He mentioned Iran. He talked about Iraq. He laid out his hopes for closer relations with Russia and China.
But in his speech Wednesday detailing his foreign policy plans, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump did not mention by name any of the 28 member countries of the European Union, which account for more than 500 million people and nearly one-fifth of the world’s economy.
No mention of Germany, the continent’s economic powerhouse, or of the so-called special relationship between the United States and Britain.
European allies need to pay more
The only mention of Europe came in an observation that most of NATO’s 28 member countries are not paying as much as they should for their common defense.
“We have spent trillions of dollars over time on planes, missiles, ships, equipment — building up our military to provide a strong defense for Europe and Asia,” Trump said.
“The countries we are defending must pay for the cost of this defense. And if not, the U.S. must be prepared to let these countries defend themselves,” he added.
Xenia Wickett, head of the U.S. and the Americas Program at the London-based Chatham House think tank, noted that very little of what Trump said in his speech would make America’s allies comfortable.
There were several contradictions, Wickett said, including promises to be a better ally combined with threats to allies that they’ll be on their own. The speech, she said, included an element of unilateralism that will not sit well with allies.
She criticized Trump’s pledge to make make America more unpredictable. Unpredictability, she said, is not a good thing in foreign policy.
Trump ‘will be a chaotic and unpredictable aggressor’
Columnist Trevor Timm, writing in the Guardian newspaper Thursday, panned the entire speech.
“Trump started off his speech on Wednesday by reading from a teleprompter in a rambling and incoherent manner, declaring that Obama has ‘depleted’ our military (false), the Iran deal was the ‘worst agreement’ (why?) and that we don’t support Israel, “a force for justice and peace” (absurd) — hallmark Republican conventional wisdom talking points,” Timm wrote.
And he said the speech had shown that the United States — with Bernie Sanders effectively out of the race — was now without an anti-war presidential candidate.
“Trump confirmed on Wednesday in his ‘big’ foreign policy speech that he will be a chaotic and unpredictable aggressor whose opinion changes with the wind,” Timm wrote.
Like Wickett, Timm pointed to what he said were contradictions in Trump’s speech. For example, Timm said, Trump called the bombing of Libya a “disaster,” but said it should be continuing today.
That sums up at least some European reaction to Trump’s foreign policy speech, and indeed his entire candidacy, Wickett said.
“I think a Trump presidency quite alarms Western Europe,” she added. “Trump is not a comfortable president for America’s friends.”
That had already been the case, Wickett said. Whether Wednesday’s speech increased that disquiet was hard to tell — but, she said, probably not.