Under George Bush, Europe largely united against his war on Iraq in an extremely rare moment of unity. It hearkened back to the days of Charles de Gaulle in France and Willy Brandt in West Germany, two leaders for whom US policy didn’t automatically dictate eidetic policies from the primary capitals of late 20th century non-Communist Europe.
Under Obama, leaders like Merkel, Sarkozy and later Hollande were more or less foreign policy mouthpieces of the White House. Britain traditionally followed the US throughout both the Bush and Obama presidencies.
The last meaningful foreign policy disagreement that Britain had with the US was in the early 1990s when the then British Foreign Secretary Douglass Hurd advised Prime Minister John Major not to follow Bill Clinton into Bosnia, warning that all it would do is create a ‘level killing field’. Hurd of course was correct.
Today looks more like the Bush era than that of Obama in respect of Europe’s relationship to the United States.
German government spokesman Steffen Seibert has issued the following statement today on behalf of Angela Merkel. The statement said,
“The Chancellor (Angela Merkel) stressed that after the clear reaction of the US towards the awful incident with the usage of chemical weapons there is the need to do everything to continue political settlement under the UN auspices, At the same time, cooperation with Russia has special importance for launching transitional political process”.
This stops far short of endorsing the Russian, Syrian and Iranian position, it would be mad to think Germany ever would do. But what it does show is a clear divide between Germany and America, the latter sounding increasingly bellicose and unilateral about Syria.
Furthermore, it also shows Germany’s commitment to the UN, a place where Russia not only has a voice but a veto.
Britain of course, is hell bent on following America to the extreme ends of foreign policy making, there is no discernible difference between the two countries in this respect and in other respects.
It appears though that having burnt many bridges with European states during the election and early months of his Presidency, Donald Trump may struggle to find European allies in respect of pursuing violent regime change in Syria. In this sense he’s following closely in George Bush, not Barack Obama’s footsteps.
Obama was able to quill any major European disputes with his policy. George W. Bush by contrast had few allies among the militarily powerful states of Continental Europe. In fact, Bush helped create an anti-America tide in much of Europe, led by French President Jacques Chirac and Germany Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. What once seemed a distant memory; French and German leaders having serious foreign policy disputes with America, may once again become reality, depending on how hard Trump pushes for war.
It seems that in spite of Donald Trump’s policy u-turns, Europe isn’t interested in paying more put lip-service to Trump.
As in 2003, whatever dangerous plans the US and UK intend to execute, they may likely have to do alone.