Donald Trump vs Europe?

It seems there is not much love for Donald Trump in Europe. Except of far-right wingers and Hungary’s PM Viktor Orbán and a bit also Slovakia’s PM Robert Fico it seems EU politicians would prefer Clinton. But is it wise to reject Trump when there is a chance he will be the next US President, how hard would it be for Europe to cooperate with him? Read few comments.

Thomas Scotto, Professor of Government and Politics, University of Strathclyde

Traditionally, foreign leaders have stayed out of US elections for the very reason that if the foreign leader backed the wrong candidate, it potentially could lead to cool relations between the new President and their nation. However, this does seem to be breaking down. Most notably, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed a clear preference for Republicans over the course of Obama’s Presidency. Although the relationship was terse, it did not seem to deeply affect US-Israel relations on the things that really mattered; witness the foreign and military aid package the US just promised to Israel.

Trump is an interesting case because the reactions we see from other world leaders to his candidacy are similar to those we see from elites in the US. Essentially, elites and political leaders see him as so toxic and underqualified for the position that they cannot help but speak out. Indeed, given that citizens across Europe (Russia excepted) have very low opinions of Trump, condemning Trump is a signal foreign leaders give to their electorates that they are in touch with domestic public opinion.

James Rogers*, Director, Department of Political and Strategic Studies, Baltic Defence College

I would suggest that it does not really matter what Europeans think of Mr. Trump. It only matters what the American people think, insofar as only they are the ones with the power to elect either him or Mrs. Clinton. We do not really know entirely what Mr. Trump wants or stands for: he is certainly a very unique potential leader. How Europeans respond to him depends on the policies he enacts if he becomes president. Of course, it is probably unwise for any ally to criticise the presidential candidate of another ally, particularly because that ally might need to work with the candidate should he or she take office. There is no point in frustrating relations before they have formally even started! If Mr. Trump does win the presidential election in the United States, it would be wise for European countries to start thinking about how they can convince him to remain committed to European security, not least because he has made many negative noises about the future of the American commitment – should he gain power – to the European order, when that order has become progressively more volatile due to Russia’s geopolitical revisionism.

* These views do not necessarily reflect those of the Baltic Defence College

Daniel Keohane, Senior Researcher, Center for Security Studies – ETH

It is very difficult to say how it would be for Europeans to cooperate with Trump. Not only because he has called NATO into question, but also as he seems very unpredictable. Aside from wanting better “deals” for the US on trade and defense (getting allies to pay), it is not at all clear what positions he would take towards Russia, Europe or the Middle East. Also since he supports Brexit he may also make the EU-US relationship very difficult. So all-in-all, I think he would make life very difficult for Europeans.

Charly Salonius-Pasternak, Senior Research Fellow, The Global Security research programme, The Finnish Institute of International Affairs

You are certainly right that many are not looking forward to – afraid of – a potential Trump presidency. In Finland I’d say that most politicians that are in any official capacity (Committee chair, minister etc.) have refrained from saying anything, with exactly the thought that as a small country Finland will have to work with whomever wins (in fact, many have used just this phrase). In private there is a great preference for Clinton, perhaps mainly because of two factors: Preference for the known and preference for solid experience (track record) – both of which spell Clinton, not Trump.

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