It was a barnstorming speech even by President Donald Trump’s dubious standard when he gave a press conference this week from the White House Rose Garden.
In typical self-promotional style, he lashed out at everyone and everything under the sun, it seemed, from his Democrat presidential rival Joe Biden to China, from coronavirus to illegal immigrants, and much more besides. Here’s the transcript.
It would be charitable to call Trump’s electioneering rant “entertaining” so replete was it with vitriol and demagogic distortions.
One of the choice examples stood out when the American president claimed that the European Union was “formed in order to take advantage of the United States”, adding that the European bloc “never treated us well.”
Trump’s assertion illustrates the cringemaking historical illiteracy of this TV reality show presenter-turned-president.
Let’s recap on some historical and geopolitical reality before drawing the more serious implications from Trump’s bizarre world view.
The impetus for unifying Western Europe from the outset always had the blessing and financial support of the United States through its Marshall Fund for reconstruction following World War Two.
The earliest iteration was the European Coal and Steel Community formed in 1950 between Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands and West Germany. In 1958, that entity then evolved into the European Economic Community. The EEC expanded during the 1970s and 1980s with the additional membership of Britain, Denmark, Ireland, Portugal and Spain. It was not until 1993 that the “European Union” was founded following the Maastricht Treaty. Today it consists of 27 member nations after Britain voted to quit the bloc in 2016.
Unifying Europe was not done out of independence from or in competition with the United States. The project was part and parcel of the U.S.-dominated transatlantic political order analogous to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) military alliance. It is no coincidence that most of the EU members are also NATO members.
The purpose of both of those blocs was to serve as an amplifier of American power. During the Cold War, the main U.S.-designated adversary was the Soviet Union. Of course, likeminded anticommunist Europeans indulged this American view with fervor.
Political and military unification of Europe under U.S. tutelage was aimed at preventing any normalization of relations between Europe and Russia. After the Cold War, the EU and NATO continue to function as an American-inspired bulwark against Russia. And to that we can add China which has become an even more urgent target for Washington’s unrelenting Cold War-style view of the world.
During Trump’s administration there has been a novel development of European leaders appealing for greater EU independence. But those appeals only go to show, implicitly, that Europe is firmly under Washington’s thumb. Maybe if Europe did actually evolve a truly independent position from Washington then international relations might be more balanced. If the EU dissented from the U.S. on such issues as sanctions against Russia, Iran, Venezuela and others, then the world would arguably be a better place. If the EU challenged the U.S. over its irrational hostility towards China that too would be welcome. But the EU doesn’t dissent. It is a reliable and malleable instrument for Washington’s questionable foreign conduct, even when that conduct is reprehensible as in countless foreign wars and aggressions.
Trump’s claim about the European Union having been formed to take advantage of the United States couldn’t be further from the truth. Geopolitically, the EU is, in reality, an appendage of the U.S. Some critics might say a dependency or, even more acerbically, a bunch of vassals providing Washington with a rubber-stamp for its destructive policies. Just look at the way the Trump administration is slapping the Europeans around with threats of sanctions over their Nord Stream 2 project with Russia for natural gas supplies.
Admittedly, perhaps European nations can be criticized over some trade practices like tariffs and regulations regarding the U.S. But these are minor quibbles in the grand scheme of the transatlantic relationship. Trump seems to be obsessed with those minor details because of his petty profiteering mindset as a former estate agent hustler. In the same way that he chides NATO for “taking advantage” of the U.S. over the latter’s presumed “protection”. Trump loses the plot – again. He just doesn’t get the fact that NATO operates more like a protection racket shaking down European “allies” in order to furnish the coffers of the American military-industrial complex and U.S. imperialism.
Trump’s historical ignorance is hilarious. But it stops being amusing when we realize his continuous persecution complex is framing America’s view of the world.
In Trump’s reality-inverting megalomania, the whole world is “ripping off” or “plundering” the United States. Just how twisted and deluded Trump’s view is is shown by his rant against the European Union – even though it is most pathetically servile to the geopolitical wants of Washington.
If Trump can perceive the Europeans as cheats and malcontents then one can imagine just how bitter and reckless his view of China is.
That’s what is so disturbing about this president’s insatiable and ignorant cynicism. Vilifying docile European lackeys is one thing. Vilifying China with such warmongering wantonness is an altogether far more dangerous thing.