Fifteen years ago, it was the Iraq War that divided Europe and the United States. Five years ago, it was the awkward revelation that the U.S. had been eavesdropping on the German chancellor’s cellphone. The two powers, pillars of the postwar world order, don’t always see eye-to-eye on policies and practices.
But U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal and his embrace of a protectionist approach to trade even with close allies have blown a hole in their trans-Atlantic alliance, a breach so big that it could jeopardize decades of stability and prosperity for the West and end up benefiting two other global powers: Russia and China.
The White House initiatives are at the heart of the rupture, but it goes beyond them. The two sides are clashing over basic principles, calling into question the shared values and approach to the world that have defined relations between Europe and Washington since the 1940s.
“During previous rifts, they parted company over means,” says Charles Kupchan, who oversaw European policy at the National Security Council in the Obama administration. “This is the first time they are parting company over ends.”
European leaders had been bracing for Trump since his days as a presidential candidate, when he questioned the value of the NATO alliance and railed against what he called European countries’ unfair trade. But throughout his first year in office, there was a sense of relief in European capitals that Trump’s action did not match his rhetoric.
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