Wake up Europe: You may get Trumped

shutterstock 283689917President Barack Obama’s grand strategic priorities were the so-called pivot to Asia, and achieving some kind of stability in the Middle East. However, the president came head to head with Russia over the Ukrainian crisis. Like it or not, his efforts to get Crimea back and help the Ukrainian government have not borne fruit. Despite the most recent European Reassurance Initiative, under Obama’s leadership, Europe has been pushed down on the scale of US strategic priorities.


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In January 2017, a new US president will take office. Thus, with the US presidential election well underway, the most important questions for the Europeans are: What role will Europe play in America’s strategy after the next president is inaugurated? Will the US continue to be Europe’s security provider? Will Washington offer substantial help on the unfolding refugee crisis in Europe?


Increasingly, the fight for the US presidency has become a contest between Donald Trump, on the Republican side, and, Hillary Clinton, on the Democratic side. So, Europe, here is what the two contenders say they will do for you.


In the red corner: Donald Trump


Donald Trump lost Iowa, but won New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada. Trump has great momentum on the campaign trail, and according to most analysts he will be way ahead of his Republican challengers, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, in the delegates count after the March 1st Super Tuesday primaries. Barring a surprise, there seems to be no path for Rubio and Cruz to get ahead of Trump.


Trump’s foreign policy is labeled by some pundits as Taft isolationism. According to Thomas Wright, Trump “is deeply unhappy with America’s military alliances and feels the United States is overcommitted around the world. America is disadvantaged by the global economy. And he is sympathetic to authoritarian strongmen.” During a visit in Scotland, when asked if he accepts the fact that Crimea is under Russian control, Trump made it clear that Crimea is Europe’s problem much more than America’s. He also stated that America could have very good relations with Russia. In 2000, singing the tune of “Come Home America,” Trump argued that pulling back from Europe will save America millions of dollars annually. So, Europe, take note: Trump is not Cruz, who in 2014 urged President Obama to install anti-ballistic missiles in Eastern Europe as a counter to Russian actions in Ukraine. Nor is he Rubio, who argued that Washington must commit to military reinforcement of Eastern Europe and defend Ukrainian sovereignty.


And when it comes to the refugee crisis, Trump blasted German Chancellor Angela Merkel for giving the green light to thousands of refugees and claimed that this could be “the end of Europe”.


In the blue corner: Hillary Clinton


Hillary Clinton most likely will win the Democratic nomination. In political circles, she is widely known as a hawk: in short an interventionist. Compared to Trump, Hillary Clinton is the epitome of “Don’t Come Home America.” Under her husband’s Presidency, Hillary Clinton supported many expansionist policies, including NATO enlargement. On February 23rd 2016 during a democratic CNN Town Hall, Clinton stated that she supported the intervention in Libya, partially because of calls from Europe and other parts of the world. She spoke of the alarming peril which “Estonia and the Baltic States” (sic!) face because of possible Russian aggression. Clinton wants to work with the EU to impose tougher sanctions on Russia and reduce “reliance on Russian oil.” In her view, Europe is “too wimpy” in its deals with Putin. She equated the Russians’ moves in Ukraine with those of Adolf Hitler’s in the 1930s, and “warned that allowing Russia to escape relatively unscathed from its actions in the Ukraine sends a problematic message.” However, is she prepared to get in a war with Russia over the Baltics? Her bellicose rhetoric seems to indicate so.


Also, Clinton is ready to work with the international community to solve the refugee crisis. No little wonder, she is Europe’s choice. The foreign ministers of Germany and France publicly backed Hillary Clinton’s bid for the US presidency. And her popularity in Eastern Europe runs high.


That said, the foreign policy initiatives which US presidential candidates advocate on the campaign trail are not necessarily the ones that they will conduct once in office. However, Europe, there is no doubt that Hillary Clinton is your darling. But, you cannot vote. So, be prepared: If Donald Trump gets elected you may get trumped!


Gabriela Marin Thornton is an Instructional Associate Professor of International Affairs at the Bush School of Government and Public Service, Texas A&M University. She teaches classes on international politics, the European Union, and NATO. She has published opinion pieces in The Conversation US, The Washington Post, and The Diplomatic Courier.


Lexia C. Arther is a second-year Master of International Affairs student specialising in European Security at the Bush School of Government and Public Service, Texas A&M University.