VIENNA — For a European, visiting the United States these days is a bit like going to the dentist: Your mouth is agape, you smell trouble, and you leave with a lingering bad taste.
I recently spent three months in Washington as the Henry A. Kissinger chair at the Library of the Congress. My job, ostensibly, was to make sense of a world that has gone wild. But I think in my time there the only thing I really achieved was high-level confusion.
This wasn’t my first visit to America, but it was my most disturbing one. What I found so disconcerting was the pervasive political polarization afflicting the country. It was also clear that America has become inward-looking and conspiracy-minded. And in Washington now, people are incapable of discussing anything but President Trump. They talk about Mr. Trump even when they pretend to be speaking about something else. It’s all Trump, all the time.
The only people who refrain from Trump talk are those who work for him. It used to be when I visited Washington, people in the government were eager to talk to me, an analyst, about everything from the war in Ukraine to trade with the European Union. They wanted their talking points heard on the Continent, and they wanted outsiders’ perspectives on world events. But officials in the Trump administration shy away from many — especially foreigners like myself. Perhaps they fear that we might figure out that even senior White House officials have little clue about what the president plans to do next.
Those who do like to speak on behalf of Mr. Trump, though, present unorthodox foreign policy as similar to Richard Nixon’s. But for what I could never figure out in these conversations is who plays Henry Kissinger to Mr. Trump’s Nixon. (Mr. Kissinger was, naturally, on my mind.)
Unlike government officials, the president’s critics in the think-tank world and the media seem eager to cavort with Europeans. It is a sort of never-ending psychoanalysis, in which it is not easy to figure out who is the patient and who is the analyst. As I met with dozens of such people around Washington, I heard the same things: Mr. Trump is at best an accidental president; he is a minority president; he was elected by the Russians; at some point soon (though not soon enough) he will be cast out of the White House. Behind this talk is a combination of anxiety and hope — anxiety about what Mr. Trump has broken and hope that as soon as he’s gone everything will return to normal.
That part is familiar. I’ve heard a similar hope in Europe, too. In most European capitals, policymakers and the chattering classes want to believe that before too long, Mr. Trump will be gone and the world order — including the close alliances between Europe and the United States — will return.
But here’s the dirty secret that I learned in my three months in Washington: That’s not true. The world will not boomerang back to where it was even if Democrats take back the White House in 2020, and not simply because even if Mr. Trump will be gone, many of the Trumpian leaders in power around the world will remain. Many of the changes Mr. Trump has ushered into America’s foreign policy will remain long after he’s gone. When it comes to America’s role in the world, he could end up being more consequential than George W. Bush or Barack Obama. The Trump moment in the end may resemble the Truman moment, when over a short period America dramatically changed its views of the world.
This may be hard for Europeans to swallow, but it’s the message I am bringing back with me from Washington. The post-Trump world will not be the pre-Trump world.
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Mr. Trump’s presidency has ushered in two significant changes that are likely to have staying power. First, with his administration, Americans have lost confidence in their exceptionalism. It’s not just the president but also the millennials (who predominantly oppose him) who no longer share the belief that America is an “indispensable nation” with a moral obligation to make the world safe for democracy. The difference is that the millennials believe that America is hardly better than other countries, while Mr. Trump believes that if America wants to defend its global leadership, it has to be nastier than others.
Second, under the Trump presidency, rivalry with China has become the organizing principle of American foreign policy. Republicans and Democrats disagree on almost everything today, but one area where there seems to be effective bipartisanship is that America must change its policy toward China. Only a few lost souls in Washington continue to believe that China’s economic development will lead to a political opening. There is now a consensus that allowing China to join the World Trade Organization in 2001 was a mistake and that if America fails to contain China’s geopolitical reach now, tomorrow it will be impossible to do so. America’s anxiety about China is in my view a realization of the fact that China’s market-friendly, big-data authoritarianism is a much more dangerous adversary for liberal democracies than Soviet Communism ever was.
It’s common to hear Europeans today wax nostalgic about the Cold War, a time when the United States and Western Europe were united in an alliance against the Soviet Union. But Americans don’t share that nostalgia. They are looking for allies aligned against China. And confrontation with Beijing is not something most Europeans are interested in.
