Polarization, Trump, and Transatlantic Relations

In Adebowale Akande (ed), The Perils of Populism: The End of the American Century? Springer, 2023, pp. 195-219.

The 2016 victory of Donald J. Trump as the president of the United States caused a scholarly debate about the future of transatlantic relations. This chapter adds to this debate by exploring the tie between US domestic and foreign policy under the Trump administration. We also discuss the long-term implications of US domestic political changes for transatlantic relations. We argue that the long-term trend is that the US and Europe indeed might be drifting further apart—despite the recent strong cooperation witnessed in response to Russia’s war in Ukraine. Three arguments underlie this claim. First, domestic changes in the US imply that the Trump presidency was the culmination of a trend rather than its cause. Second, Trump’s presidency also had a long-term impact on relations across the Atlantic by reducing Europeans’ trust in the US’ commitment to Europe. And third, structural factors serve to further strengthen this trend, with the US in the longer term being more concerned with balancing a growing China than securing the European continent. In the chapter, we explore recent years’ polarization of US domestic politics, as well as the link between increasing domestic fragmentation and US foreign policies.