Trump's policies may mean that Europe will have to become a colony of the USA, to transfer even more wealth to the core of the Empire. Let me explain...
This is a real story I was told in the Montenegro of the early 90s, in first person, by a liberal (center-right) politician who had a friend in the US embassy, whom he believed was probably a CIA spy. They had the following conversation (from memory):
-- Your country [Yugoslavia] has lost its geopolitical relevance -- said the diplomat.
-- I'm glad to hear that -- replied the politician.
-- I wouldn't be happy if my country became irrelevant, honestly.
The narrator ended the story saying that this is why, he understood, the federation was broken and war took over just a few months after that chat.
A bit of history
Of course Europe, the European Union and associated states, is much much bigger and therefore the loss of geopolitical relevance cannot be so extreme but there is something like that going on anyhow. After World War II, Europe was pampered (Marshall plan, etc.) rather than outright exploited by the Western co-victor, the USA, because of two reasons:
- It was required to prevent a "communist" or "real socialist" takeover by the desperate and disgruntled masses, which had already been leaning very strongly to the left in the pre-war period (this was countered by engineering fascist coups but in the end these caused too much trouble anyway, so some alternative was needed).
- A relatively wealthy Europe could then buy the excess of production of the USA, helping to keep the transatlantic hegemon affluent and happy. Later the USA would evolve towards becoming a market itself, rather than a producer and exporter, via perma-debt and dollar hegemony but that is a second phase beginning in the 1970s, when the gold standard was definitely abandoned (largely to prevent excessive independence of European powers like France, which had been hoarding gold and dumping the dollar).
Well, the USSR fell in 1991 and the likes of Thatcher had been successfully attacking the power base of the Fordist working class (mass workers) since a decade earlier. Public investment (partial "socialism") was replaced by easy credit, a lifeline for short-term prosperity without which the system would have imploded, creating the infamous bubble that burst in 2007.
Without a "real socialist" power in Europe and with the labor unions pretty much dismantled, there was almost no resistance to the "Washington consensus" (also known as Neoliberalism), while workers were individually bribed with way-too-easy credit, credit that they would eventually pay in blood and flesh, like in Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, thanks to endless small print provisions in laws and contracts nobody paid much attention to... until it was too late.
Anyhow this "easy credit" lifeline lasted for much longer than it was probably expected to. It was meant to keep people content while the last remnants of socialist dreams were dismantled but it ended up caught in its own autonomous dynamics (those of a pyramidal scam) and persisted for maybe a decade after it was actually necessary. For more than 15 years Capitalism seemed triumphant thanks to it: "communism" had been proven wrong and Capitalism right. It was a mirage but a mirage that lasts some 16 years (or more depending on when you start counting at) is as good as hardcore reality for the short lives of people, right?
Europe's growing irrelevance
Anyway, the USSR has been out of the picture since 1991, when a maverick politician named Boris Yeltsin declared the "independence" of Russia from its "socialist" empire, go figure! For most of the 16 year period, Russia was an ally of the Western Imperial regime, even after Putin took over (since 1999). The alternative bloc, the BRIC (later BRICS) was, quite curiously, formed between 2006 and 2009, coincident with the structural crisis that began in 2007-08 and has yet to end, and Russia was not suspended from the G8 (former G7) until 2014.
For all this time, until this very day, Europe was an integral part of the core Western Empire, even if it was clearly subservient, growingly so, towards Washington in all the spheres. Europe did pay some hard tribute to the USA in form of a way too rigid and clearly over-valued euro, relative to the US dollar, what helped to make the mega-crisis more bearable for the North American hegemon, but otherwise the transatlantic solidarity of the 1% and their regional or "national" interests was clearly unbroken.
This is what is changing now with Trump. Sure, people focus on the most obvious aspects of his vocal foreign policy plans: Russia, China, Iran, Mexico, etc. But in what regards to Europe only one aspect matters: Russia. If Russia is not anymore a rival for the USA and particularly if Russia is not the main rival, then Europe's strategic relevance is greatly diminished.
This is not really something new: it has been that way for the last quarter of century in fact but the sheer size of European economy, the strength of the historical alliance, the globalist "free trade" doctrine and the Russian nukes have somehow kept Europe in the loop long past the expiration date of the realistic need. It is even plausible that the Ukraine conflict was engineered with this "need" for Europe of a "Russian foe" in mind, although the inertias of Mackinderian geostrategy must have also played a role from the "insular" viewpoint of the USA, which greatly exaggerates the "threat" of Russia, a country with the GDP of Spain or Australia (although a much more independent policy and national self-respect), in spite of being much larger in size and population.
