Europe must start making its own decisions on confronting Russian aggression following the shock victory of Donald Trump in the US presidential elections, a European analyst has warned.
“As far as we know, Donald Trump has a very different view of Russia to Barack Obama and has been calling Vladimir Putin reliable,” said Roberto Menotti, an analyst at the Aspen Institute in Rome.
“This is a big challenge for Europe, which does not have a coherent Russia policy beyond its thin agreement on sanctions. With Trump in office it will be more necessary to quickly come up with a more consistent, common position,” he said.
“We would have expected Hilary Clinton to set the framework, but with Trump it could take time for a framework to emerge, so we need to be clear in a short time about what we want,” he added.
Menotti said that despite Trump's differences with Obama, if he now seeks to reduce US interventionism around the world, he would be following a policy started by the outgoing president.
“It is clear that Trump has less confidence in the structured alliances than in bilateral deals, preferably with strong states like Russia, in order to combat enemies like IS without investing too many troops and resources,” said Alessandro Marrone, a senior fellow at the IAI think tank in Rome.
“Trump has a business-like approach, less rooted in an ideological vision, due to his lack of experience,” he added.
Andrea Margelletti, the head of the Ce.SI think tank in Rome, played down ideas of Trump’s foreign policy taking a radically new direction.
“He has talked about “America First” and I expect a typically Republican presidency,” he said.
“Many countries don’t pay for their security and the Americans are justly tired of paying for them. The Baltic states are a weight for security but don’t produce. The US will want a relationship with Russia that is less influenced by these small countries,” he said.
“Having a good relationship with Russia means having good relationships in the Middle East, where both countries are more interested in counterterrorism than in nation-building. One Iraq is enough,” he added.
“The big question is Iran,” Margelletti said. “Will it be considered an opportunity by the US, which will have an effect on relations with Saudi Arabia and Israel, or will those two countries continue to be points of reference?” he said.
“Tackling terror will mean tackling the mother of all problems — Israel and the Palestinians — which no one is currently talking about. Should the US now look at the Saudi Arabian plans for a Palestinian state?” he said.
Menotti said that Trump remained a mystery to European policy makers. “Few observers here have a grasp of his deep thinking, beyond his campaign statements. We don’t really understand Trump as a person and a politician, probably because we didn’t take him seriously during the campaign. There is also serious uncertainty about his foreign policy team.”