Trump Was Right 1.

            “[I]n critical areas, the Biden administration has not made big breaks [from the Trump administration], showing how difficult it is in Washington to chart new courses on foreign policy.”[1]  Nonsense.  It isn’t hard to change course.  Trump broke with the long-established policies without breaking an orange-tinged sweat.  It enraged many people, but their opposition didn’t matter to the president or the people in put in charge of things.  So, if President Biden is following many of President Trump’s policies abroad, it is because people have come to see that Trump was right about many things.  It is hard for most people to come right out and say. 

            Take Europe.  The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union (EU) had grown up in the aftermath of the Second World War and in the specific context of the European front of the Cold War.  NATO had been created to “Keep the Americans in, the Russians out, and the Germans down.”  Twenty years after Western victory in the Cold War, none of these elements appeared to make much sense.  Germany had become the dominant economic power in the EU, but it was deeply committed to de-militarization.  Russia seemed to have become little more than a major petro-state.  The Americans had “interests” all over the world, but their chief interest seemed to be in Asia.  NATO no longer served a purpose. 

As for the EU, it had become the very model of the modern administrative state (of Republican nightmares).  Unable to compete on cutting-edge technologies, the EU has taken to trying to regulate big American tech companies.  If Russia is a petro-state, it is Germany’s petro-state.  All the pipelines from Russia, but especially the most recent one, have been built in defiance of American recommendations.  The shift of power away from elected national governments toward a (German-dominated) bureaucracy has given pause to many newer member states.  The British have already bolted, and the migrant crisis of several years ago has put Poland and Hungary on a collision course with the EU.  Neither France nor Germany wanted Ukraine admitted to either the EU or NATO.  It would anger Russia while increasing the “Eastern” orientation of the EU.[2] 

            There is a difference between allies and free-riders.  Most of NATO, but especially Germany, had become free-riders.  All of this is to say that Trump wasn’t off target in giving Angela Merkel the cold shoulder.  Biden would likely be doing the same if Russia had not invaded Ukraine.[3]  That got the attention of the NATO members, even of Germany.  No free riders in this situation.  However, it appears that it is the EU dissidents Britain and Poland who are making most of the European effort.  France and Germany, not as much as you might have expected.  Will NATO stay revived—and worth an American commitment—after the war ends?    


[1] Edward Wong, “Biden Is Charting a Similar Course to Trump on U.S. Foreign Policy,” NYT, 25 July 2022.  Both the Biden administration and the New York Times are embarrassed by the similarities.  One can read Wong’s article as part of a campaign to rationalize the liberal collapse before Reality. 

[2] This is reminiscent of Bismarck not wanting the German-speakers of the Austro-Hungarian Empire included in a united Germany in 1866-1871.  It would create a rival, Habsburg pole of loyalty when Bismarck wanted the Prussian Hohenzollerns to rule the Empire.  It would greatly increase the number of Catholics inside Germany, when Prussia was overwhelmingly Protestant.  Or See William Walkers hopes of bringing Central American and Caribbean territories into the American union to offset the industrial, abolitionist North. 

[3] Whether Trump would now be doing what Biden is doing in support of Ukraine/opposition to Russia is an open question.