Letter From the Editors: Feb. 20 - March 5, 2017

Author: Laurence Bogoslaw

Friends, Enemies and Frenemies: Sorting Out Who’s Who in the Trump Era

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: "I do not wish to treat friendships daintily, but with roughest courage. When they are real, they are not glass threads or frost-work, but the solidest thing we know."

In the long-standing friendship between America and the countries of the European Union, Donald Trump can certainly not be accused of stepping daintily. Months of insults and threats toward the Old World - calling the EU "basically a vehicle for Germany," labeling NATO as "obsolete" and scolding its members for not paying their fair share for defense - have made leaders on the other side of the Atlantic understandably jumpy. The first feature of this week’s Digest focuses on a whirlwind tour made by key members of the Trump team with the aim of "seducing Europe" (to quote a Novaya gazeta headline). For example, according to Aleksandr Mineyev, Vice-President Mike Pence "praised the EU for its achievements in developing a common market, and marveled at the freedom with which goods, capital, services and people move within the EU. He noted the historic significance of EU enlargement, the introduction of a single currency, and the development of common approaches to security policy." Even so, both he and Defense Secretary James Mattis backed up their boss’s warnings about NATO countries needing to ramp up their defense spending to 2% of GDP.

Nezavisimaya gazeta editor in chief Konstantin Remchukov says that Pence’s remarks were anything but reassuring; if anything, they revealed turmoil within Washington, sending a deeply confusing message. Remchukov sums up recent conversations with Western political analysts as follows: "I’ve never seen them so discombobulated. These former prophets have nothing left of their old self-confidence.. .. [T]hey can’t predict anything. There’s a feeling that the cold war has reached an unexpected juncture." Indeed, Fyodor Lukyanov warns that with Trump’s recent ...

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