Transatlantic Relations Are Uneasy, but a NATO ‘Collapse’ Is Not in Sight

The NATO summit in Brussels was held in a very tense atmosphere. Valdai Club expert Reinhard Krumm, Head of the Regional Office for Cooperation and Peace in Europe (Vienna), Friedrich Ebert Foundation, spoke in an interview with on the future of the North Atlantic alliance, Trump’s tactics before the meeting with the Russian president and prospects for cooperation between the US and Europe.

On the eve of the summit, relations between the US and its European allies reached a new low: the trade war with the EU, Donald Trump’ criticism of NATO allies in the context of military expenditure, and his discontent with the Nord Stream-2 project added fuel to the fire. Therefore, forecasts were most pessimistic: “Germany expected this summit to end in complete failure,” Reinhard Krumm said. “Of course, ‘an end of NATO’ was not on the agenda and this did not happen, but doubts were very high on how to go further. Anyway, nothing happened, and NATO will continue to exist. The publication of a joint declaration is already a good result, although we know that in a couple of days Donald Trump can repudiate it.”

However, relations between the United States and Europe continue to deteriorate so rapidly that the question of their future arises – and whether they have a “future” at all. “Although it may sound quite dramatic, perhaps for the first time in the last ten years, experts from various ministries are thinking over what will happen next. Almost all the EU countries consider Trump’s presidency an accident: it will last four years, and after that we will have a new US. I do not think so, because the beginning of the transformation was laid by Barack Obama, and now it is just continuation of the process. Trump may well be re-elected. Therefore, this is not the first bell, but the second or the third one. I do not think that a breakup in relations can happen so dramatically, but one must look at things soberly. Difficult times have come for the EU and the same applies to NATO – but the challenges have always happened, and the clouds in the sky will not be dispelled for a long time.”

The final document of the summit contains harsh criticism against Russia – it seems that the US president made a significant contribution to it. But how is this related to the upcoming meeting between Trump and Putin in Helsinki? “We can assume that Trump’s statements were directed at the US audience,” the expert said. “He is a businessman, he wants a deal – and the way he talks means to give him a more firm position in connection with Russia. I think that this is just maneuver, tactics, because many in the US and NATO believe that Trump’s position towards Russia is very weak. In this respect, his capabilities are extremely low. This is the only political field where he has equal support from the Democrats and Republicans, and he cannot do something that other presidents did during the Cold War. The only thing he can do is to try and find some topic for conversation, a common ground. Usually the summit symbolizes the end of a stage, when a great deal of diplomatic work has already been done. However, this summit is only a beginning, because there are no other methods and instruments on the international arena. The overall atmosphere is unfavorable, and everything should be done to change it.”

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.