It would be a tragedy and, worse, a mistake if Europeans failed to realize that their relationship with the United States will be defined by China, not just now but even after Mr. Trump is out of office. And for Europe to take a clear stand in the coming confrontation between Washington and Beijing will be a lot more painful than going to the dentist.
Ivan Krastev is a contributing opinion writer, the chairman of the Center for Liberal Strategies, a permanent fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna and the author, most recently, of “After Europe.”
Yes, Ytump's America is not the one we know from the recent years. It is claustrophobic, anti-chinese, focused on its own existence and divided.... but the rest of the world is changing - look at Trudeau, look at Macron
This is an excellent essay of Ivan Krastev which I read with great interest and pleasure. It is a very important essay, because it shows an European outsiders view in the American Powerbase of the White House and Capitol Hill.
Ivan Krastev (Bulgarian: Иван Кръстев, born 1965 in Lukovit, Bulgaria), is a political scientist, the Chairman of the Centre for Liberal Strategies in Sofia, permanent fellow at the IWM (Institute of Human Sciences) in Vienna, and 2013-14-17 Richard von Weizsäcker fellow at the Robert Bosch Stiftung in Berlin. He is a founding board member of the European Council on Foreign Relations, a member of the board of trustees of the International Crisis Group and is a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times.
Maybe an outsider is the wrong word for Ivan Krastev, because he clearly has his American top level contacts. Due to Krastev‘s essay I feel the distance between Europeans and the American administration today. Donald Trump likes to divide and rule European countries, but he has to little knowledge of Europe and is to unpredictable to reach his goal.
Donald Trump with European leaders
Trump wants bilateral deals with single European countries, by ignoring the EU, the Berlin-Paris axis, the strained but still existing Weimar Triangle (Berlin-Warsaw-Paris), old trade and political relations that exist between European nations and for instance organisations like the OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation), the Council of Europe and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA).
A big mistake Trump makes is the fact that he doesn’t sees the dangers of an isolated, Isolationalist Autarkic America. He doesn’t understand that the European continent and the EU can exist without the USA. We have been here for thousands of years. We had empires, countries, civilisations, trade organisations. Alliances and ties long before the USA even existed.
Market performance for small household appliances across five European market regimes
We still have Economical, military political and Financial empires. Germany is a huge economical power with its chemical (Hoechst, Bayer, BASF), electronic and consumer goods (AEG, Siemens, Bosch), agricultural sector, car industry (Volkswagen, Audi, Mercedez Benz, BMW, European Ford) and military industries. France is still a nuclear and colonial power. Italy is a manufacturing country, Poland has a strong economy, is a diplomatic and militairy power in Europe. The inner European market is huge and European legislstion is influential next to national law. Schengen created an enormous European economical free zone which was unprecedented in the history of mankind.
Trump will try to play the Visgrad group countries (Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic and Slovakia) to distance them from the European Union (the EU) and Western European countries. He will like the present Austrian and Italian government and he loves Brexit. But the British will tty there upmost best to restore what is lost with bilateral trade negotiations with individual European nations. That will br a long and difficult process. There are for instance 2 mayor Anglo-Dutch multi-nationals Shell and Unilever. The British car industry needs an European area of distribution, the huge European car market and other British industries need the European market too. Next to that a lot of British expats live and work in Europe.
Europe will become less economically dependent of the USA if an Eurasian market will emerge. A combination of the European and Asian markets. In the same time the Europeans will face huge American competition, because the Americans trade with the Asians too, and there are important American-Japanese, American-South-Korean military alliances. The US has the most powerful military in the world. It has the most modernized and sophisticated military weapon systems and possesses a huge number of nuclear warheads. And the US isn’t shy about showing its military power to the world.
The USA is still the number one military power in the world
The United States is the most powerful country in the world. It has the largest economy in the world, thanks in large part to its massive entertainment and media industry. The economy in California alone produces about $2.5 trillion. Assuming California was a country, that number would have made the California economy one of the top six in the world. Imagine that.
In terms of political influence, the US is unparalleled. A founding member of the United Nations, the US plays a huge role in almost all international issues, especially ones regarding global security. Despite being currently led by a dude named Donald Trump, the US remains a powerhouse in the international community. But respect for the US government takes a hit every time Trump sends out a Tweet.
