Seeking to reassure Europeans troubled by President Donald Trump’s “America first” rhetoric, his ambivalence over the NATO military alliance and tariffs on European goods, Pompeo said there was no crisis in Western leadership.
In response, French President Emmanuel Macron told the conference of international leaders, lawmakers and diplomats he was not surprised. “We cannot be the United States’ junior partner,” Macron said, adding that while he supported NATO, Europe needed to be able to tackle threats in its neighborhood and at times act independently of Washington.
At any rate, Pompeo’s inflammatory efforts collide with a context whereby the United States and Europe sit increasingly apart, and the bid to hammer home a "threat" message seeks ultimately to paper over those cracks. These cracks have of course not been created by anything to do with China or Russia, or Iran, but a unilateral and inwards America which is obsessed with defending its own hegemonic position at the expense of everything else, and hold an open contempt against multilateralism, not least on so-called European partners.
These tensions were hard to mask at the conference itself. As Pompeo claimed the West was winning, Macron reiterated that the West was in fact "losing" and the reason was, according to him not so much "China" but more that Europe had "different values" to the United States.
His proposals involved not a cold war but a "European one" with a commitment to greater integration. Similarly, the President of Germany Frank-Walter Steinmeier derided Trump's "America first" strategy and attacked its emphasis upon unilateralism, stating that the "the USA rejects the very concept of an international community. Every country, it believes, should look after itself and put its own interests before all others."
And beyond Pompeo’s pompous rhetoric, it is not hard to see why: Despite repeatedly invoking Cold War symbolism, where exactly is the American commitment to Europe? The Trump administration has persistently derided alliances such as NATO, has attacked European Union economic policies and slapped tariffs on the bloc, only increasing levies on Airbus!
There has been an American commitment to American interests in Europe, but there has not been in any instance an American commitment to European interests within Europe. The so-called talk of "common values" does not paint over that really, the Trump administration has been all about can extort, demand and expect from the continent than what it can give and accommodate.
And given these circumstances, the truth is lost upon Pompeo and others that Europe sees the United States as an increasingly unreliable partner, and therefore will not sign up to any unilateral strategy at the expense of its own interests.
For example, despite the noise over the Iran nuclear deal, it should be quite obvious now that the United States has lost its European campaign against Tehran by walking out of the deal. In the past few months, Germany and France both have ruled out binning the deal, showing how the broader interests of European nations are not compatible with the unilateral interests of the United States. It is not a surprise given this that many nations in Europe also see the continent on its own path and in turn will find an approach to Tehran which best suits them, rather than Washington.
Therefore as a whole, the invocation of hegemonic themes and a fanaticized struggle for "freedom against authoritarianism" cannot compensate for the US administration's aggressive emphasis on "America First" unilateralism, bringing about unprecedented global rifts with friends and foes.
Facing these challenges from Washington, Europe must Endeavour to pragmatically defend its own interests and place in the world as it sees fit, which quite obviously do not involve triggering a new Cold War with Russia or China, and/or a new conflict in the Middle East with Iran.