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2024: Germany Must Prepare for the Trump Scenario Now

The decision on the next US president in November 2024 will be a pivotal moment for Europe and Germany. A Trump victory seems possible again. His control over the Republican Party appears unbreakable. In the worst case, Europe faces a “turning point” of its own. Biden was a political stroke of luck for Germany and Europe: as a friend of the NATO old school, he values the allies. Without his support, Ukraine would have long been on the ground. The security of Europe would be highly precarious. And in the Gaza war, Biden’s administration proves to be determined and engaged – the only major power with influence on the events.

There Will Be No Free Trade Agreement with the US Anymore

However, Europeans and Germans must not be deceived: whether Biden or Trump – the old transatlantic order is gradually becoming history. Certainly, the USA will remain the strongest and most innovative economy in the world for the foreseeable future, but they will be more protectionist. There will be no more free trade agreements with the USA. The World Trade Organization is obsolete for Washington. And economic sanctions against rivals, sometimes even against allies, remain the preferred option. Regardless of who wins the presidency, the strategic pivot of the USA towards the Pacific is irreversible. The Russian invasion of Ukraine and the war in the Middle East, on the other hand, seem like temporary distractions.

USA: Internal Polarization and Global Implications

China will be the number one geopolitical focus for the USA in the next decades. Internally, the USA remains dangerously polarized, with a government system prone to disruptions and blockades. This has implications for the world. Doubts about the reliability of Washington are growing. “Soft power” and role model function are suffering. If Trump (or a Republican of his school) were to win, the risks of severe rifts with Europe would be even greater.

The revision of US engagement in Ukraine would be preprogrammed. This is also what Putin expects. Costs and burdens for the defense of Ukraine and its reconstruction would be shifted to Europe. Even without a withdrawal from NATO, the American leadership role in the defense alliance would be significantly weaker. The USA as a global leading power of Western-style democracies? Not conceivable under Trump! The unraveling of the USA’s multilateral engagement can be expected, as well as the questioning of the international climate protection agenda. The lack of understanding, even hostility, towards the EU could be resurrected under Trump.

EU and Germany Must Prepare for the Trump Scenario

The intensification of the already growing protectionism should be firmly factored in: Trump’s campaign team is preparing a universal tariff of ten percent on all imports. His former trade representative, Robert Lighthizer, wants to increase import duties annually until the USA achieves a balanced trade balance.

The China policy would remain erratic, albeit not necessarily more belligerent. As a politician in isolationist tradition, he avoids further military entanglements, even in the Taiwan conflict. Germany and the EU are called upon to prepare for the Trump scenario. First and foremost, the German and French governments must come together as a leadership duo worthy of the name. For this, the Scholz government urgently needs to switch to active mode. More

More than ever, it is important to hold the EU together and make it more capable by making progress in EU governance.

Europe’s Role as a Trade Power

The top priority must be to strengthen Europe’s defense capability, including a strong arms cooperation. The future European function of French nuclear capabilities should also be on the agenda. The EU is not a geopolitical power, but a trade powerhouse. It must use this leverage to continue being a standard-bearer for an open global economy. More free trade agreements are in Europe’s interest.

Germany should already cooperate more with republican US states on economic and sustainability issues. Their governors are usually more pragmatic than Trump. It is important to strengthen the bonds of citizens at all levels of society. Experience teaches us: the USA, in all its complexity, is bigger than a president! With Trump, European considerations of equidistance between the USA and China would come to life. This cannot be an option. The USA remains an “indispensable nation” for Europe.

Editor’s note: This article appeared in the FOCUS section of “The World in 2024”

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