Germany now finds itself in the worst security dilemma since it rejoined the West in the 1950s by becoming a member of NATO and the EU. Its hoped-for strategic partners, Russia and China, are increasingly aggressive players in Europe. Within the EU, populists and authoritarians are challenging the liberal, postwar consensus. Even countries that share that ideal, such as France, Spain and the Baltic states, disagree about the future of the European project. America’s elites stand firm in defense of U.S. security guarantees for Europe — but their president misses no opportunity to side with autocrats and show contempt for a rules-based order.
Yes, Europeans (and Germans) need to bear a much greater share of their own defense... Yes, the Nord Stream 2 pipeline undermines trust between Germany and its Eastern European neighbors. Yes, saving on defense budgets over decades has weakened European defense and enabled Europeans to shore up their welfare systems... On all these things, Trump is right... Trump is also right that the West, and Europe in particular, today faces real challengers, spoilers, and adversaries. Yet where Trump is monumentally, tragically wrong—and where Europe cannot and must not follow him—is in his open contempt for representative democracy, republican constitutions, open societies, and a rules-based international order, and his admiration for autocrats and dictators. This, not defense spending or pipelines, is the new fault line in the alliance today, and the greatest in its history.
Make no mistake, there is a concerted attack on the constitutional liberal order. And it is being spearheaded by the president of the United States... It is bad enough that the Putin-Trump meeting is happening at all — but it must not take place in Vienna. The echoes are too ominous.