Policy brief

How European Transatlanticists Might Approach an Isolationist U.S. Administration

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The 2024 U.S. elections will be closely watched around the world, especially in Europe. The United States is the European Union’s most important partner, guaranteeing Europe’s security through the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). A potential shift toward a less internationalist and more isolationist U.S. foreign policy would have profound implications for the continent.

A Trump election victory would create a sense of crisis among European transatlanticists that could stimulate dramatic efforts to strengthen the European Union’s ability to stand up for its interests and values globally. Trump sees the U.S. security commitment to Europe as enabling Europeans to underinvest in defense; in this view, the only way for Europe to take defense seriously is for the United States to disengage from NATO and European security.

Ultimately, Europe would have to adopt a robust strategy for deterring and containing Russia. There are great risks to European security in a world where the United States pulls back both its support for Ukraine and its engagement in NATO.

Unlike during the first Trump administration, Europe would have little choice but to make “strategic autonomy” a reality under a potential second Trump administration. It would also have to attempt to fill the gap left by the United States in Ukraine and deter Russia without much, if any, U.S. support—an effort that would require spending hundreds of billions of euros more on its defense and security. To oversee such a shift, the European Union would also have to strengthen its ability to conduct foreign policy. However, in taking these steps, Europe might also lay the foundation for the future revival of transatlantic relations. And instead of these relations returning to the way they were, they would become more of a partnership between relative peers.

Recording of our event "Trump 2.0: How should the EU approach an isolationist America?" on 20 February 2024.

Trump 2.0: How should the EU approach an isolationist America? - Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung European Union

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Product details
Date of Publication
February 2024
Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)
Number of Pages
Language of publication
Table of contents

Europe’s Diplomatic Posture toward the First Trump Administration

What to Expect from an Isolationist Administration or Trump 2.0

Europe’s Diplomatic Posture and Message

How Europe Might Approach Defense, China, and Trade and Climate