According to Financial Advisor magazinethe USA is stil the largest economy in the world. The U.S. economy increased from around $19.4 trillion in 2017 to $20.4 trillion this year. It is expected to grow to about $34.1 billion by 2050. The World Economic Forum reports the U.S. economy accounts for about one-quarter of the world's economy. The second largest economy in the worldChinaincreased its economy by $2 trillion from 2017, to $14 trillion. The PwC report predicts China’s economy will grow to nearly $58.5 trillion in 2050, the largest in the world. The third largest economy in the world is Japan. In 2017, Japan’s economy was $4.87 trillion. In 2018, it has grown to $5.1 trillion. It is expected to drop to eighth in the world by 2050.
Japans economy is the third largest economy in the world
The CIA Factbook however states: The US has the most technologically powerful economy in the world, with a per capita GDP of $59,500. US firms are at or near the forefront in technological advances, especially in computers, pharmaceuticals, and medical, aerospace, and military equipment; however, their advantage has narrowed since the end of World War II. Based on a comparison of GDP measured at purchasing power parity conversion rates, the US economy in 2014, having stood as the largest in the world for more than a century, slipped into second place behind China, which has more than tripled the US growth rate for each year of the past four decades.
The German economy is the forth largest economy in the world. The German economy is $4.2 trillion in 2018 and expected to reach only $6.1 trillion by 2050. The United Kingdom has a somber future prediction. The outlook for the future economy of the county is only $5.3 trillion by 2050. Its current economy is worth $2.94 trillion. France has a $2.93 trillion economy, but the report indicates a slow growth ahead, to about $4.7 trillion in 2050. Italy hits the list in the eighth spot with an economy of $2.18 trillion. The PwC report speculates that the country could drop out of the top 20 economies over the next few decades.
The French economy is the eight largest economy in the world
Currently, China and the United States are locked in an ongoing trade war as each country has introduced tariffs on goods traded between each other. US PresidentDonald Trump had promised in his campaign to fix China's "longtime abuse of the broken international system and unfair practices". The United States of America filed a request for consultation to the World Trade Organization, in regard to concerns that the People's Republic of China was violating intellectual property rights. The U.S. administration is relying partly on Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 to prevent what it claims are unfair trade practices and theft of intellectual property.
U.S. PresidentDonald Trump and Chinese counterpartXi Jinping will meet at the Nov. 30-Dec. 1 G-20 Summit in Buenos Airesas trade tensions rage.
U.S. President Donald Trump with Chinese president Xi Jinping, who is in the same time general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC), Sunday, 04 March, 2018
Ivan Krastev is right that in most European capitals, policymakers and the chattering classes want to believe that before too long, Mr. Trump will be gone and the world order — including the close alliances between Europe and the United States — will return. But he fails to mention that Donald Trump has support from the new rightwing Nationalist Populist political parties who are in the various National parliaments and in the European parliament and the fact that Donald Trump has support from certain European civilians, like some entrepreneurs, who like to see a businessman as president of the USA in staid of a politician (they wish that that could be possible in their countries). Young European rightwingers (millennials) love Trump, because he is anti-establishment, he takes a firm stance against European leaders they despise, took a strong anti-Muslim migration stance and anti-Mexican/South-American/Latin-American immigration. Young Dutch, French and German nationalists who wished Geert Wilders, Marine Le Pen or Alexander Gauland (born 20 February 1941), the leader of the National conservative, Eurosceptic Alternative für Deutschland party could be their prime-minister like President Trump. Western-European rightwingers are jealous of Trump, but in the same time they know Europe is different than the USA. That's why Steve Bannon receives some scepticism and distrust from some European rightwing Nationalist Populist movements, because he is an American and not a European.
Of course Ivan Krastev article is about the old European power elite, diplomats and center right and center left leaders who are not exactly fond of Donald Trump. Trump is seen as a strange unorthodox politician, as a businessman who plays a politician, while politics is different than being a businessman, because politics is more than trade, free market and doing business. Politics has other technocratic, state affairs, etatist (non-Laissez faire), bureaucratic, diplomatic, sides and has to deal with public utilities, organizations that maintain the infrastructure for public services (often also providing a services using that infrastructure).
Sources: Pieters thoughts, Wikipedia, Financial Advisor, CIA Factbook, Financial Times, the Economist, the Guardian, Financieel Dagblad, NRC Handelsblad and Foreign Affairs.