And since the Maidan putsch it has become obvious that Russia is relatively impervious to trade sanctions and that all that Western pressure only has served to strengthen the Kremlin's alliance with China and give a determined push to "silk road" overland trade and pipeline projects China is very interested in. Trump and his advisors know that and want to reverse the trend because, after all, Russia is just a secondary power, while China is the real threat to US global hegemony.
So Europe now has no role: keeping it affluent appears meaningless for great capitalists who do not fear revolution anymore (overconfidence can be very dangerous) and who consider that is much better to have Russia on your side (or at least neutral) than on the side of China. Worse: Europe is not that important as market for US products (other than "cultural" and computer-related ones) and instead, notably the regional power: Germany, it exports a lot to the USA, while buys from China and also invests there (transferring technology and know-how). This deal, especially now that the dollar is stronger and the euro a bit weaker, is bad for the USA: Europe must pay serious tribute or suffer the consequences.
Europe has become weak and divided
And the last decade of persistent systemic crisis, with absolute lack of statesmanship, let alone continental leadership by the regional main power, Germany, has been extremely bad for Europe: it's not just broke, it's broken, what is much worse. While in the early 21st century Europeans looked at each other growingly as almost equals, since the crisis broke up, we see each other with extreme distrust, distrust that is particularly strong towards the European institutions, which have burdened the masses and gave all kind of advantages to the mega-rich (all within the Washington consensus, it must be said).
The European Union is so weak right now that it can easily break at any moment. Brexit may be not enough but it is a stern warning: any day now it can be Italexit, Frexit or even Spaxit (although deep inside we all hope for Germaxit, that will not happen while Germany is the main beneficiary of what some call "the postmodern IV Reich"). It may of course linger for five years or whatever but it is very severely wounded, with the camps divided between the ones who can't think of anything less bad (Grosse Koalition) and the ones who can't imagine anything worse ("nationalists" or "populists" of all kinds). Nobody is able to imagine anything better, at least within the "realism" of mere reform.
Such a broken Union is unable to resist any pressures, especially those coming from the USA, more so if backed by covert action (Gladio is alive and kicking and it serves the Pentagon). And if anything brings together Trump and Putin is strong disrespect for the role played by European "leaders" in the global scene, something that I must agree with: it's absolutely pathetic, lackeyish, short-termist and very hostile towards European citizens, whom they have almost completely alienated from the economic redistribution and therefore from he socio-political consensus of power.
Not sure if it was Chirac or Miterrand who said: "after me they will all be petty merchants". And it was quite prophetic. And those "petty merchants", those ink-stained accountants, those swindlers who pretend to "rule" Europe only to serve global banksters and other great capitalists, without the slightest regard for the well being of Europeans ourselves, are destroying the very dream of European unity they once managed to sell to us as a great hope.
Expectations: from bad to worse
Just wait and see: this extreme fragility of the European Union will pay into the hands of Trump soon. And it will be for the worst, because Trump main goal here is to get rid of what he considers a useless burden and an economic competitor, which just doesn't pay enough tribute (economic flows towards the USA in general) to be worth "protecting" (protection racket it is: there's no actual threat to Europe but it can be groomed if need be) and worse: it is suspect of conniving with "the enemy", China, to whom it buys trinkets and sells technology (for a profit, of course).
So Europe, and particularly Germany, had to cut its business with Iran first, then with Russia and now it is probably expected to do the same with the remote but growingly powerful China. Furthermore, it will be now expected to prove itself useful for the USA by means of enriching it. This will not pave out well: Europe will break apart catastrophically, what will not solve anything anyhow but will be even worse almost certainly.
There is an alternative: European socialism, real socialism of one variant or another, but Europeans are not psychologically ready for that in most cases. In fact what we see in most states is the growth of far right nationalisms, which are basically the European version of Trump and Putin, or worse, and cannot solve anything at all: they serve the rich and the rich always want more and that can only be extracted from either the masses or some neo-colonies, these extremely competed for nowadays.
Britain, Spain and Greece are rather exceptional and look like they could actually lean towards socialism but, as we see in Greece, the road to emancipation is paved of all kinds of obstacles: external pressures which can be most extreme but also internal weaknesses when the very leaders are pretty much in the dark about what needs to be done, flirting too much with a reformism that is nowadays impossible.