President Trump will visit Europe for a NATO summit and a visit to the UK. Here is a text of what the US president should tell Europeans:,
(Disclaimer: I realize that this text does not quite capture the tone of voice of President Trump! But, hey, I’m not his speechwriter.)
The Western alliance is the bulwark of our democratic values. During the last century that solid alliance has protected Europe and the West from the ravages of fascism and authoritarian communism. Which is why it was disappointing to me that we saw some fracture in our shared alliance at the last G7 meeting in Canada.
Alliances can only thrive if there is sufficient give and take on all sides. Their structure and how they operate needs to change with the times and with the changing geopolitical circumstances. Alliances that are stale, unbending or unbalanced will fracture and become obsolete.
I would therefore like to lay out America’s position and how we believe that we can make the Western alliance stronger.
First of all, though we all believe in our model of democracy, we need to be wary of trying to impose our particular viewpoint on other sovereign nation states.
We all know how those attempts have failed dramatically over the last few decades. Sovereign states will determine their own systems and their own methods of governance. Our job is to decide, given the choices that they have made, the extent to which we choose to cooperate with them and how.
I this context I wish to address four key questions – defence, trade, Russia and immigration.
The United States remains utterly committed to the NATO alliance. Today, such an alliance is maybe more important than at any time since the end of the Cold War. China is now a military power trying to take full control of the whole South China Sea.
The rise of cyberwarfare creates new threats that we don’t yet fully understand but that have the potential to paralyse essential infrastructure across our nations. And the terrorist threat is present on the streets of all our countries.
We must all work together to meet these new challenges. To update and upgrade our military capabilities so that they are fit for the new world.
But that does not mean America carrying most of the financial burden. Europe is a wealthy region that can well afford to play its part in meeting our shared defence and intelligence needs. We are ready to collaborate, as we have done for decades. But we are no longer willing to carry the lion’s share of the burden.
We all agreed some years ago that we would all spend a minimum of two per cent of our GDP on defence. As Europe is a region that prides itself on meeting its international commitments, I am surprised that this one has been ignored – and continues to be ignored today.
European countries, can, of course, choose to allocate more of their wealth to their healthcare and social security systems rather than defense. That is their choice. If that results in degraded or inadequate military and intelligence capabilities, then so be it.
All I can tell you is that our choice is to continue to protect our country and our citizens with the world’s best military and intelligence capabilities.
Moving on to trade.
Our trading system was designed for a different world. The rise of China with its model of state directed capitalism, intellectual property theft and its ‘Made in China 2025’ plan has thrown that system into disarray.
And we have also learned that the current trade system is skewed to put more money in the hands of the already wealthy while devastating communities that are left behind.
None of us can make up for these dislocations through re-distribution or that supposed cure-all of ‘education and re-training’. It hasn’t worked well enough in the past and it will not work going forward.
Some economists keep telling me that persistent trade deficits don’t matter. I don’t buy it. Maybe they don’t matter in economic models. But they do matter economically, politically and socially. And they matter especially when they are due to unfair and unbalanced trade practices or financial, social and environmental dumping.
America is committed to a global trading system. But not the one that has served us all well in the past and is now obsolete. We are determined to change how we do international trade.
We are determined not to create ever more left behind communities in our country. We would rather do all that in collaboration with our Western allies rather than through confrontation. But we will not support the unsustainable status quo.
Russia is a great country that deserves our respect. Respect it has not been given since the end of the Cold War and since we, our country among them, pushed on to Russia a model of freewheeling capitalism before they were ready for it. Russia is a European country and its future affects Europe maybe more than anywhere else.
We condemn some of Russia’s recent actions unreservedly – the annexation of Crimea and the novichok poisonings in the UK among them.
The question for Europe must be whether it is possible to work towards bringing Russia into our community of shared interests. If we are unable to do so, then we can expect a new alliance that could take in Russia, Iran, maybe China, and maybe others. Peace in the Middle East will be harder to achieve and the most immediate challenges will be directly on your own doorstep.
I don’t know whether we can find a reasonable accommodation with the Russian people and the Russian leadership. But it is in Europe’s best interests to try and I commit the USA to helping in that endeavour.
Immigration is a challenging issue that we all have to deal with. We are nations that believe in the rule of law. We cannot suspend that principle by allowing unchecked illegal immigration in our countries.
Neither can we allow uncontrolled immigration to be a conduit for the entry of damaging extremist forces onto our streets. Europe is already losing one of its largest and most influential member states largely because of its immigration policies. And the whole Union is under strain as countries struggle to cope with an influx of both refugees and illegal immigrants.
We will no doubt each find our own ways of managing these issues. Ways consistent with our own cultures, laws and the challenges that we face. It is not my place to tell Europeans how to deal with their immigration policy.
Likewise we will work to find our own ways of managing – ways that have the support of Congress and the American people. Like you, we are struggling to find the right balance. There will be many missteps on the way. But we will learn and, hopefully, find a way forward.
We also need to work together to help the development of those places that so many people are still trying to flee in search of a better life in our countries.
We already spend some $50 billion in total foreign aid – excluding the many US based charitable organizations that also do their bit on top of that.
Our aim is to continue to direct that foreign aid in ways that we think is most appropriate and to try to combine it more strategically with foreign direct investment. We hope that you will do the same.
America is committed to preserving and strengthening the Western Alliance. But not the Alliance of the 20th century. We must update its structure to make it fit for the challenges of our time.
I hope that, in that effort, Europe, Canada and others who consider themselves part of our system of Western values can work together to move forward rather than looking back to times gone by and trying to preserve them in aspic.
I look forward to working with you to re-invent the Western alliance and show others that those who believe in liberal democratic values can work together, project shared strength, and pull together to create a hopeful future for every one of our citizens.