Europe’s bruises need more than Pompeo’s sweet wooing
In a speech in Brussels on Tuesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo argued that Donald Trump’s foreign policy would make a series of existing postwar international institutions – including the EU, UN, World Bank and the International Monetary Fund – function better.
In Pompeo’s words, Washington is building “a new liberal order” to fight cynical abuses by Russia, China and Iran. He justified the withdrawal from multiple international organizations and violations of international rules by the United States in the last two years with his theory of “new order” and claimed that European countries’ accusations against Washington are “plain wrong.”
No major country will probably support Pompeo’s speech, including the US’ European allies, most of which are EU members. Pompeo questioned the value of the EU, suggesting that Brussels bureaucrats place their interests above their countries and citizens. His words will hurt the feelings of many EU elites.
The US has withdrawn from the Paris Climate Agreement and the Iranian nuclear deal to which the EU has greatly contributed, and the US has threatened to abandon the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty. Not only that, Washington is now planning to impose tariffs on European cars. Since Washington has been so mean to Europe, it is impossible for Europeans to change their views about the US by listening to a few sympathetic words of Pompeo.
Washington cannot afford this lofty ambitions. The country needs financial investments as well as the firm support of a number of allies to build “a new liberal order.” At least the other major powers have to show no objection. Nevertheless the US seems to be unable to meet these conditions.
The strategy of the US is reducing rather than increasing capital investment in international public goods. In particular, Washington has shown a strong willingness to seize more from the international market through various means. This selfishness of the US has led to unprecedented alienation of its allies, bringing about the most isolated relationship between two sides of the Atlantic since World War II.
It will be considerably difficult for Washington to build a new international order which simultaneously harms China, Russia and Iran. In the initial period of building order and reconstruction after WWII, the victorious allies had largely the same attitude toward the issue.
In fact, the US has become the biggest destroyer to the world order in recent years. As one of the most important allies, Europe has suffered the most from US moves. What Pompeo said in Brussels on Tuesday may not necessarily be the US declaration of building a new order, but more likely an attempt to woo Europe and ease the tense relationship with European countries.
If Washington truly walks on a path Pompeo described, its journey is destined to be an exhausting one and will end up badly.