European leaders would see a Donald Trump victory as total calamity

Richard Maher @CatchNews | First published: 1 November 2016, 18:20 IST
Donald Trump Europe AFP Photo/Odd Andersen
AFP Photo/Odd Andersen

As the US presidential election enters its final week, most poll-based models show Democratic nominee and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in front of Republican challenger, Donald Trump.

There are questions about how Clinton's ratings will bounce back from the announcement that the FBI is reviewing a newly discovered trove of emails that relate to her use of a personal server for government business when she was secretary of state. But her significant lead in the polls will be hard to beat.

While Clinton has not garnered the same level of enthusiasm across Europe as current US President Barack Obama received in 2008 or 2012, European leaders are no doubt breathing easier now that a Clinton victory seems more likely.

In mid-summer, polls showed a real possibility that Trump could win the election and become the 45th President of the United States, an outcome that was seen as catastrophic across Europe.

European leaders watched Trump's ascent first with dismay and then with growing alarm. Some offered uncharacteristically blunt assessments of his fitness to be a party nominee, and their preferred electoral outcome.

French President Fran├žois Hollande said that Trump "makes you want to retch". Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi criticised what he called Trump's "policy of fear", and made clear his "very strong" support for Hillary Clinton.

German foreign secretary Frank-Walter Steinmeier called Trump's portrait of the United States as being beset by internal and external enemies "grotesque", and warned that a Trump presidency would lead to "many uncertainties for the trans-Atlantic relationship".

For European leaders thinking about the election, three major issues occupy attention: the future of the NATO alliance; the West's relations with Russia; and whether the moribund Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) can or should be revived.


The candidates' views of NATO mark one of their most striking foreign policy differences.

While Clinton has called the alliance "one of the best investments America has ever made", Trump has said the alliance is "obsolete". Trump has also been coy over whether he would respond automatically to a hypothetical Russian incursion into one of the Baltic republics, which have been NATO members for more than a decade.

Every US president since Truman has interpreted Article 5 of the NATO Treaty - the mutual defence clause - as establishing a legal and moral obligation on the United States to aid another alliance member facing external attack. Instead of automatically upholding this commitment, Trump has said that he would condition a US response on whether the NATO ally had previously "fulfilled their obligations to us".

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, former Danish prime minister and former NATO secretary general, condemned this statement, saying it undermined US credibility and risked allowing Russia to increase its influence in Europe.