether the means match the ends some believe Putin desires. Russia is concerned with securing Russia; it is too economically weak to seek war and conflict[3]. Its economy is dependent on the West’s reliance on fossil fuels[4], it has not had the time to diversify east in a significant way, therefore it is bound by necessity to the fate of Europe. However, it is not inconceivable that the same military tactics employed in Georgia or Ukraine could make their way to Latvia or Estonia. More importantly, Russia is seemingly not a threat to America, and if people believe that Trump would react with military force against an attempt by Putin to subversively take over a Baltic state they are incorrect, you can smell the ambivalence from across the Atlantic.

Europe cannot sit by and allow their defence and stability to be compromised by the haphazard and inept American administration that seems hellbent in dismantling the post-cold-war global order. This order has been the backdrop to the most peaceful time in human history[5], it has allowed America a seat on the throne of global, and it has been accepted there for the most part, due to its perceived moralism, good governance and belief in values that much of the world shares. This respect is decaying as America looks inward, the world is witnessing the implosion of a diplomatic and economic empire, retreating into isolationism, reneging its responsibilities and betraying the trust of those they once called friends. What is left for Europe and Britain? Europe remains an economic might separate from the United States. It is a travesty that I am writing of re-armament, however for the sake of European security, to maintain its way of life, Europe must reject America’s faux guarantees and once more decide its fate in a non-interventionist but prepared manner. One thing is for sure, the world is observing Trump and Europe, there are nations on Europe’s peripheries who will pounce on geopolitical opportunities whenever they present themselves, and that is not America’s immediate concern.


[1] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-44815558

[2] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-44808077

[3] https://www.dw.com/en/russias-recession-woes-deepen-amid-oil-slump/a-18990311

[4] http://energypost.eu/europe-increasingly-dependent-oil-imports-russia/

[5] https://www.ted.com/talks/steven_pinker_on_the_myth_of_violence



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OscarJGray 2 Articles
Oscar is a 4th year Political science student at The University of Birmingham who has recently been studying in Sweden. He specialises in Foreign Policy articles, with a focus on Russia and the Middle East.

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