Donald Trump's surprise victory in the 2016 U.S. presidential election left many European politicians wondering how the old continent will be affected by the change in Washington. It's not an unnecessary exercise either. Europe, along with the Middle East, will suffer more than other parts of the world if and when the United States abandons its traditional role in world politics.
One way or another, European governments will have to deal with pressing geopolitical problems on their own. To be clear, it's still difficult to know what kind of world order Trump, who seems to favor nationalism over globalization, wants to create. Still, most experts maintain that realism and transactional relationships will be the name of the game.
Moving forward, a new balance of power between Russia, China and the United States is likely to emerge in the international arena.
As Harvard historian Niall Ferguson posits, the Trump administration will probably move U.S. foreign policy away from Wilsonianism (read: emphasis on collective security) to Rooseveltianism – a combination of national interests, military might and balance of power. Based on what we have learned about the president-elect in recent months, it's safe to assume that his administration will seek to promote a balance of power between nations led by strong leaders.
Moving forward, the new world order will probably pave the way for fierce competition and cold negotiations, which would put Europe in a tough spot.
Trump's proposal to bill NATO expenses to his allies and renegotiate free trade agreements isn't the old continent's only problems either. In the wake of Britain's decision to leave the European Union, Germany and France could be compelled to pursue national goals at the expense of Europe's collective agenda, which could ultimately destroy the post-WWII alliance between Washington and European governments.
According to former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, the time has already come to bid farewell to the West, which he notes is "transatlantic" and "a child of the 20th century."
"Fundamentally, the West was founded on an American commitment to come to its allies' defense," he recently wrote.
"The Western order cannot exist without the U.S. playing this crucial role. Europe is far too weak and divided to stand in for the U.S. strategically, and without U.S. leadership, the West cannot survive. Thus, the Western world will almost certainly perish before our eyes."
As a matter of fact, Washington's "neglect" wouldn't just place the West at risk but Europe, as we know it.
Over the next few years, the old continent could face the challenges of isolationism and disintegration at the same time.
Having been pushed to the edge by rising xenophobia, Islamophobia and anti-immigrant sentiments, Europe might witness the weakening of the unity between Berlin and Paris, which would mark a crisis of the very idea of Europe.
If Trump doesn't take the necessary steps to counter-balance Russia's mounting pressure on Eastern Europe, the results could be devastating.
Likewise, the president-elect's emphasis on fighting "Islamic radicalism" and limiting Iran's influence over the Middle East could place European interests at risk.
Whether they like it or not, European leaders have no choice but to work with Turkey to keep a lid on the refugee crisis and the challenge of foreign fighters.
The only question is when Europe will realize its strategic interests and swallow its pride to protect them.
About the author
Burhanettin Duran is General Coordinator of SETA Foundation and a professor at Social Sciences University of Ankara. He is also a member of Turkish Presidency Security and Foreign Policies Council.