LONDON (AP) — As the chances of a rematch between Joe Biden and Donald Trump increase in the U.S. presidential election, America's allies are bracing for a bumpy ride.
Many fear that a second Trump term will be an earthquake, but tremors already abound – and concern is growing that the United States could become less trustworthy, whoever wins.
With a divided electorate and gridlock in Congress, the next U.S. president could easily become overwhelmed by multiple domestic challenges — even before he begins tackling trouble spots around the world, from Ukraine to the Middle East.
French President Emmanuel Macron's recent verdict was blunt: “America's first priority is itself.”
The first Trump administration tested ties between the United States and its allies, particularly in Europe. Trump derided the leaders of some friendly countries, including Germany's Angela Merkel and Britain's Theresa May, while praising Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
In his campaign speeches, Trump remains skeptical of organizations such as NATO, often lamenting the billions the United States spends on the military alliance whose support has been essential to Ukraine's fight against the invasion.
He told a rally Saturday that as president he had warned NATO allies that he would encourage Russia “to do whatever it wants” to countries that have not paid their part in the alliance.
Trump also wrote on his social media that in the future the United States should end all foreign aid donations and replace them with loans.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg warned that Trump risked endangering US troops and their allies. “Any suggestion that allies will not defend themselves undermines our entire security, including that of the United States, and places American and European soldiers at increased risk,” he said in a statement on Sunday.
Biden, meanwhile, has made supporting Ukraine a key priority and moral imperative. But Biden's assertion after his 2020 election that “America is back” on the world stage has not been fully confirmed. Congressional Republicans have blocked increased military aid to Ukraine, while American influence has been unable to contain the conflict in the Middle East. The director of the Center on American Politics at University College London, Thomas Gift, said that whoever wins the presidential race, the direction of travel will be the same – to a multipolar planet in which The United States is no longer “the indisputable global superpower.”
Most allied leaders refrain from commenting directly on the U.S. election, sticking to the idea that it is up to Americans to choose their leader.
They are aware that they will have to work with whoever the eventual winner is – and behind the scenes, governments will be doing the “behind the scenes work” of discreetly establishing links with the contenders' political teams, said Richard Dalton, former senior party official. British diplomat.
But many of America's European allies in NATO worry that, with or without Trump, the United States will become less trustworthy. Some began speaking openly about the need for members to increase military spending and plan for an alliance without the United States.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said he was “currently on the phone a lot with his colleagues and asking them to do more” to support Ukraine. Germany is the second-largest donor of military aid to Kiev, behind the United States, but Scholz recently told the German weekly Die Zeit that the country could not fill any void on its own if “the United States “United ceased to be a support.”
Trump's comments Saturday about NATO raised alarms in Poland, which shares a border with Ukraine. “We have a hot war on our border,” Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said on Sunday.
He warned: “We must understand that the EU cannot be an economic and civilizational giant nor a defense dwarf, because the world has changed. »
Macron also suggested that American attention was focused away from Europe. “This is also why I want a stronger Europe, which knows how to protect itself and which does not depend on others,” Macron said at a press conference in January.
Trump has supporters in Europe, including pro-Russian populists like Hungary's Orbn.
But former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson raised eyebrows when he recently claimed that “a Trump presidency could be exactly what the world needs.”
Johnson said in a Daily Mail column that he didn't think Trump would “abandon the Ukrainians” but would instead help Ukraine win the war, leaving the West stronger “and the world more stable.” .
Bronwen Maddox, of the international affairs think tank Chatham House, said such arguments underestimate “how destabilizing Trump has been and will likely continue to be if he is re-elected.”
Former UK ambassador to Iran Dalton said the outlook for the Middle East would be “slightly worse” under Trump than under Biden.
Meanwhile, Palestinians and their supporters are pleading with Biden to moderate U.S. support for Israel as the civilian death toll from the Gaza war rises. But hardliners in Israel say the United States is already limiting its offensive against Hamas too much.
Far-right Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir recently said that Biden was not giving Israel his “full support” and that “if Trump were in power, the conduct of the United States would be completely different “.
Like their allies, America's rivals do not openly express their preference for the outcome of the elections.
Trump developed a close relationship with Erdogan in Turkey, calling them “very good friends” during a 2019 meeting at the White House.
However, relations between Turkey and the United States were strained during his tenure.
The Trump administration withdrew Turkey from its F-35 fighter jet project due to Ankara's decision to purchase Russian-made missile defense systems, while Trump himself threatened to ruin the economy of Turkey.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told CBS in January that he did not “believe there would be any difference” between a Trump presidency and a Biden presidency.
He said relations between Russia and the United States have deteriorated since the administration of George W. Bush.
China, where leaders' initial warmth toward Trump deteriorated into tariffs and growing tensions, little has changed under Biden, who has maintained his predecessor's tough stance.
Zhao Minghao, professor of international relations at Fudan University in Shanghai, said that for China, the two candidates were like “two 'bowls of poison'.”
Gift, of University College London, said the move toward a more fractured world “will happen regardless of whether Donald Trump or Joe Biden is elected.”
“It’s just kind of a reality,” he said.
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