At this week's G-7 meeting in Canada, Donald Trump is doing his level best to turn our allies into enemies:
And yet the president has sent signals that it's the G-7 that needs the U.S., not the other way around. He showed up late enough Friday that he had to reschedule one bilateral meeting and planned to leave early enough Saturday to miss G-7 sessions, leaving an aide to represent America in the final discussions. He even clipped his already abbreviated Saturday morning schedule, arriving nearly 20 minutes late for a breakfast discussion on gender equality.
This is after weeks of slapping unnecessary tariffs on our allies in an alleged bid to rectify trade imbalances that don't actually exist.
Clearly, Trump's agenda does not include maintaining our historic alliances with Western European countries. His treatment of our Asian allies has been just as poor and his deeply racist opinion of both Latin America and Africa are well known. But of the various regions, Europe is in the best position to walk away from the United States. The question is: Will they?
The United States of Schizophrenia
All allies have their squabbles; it's the nature of international relations. But it wasn't until the Bush administration that we actively started abusing our allies ("Freedom Fries", anyone?"). When Obama was elected, he went on a world tour to restore our global image. Republicans blasted him by calling it an "apology tour" but the truth is that after the childish antics of Bush, we needed to let the world know an adult was in charge again.
Once Trump is gone, the Democrat that replaces him will almost certainly go on a similar good will tour, repairing our damaged alliances. But will the leaders of Europe be amenable? Under normal circumstances, the answer should be "yes" because it's obvious that Donald Trump does not actually speak for the United States. Even before the mountain of evidence was uncovered that he was under Putin's thumb, it was obvious Trump was a little too cozy with Russia. Everything he's done since then, up to and including demanding Russia be added back to the G7, points to the President of the United States being a literal foreign agent.
But the Republican Party is now on an almost unalterable trajectory to becoming a fascist party of white nationalists. Assuming the country doesn't descend into civil war, the next (and unless we end gerrymandering and voter suppression, there will be a next one) Republican president will be more like Donald Trump than not and that means they will spit on any European country not run by other fascists. European leaders know this and may decide that building close diplomatic and economic ties with a country that is going to stab them in the back again in 4-8 years is a terrible idea.
They have other options
While America is the biggest player, we're not the only game in town. And with Trump repeatedly taking the ball and going home, Europe is being forced to consider other arrangements. That is a really bad thing for the United States:
"The American president may not mind being isolated, but neither do we mind signing a 6 country agreement if need be," French President Emmanuel Macron wrote on Twitter on Thursday. "Because these 6 countries represent values, they represent an economic market which has the weight of history behind it and which is now a true international force."
After World War II, the United States was the only major industrial economy left intact and we ruthlessly exploited our advantage. We positioned ourselves as the center of the world's economy and kept it that way through means both legitimate and deeply immoral. Should Europe, one of the largest socioeconomic powers in the world, push us aside instead of following our lead as they've done for the past 70 years, this would be disastrous for our economy.
Worse, should they turn to China, eager to fill the void Trump is leaving, as a main trading partner, we could easily find ourselves slowly becoming an economic pariah. After all, who wants to trade with a country that violates treaties and levies insane tariffs because of Fox fucking News?
If Europe comes to believe that the threat of isolationist Republican presidents is over, all of this becomes a moot point. If the GOP collapses, or the Supreme Court tilts left and undoes voter suppression, the threat of another Trump dissipates. Then the period of American schizophrenia will have ended and the United States will become a stable and reliable ally again, run by adults.
If not, the fever dreams of "America First" will become a reality and the fools that dream it will find the world is a very cold and hostile place without friends.