Trump has one final chance with American partners of first resort

Trump has one final chance with American partners of first resort
© Getty Images

President TrumpDonald John TrumpThorny part of obstruction of justice is proving intent, that's a job for Congress Obama condemns attacks in Sri Lanka as 'an attack on humanity' Schiff rips Conway's 'display of alternative facts' on Russian election interference MORE relishes in attacking American allies across the Atlantic Ocean. He remains the “great disrupter” who once called Brussels, the home of the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, a “hellhole.” Last year, Trump mocked French President Emmanuel Macron on Twitter for the neopopulist protests in Paris. But this year, Trump and Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoUS downplays North Korea's saber rattling Overnight Defense: Pompeo rejects North Korean call for him to leave negotiations | Trump talk with rebel Libyan general raises eyebrows | New setback to Taliban talks The Hill's 12:30 Report: Dems face tricky balancing act after Mueller report MORE have new reasons to restore the primacy of the transatlantic alliance before European struggles become American economic and foreign policy problems. This year will reveal whether Trump can seize his last chance with our American allies of first resort.

Let us begin by remembering that the 2017 national security strategy laid out by the White House did not even recognize the international order as a core national interest, marking the first time since the National Security Council paper presented to President Truman 1950 that the United States did not articulate a vision for American engagement in defending the free world. In Brussels last month, Pompeo parroted the “America First” view with a tone deaf and arrogant speech in which he ticked off a confusing and often contradictory laundry list of problems with multilateralism.

ADVERTISEMENT

Yet in the same speech, Pompeo seemed to momentarily dissent. Sounding more like former Secretary of State John KerryJohn Forbes KerryButtigieg to fundraise in DC with major Obama, Clinton bundlers next month: report The Hill's 12:30 Report: Inside the Mueller report Democrats need a 'celebrity' candidate — and it's not Biden or Sanders MORE than Trump, Pompeo made reference to “treaties to codify Western values of freedom and human rights.” He recognized that multilateral organizations can “promote peace and cooperation among states,” which he described as “principled realism,” a phrase that seemed to echo the “principled pragmatism” once touted by former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThorny part of obstruction of justice is proving intent, that's a job for Congress Nadler: I don't understand why Mueller didn't charge Donald Trump Jr., others in Trump Tower meeting Kellyanne Conway: Mueller didn't need to use the word 'exoneration' in report MORE.

Pompeo appears to understand that cooperation with Europe is vital to American success on a host of issues ranging from confronting ISIS and other terrorist groups, to opposing Russian aggression in Ukraine, to the rise of China, to nuclear proliferation in Iran and North Korea, and to global economic stability. Now Pompeo needs to convince his boss. That will not be easy given reports that Trump has privately threatened to withdraw the United States from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Moreover, Trump has already done significant damage to the transatlantic relationship. The United States is widely viewed as neglecting its partners and having abandoned its internationalist and transatlantic tradition. The European Union shares some of the blame by focusing almost exclusively on issues intrinsic to its own future. Brussels has scheduled a series of summits on various issues such as migration and security, but there has been little dialogue or reflection on the future of the transatlantic alliance.

We should remember that free trade, technology, and globalization have improved economic performance in both the United States and Europe. However, we should also recognize that this progress has occurred alongside stagnant or declining median wages, displaced jobs, physical insecurity, and loss of national identity and sovereignty. The messy Brexit threatens to only make matters worse because the United Kingdom has long served as the American economic and political gateway to Europe.

Political leaders on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean should assess the consequences of their strategic choices. Failure to do so will no doubt open the door to acrimonious trade wars, conflicting sanctions, divergent diplomacy, and the gradual unraveling of mutual security guarantees erected after World War II. One result would be a loss of power for the United States and Europe, leaving Russia and China as the beneficiaries.

Pompeo should seize the moment, perhaps the last opportunity for this administration, to work with his European counterparts to design a new transatlantic charter. He should prioritize enhanced counterterrorism cooperation through greater sharing of intelligence and law enforcement information. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization pledge of 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense spending should be expanded to include a wider range of security spending including for cyberdefense.

Washington and Brussels must forge new institutional mechanisms to coordinate foreign policy, especially on economic sanctions. Our leaders should develop rules of fair trade and investment, and work to protect American and European sovereignty and electoral processes from foreign interference. Back in 2016, candidate Trump incorrectly called Belgium a “beautiful city.” While better than a “hellhole,” it would be unfortunate if those words turns out to be the high point of his transatlantic diplomacy.

David McKean served as United States ambassador to Luxembourg and director of policy planning at the State Department during the Obama administration. He is now a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund.