With America-EU Relations at New Lows, Is Confrontation Inevitable?
The divide between the United States and the European Union (EU) has never been worse. President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has driven another stake into the heart of America-EU relations. The decision blows a gaping hole into the ideological divide between the core values of each superstate.
Does serious confrontation, above and beyond verbal wars on Twitter, lie ahead?
Just a day after Trump’s Jerusalem announcement, the EU is on the attack. EU Policy Chief Federica Mogherini blasted president Trump for initiating a “very worrying potential impact,” saying that the announcement “has the potential to send us backwards to even darker times than the ones we’re already living in.” Mogherini also reaffirmed the EU’s stance on Jerusalem, saying “We believe the only realistic solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine is based on two states and with Jerusalem as the capital of both.” (Source: “EU Slams Trump over Jerusalem Move, Warns ‘Darker Times’ now Lie Ahead,” Breitbart, December 7, 2017.)
Driving the wedge even further, the Vatican has definitively sided with the EU. On December 6, Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano ran a front-page headline reading, “Trump Inflames the Middle East.” The article was basically the church’s equivalent of a mainstream media hit piece on the subject. The publication claimed that there was opposition to the decision from the Near East, and even alleged that part of the secret services were against it. (Source: “Vatican Newspaper: With Jerusalem Move ‘Trump Inflames the Middle East’,” Breitbart, November 7, 2017.)
Coming from the church, that language is about as inflammatory as you’re going to see.
The Trump Jerusalem decision is no doubt the crowning barb to a deteriorating diplomatic situation which began early in Trump’s presidency.
Already at odds with Trump’s staunch nationalist and anti-political correctness (PC) approach, Trump escalated words with deeds in January when he threatened to enact import tariffs on German automobiles. This caused German leadership to bristle, with German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel saying at the time, “The American car industry is getting worse, weaker and more expensive… that’s why the U.S. needs to build better cars.” (Source: “German minister tells Trump: ‘The U.S. needs to build better cars’,” MarketWatch, January 17, 2017.)
That was the opening salvo to a whole litany of deep paper cuts haunting America-EU relations ever since. The wedge has only widened as time progressed. The Paris Accord, the migrant crisis, and Trump’s Muslim ban are but three of many issues in which the U.S. and EU have expressed serious ideological differences.
Deteriorating America-EU Relations Under Trump: Rough Timeline
|November 9, 2017||Donald Trump receives a cool reception following election win.||Several individual leaders extend neutral or lukewarm congratulations to Trump.|
|January 15, 2017||Trump accuses Angela Merkel of making a “catastrophic mistake” on migrant crisis.||German leaders vigorously defend their policy.|
|January 16, 2017||Trump threatens German automakers with 35 percent U.S. import tariff.||Top German leaders rebuke Trump and denounce decision.|
|January 27, 2017||Trump signs an Executive Order commonly known as the “Muslim ban.”||
EU parliament leader: “Trump’s #MuslimBan goes against the West’s values and human rights. We must not be complacent.”
|March 31, 2017||Trump expresses support for the United Kingdom leaving the EU.||EU boss Jean-Claude Juncker threatens to “promote the independence of Ohio and Austin” over Trump’s support of Brexit.|
|May 25, 2017||Trump scolds the EU for not paying fair share regarding NATO; threatens disengagement.||
Cascade of rebukes emanate from individual countries and EU High Commission.
|June 1, 2017||Trump announces that America will withdraw from Paris Agreement.||
Merkel slams Trump:”we can’t wait for the last man on earth to be convinced by climate change.” EU piles on.
|August 4, 2017||America delivers official notice to EU for Paris Agreement withdrawal.|
|November 30, 2017||
CNN reports leak that Trump plans on recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
|December 6, 2017||Trump officially recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.||EU policy chief warns that “darker times” are ahead.|
Now that Trump has ripped the ideological bandaid wide open, what happens next? That answer will literally determine the course of military and policy cooperation going forward.
Everything is at stake, including Europe’s ability to defend itself from foreign invasion, to the demographic time-bomb that is reshaping the continent. With the EU prioritizing development of an European army, the question even has direct military implications down the line.
Trump Jerusalem Decision: A Bigger Deal Than Many Realize
The reason why the Trump Jerusalem decision is such a game changer is multi-fold. For starters, it’s diametrically opposed to the EU position that Jerusalem should be the joint capital of both Israelis and Palestinians. The EU tends to take a pro-Palestinian perspective on most issues, which is in line with demographic and business alliance realities in the region.
Trump’s declaration is a Molotov cocktail to those ambitions. America has essentially ended the debate by recognizing Israel as Jerusalem’s rightful guardian; a foreign policy decision which will be almost impossible to reverse.
That puts the EU in a tough position. German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to open up German borders to migrants (along with tacit EU support), has shifted the continental demographics in profound ways. The EU is being Islamified at an accelerating clip, and most Muslims are naturally opposed to Trump’s decision. If the EU is to defend its constituency, a pro-Palestinian view is warranted and expected.
There’s also the issue of Turkey. The latter is infuriated by Trump’s Jerusalem maneuver, with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan calling it a “red line” with Muslims. Erdogan is already at odds with the EU, threatening to open the migrant floodgates if Turkey doesn’t receive large sums of money to contain the issue. Some might describe that as a form of extortion.
Regardless, the EU must now walk the diplomatic tightrope between Turkey’s growing influence and America’s perceived provocative actions. This situation will continue to anchor America-EU relations.
Finally, the Vatican’s condemnation muddies the waters between America’s evangelical Christians and the Catholic Church. The Vatican has veered to be decidedly pro-migrant over the years, taking a very dovish stance to Europe’s open-borders policy. This is pitting the Catholic Head of State directly against American foreign policy, adding more religious partisanship into the mix.
Jerusalem is not simply an Islamic-world gripe anymore; it’s turning into an inter-faith one. While Trump prioritizes security, the Catholic Church wants to build a constituency for an audience that has been free-falling for decades.
Ultimately, the Jerusalem friction brings America-EU relations to a head on several fronts. It’s not like a simple trade or policy issue that can be arbitrated away. Jerusalem blends an assorted array of several interconnected political, economic, and religious issues together. It’s a conflict that will continue to fester, without any diplomatic solution in sight.
Given time, it may just exacerbate tensions enough to cause material damage beyond tit-for-tat trade wars. The very fabric of ideological worldviews has been irreparably shattered. What happens over the coming months is anyone’s guess. But Jerusalem is setting the stage for a major conflict between America and the Near East, and a decidedly more uni-polar world.