Donald Trump must reassure Europe by clearly stating his support for democratic values and the survival of the EU if the US is not to suffer as individual European nations are picked off by rival powers such as Russia and China, Tony Blair has said.
Speaking ahead of the US president’s visit to London and the Nato summit next month, the former British prime minister said Trump had to reassure Europe that he was not seeking the disintegration of the EU.
Blair, often seen as the British politician most willing to defend US presidents and the centrality of the transatlantic alliance, expressed deep concern that Trump’s unpredictability was unsettling Europe.
The president has repeatedly targeted the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and his political allies appear to be siding with the pro-Russia populist voices in Europe who hold in power in Austria and Italy.
Speaking to a group of newspapers at the weekend, Blair said: “People in Europe worry about the unpredictability and about whether there is a real commitment to the transatlantic alliance on the basis of values, not simply on the basis of interests.
“People in Europe are unclear, although clarity could very easily be given and should be given, whether these are just random statements about issues or whether they are reflective of a more profound shift in American views about the world.
“What would take care of a lot of this is, if there was not just from the president, but from other members of the administration, a very clear articulation that, when all is said and done, that America understands the profound attachment that there is to a set of democratic values, whatever issues of the day collide on the basis of interests.”
If no clarification were forthcoming and the west became more divided, the beneficiaries would be neither Europe or the US, he said.
“If you look at the world today, the position of the west is going to be contested for the first time in this century and the west, if it is disunited, is going to be much less capable of withstanding it.
“If Europe does not feel it really has America on its side, the risk for Europe is that individual nations get played by other important geopolitical forces and this is bad for America … the European Union collectively is strong enough to withstand whatever pressures come from individual countries”.
“If individual countries are left to fend for themselves, they will get picked off one by one.”
Trump has clashed with the EU’s political direction on various fronts, including climate change, the Iran nuclear deal, trade, Israel and most recently the handling of human rights policies.
Blair said that in pursuing his vision of putting America first, Trump was taking a very short-term view of his country’s interests, but he doubted Washington would depart from the transatlantic alliance institutionally.
Blair acknowledged that the foundations of the EU were being shaken by the issue of migration, on which Trump has mounted his latest wave of attacks on European leaders, but said the latter needed to “take refuge in policy”.