There has not been an inaugural address like it. The first I remember watching on TV was JFK. I was impressed, especially the notion that he was the first western leader born ‘this century’, now the last century. Up till then everybody had been born in the nineteenth century. Since Kennedy nobody has said anything much. Safe, worthy, uplifting, unifying, optimistic, yes, but always according to the brand image of the peaceful transfer of power. Until Friday. Wow! The stunned faces of the phalanx of former Presidents said it all. The political certainties and expectations in every capital across the world imploded, except for three. Moscow, Jerusalem and London, for different reasons.
Moscow expected something new, Israel breathed a sigh of relief that it again has a friend in the White House. The UK was entertained by the drama but heartened because the unspeakable ogre whom it reviled, turns out to be our new Best Friend. And as Churchill said (I am quoting him a lot at the moment) a friend in need is a friend indeed. Britain, going over the cliff with hard Brexit, finds Trump is a fan. He too plans to go it alone in defiance of everything you can think of, so he likes the only other capital is the western world which does not have a clothes peg on its nose (any longer) even at the mention of his name.
There will be loads more about all this as times goes on, but for now lets us take a quick peak at our local political dynamic. Trump thinks NATO is obsolete and is minded to stop funding it and he does not care if the EU unravels. I am pro EU as you know, but I have always, since the end of the cold war, objected to the way it has regarded America as the guard who not only guarantees its security, but pays for most of it.
This is unfair on America and very bad for Europe. It is also poor strategy because Europe has no incentive to work out what its post Soviet relationship should be with Russia, which offers almost limitless opportunities for trade for the EU and supplies even now most of its gas to power its heat and lights. The EU economy stagnates because of its own stupid sanctions and because America’s phobias over Russia dictate a policy fundamentally opposed to European interests. Moreover a Europe in an alliance with Russia would act as a buffer between America and the country it seems to fear most. Instead Europe is a potential flash point.
Furthermore the EU economy is a big as America’s and it is more than capable of paying for its own protection. Both France and Britain are nuclear powers with submarine based deterrence 24/7. By not paying, the EU has felt free to expand ever eastwards without giving a thought what impact that may have on Russian fears, or the cost of the consequences. Likewise NATO, run by the likes of Norway, with under equipped obsolete token forces, except from the US to the tune of 70%, aided by the UK and France, upon whom it relies for its military punch.
As for the EU unraveling, there is a strong chance that it will and I would very much regret that. But if the reason is Brexit and Trump proving too much, then it was never really there in the first place. We shall see. Everything now depends, EU wise, on Berlin, Paris and Rome. All face elections. All have a lot of angry voters looking for disruptive change. Those voters now have inspiration and a new confidence in their cause. All options are open.
Meanwhile, as predicted by this blog, Britain is again turning to the New World when vexed by the Old. May becomes the first foreign leader to meet the new President. She arrives at the White House on Friday. Brussels is left wondering not only about Britain, but about itself.