The election of Donald Trump in 2016 sent shock waves across political classes globally and prompted debates about whether his America first agenda threatened the liberal international order generally and the transatlantic alliance specifically. During his first year in office, Trump seemed determined to undermine the hallmarks of the international order: democracy, liberal economics and international cooperation. He also poured scorn on Europe and the European Union (EU) in a rich variety of ways. So, are we witnessing the emergence of a post-liberal, post-American, post-transatlantic era?
Four sources of evidence help frame if not answer - the question: history, the crisis of liberal democracy, Trumps world view, and the power of civil society (globally and nationally) to constrain any US President.
They yield three main judgements. First, continuity usually trumps change in US foreign policy as well as transatlantic relations. Second, the liberal international order and US-European alliance may both have been more fragile pre-Trump than was widely realised or appreciated. Third, American power must be put at the service of its own democracy if the US is to become the example to the world it used to be; in any case, Europes magnetism seems, surprisingly, to have recovered after its lost decade of the Great Recession.
John Peterson is Professor of International Politics at the University of Edinburgh (Scotland, UK) and Editor in Chief of the British Journal of Politics and IR. His recent works include The European Union: How Does it Work? (Oxford University Press, 5th edn, 2018), The West and the Global Power Shift: Transatlantic Relations and Global Governance (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016) and The Institutions of the European Union (OUP, 4th edn, 2017). His presentation is based on his forthcoming book Europe and America: Partners and Rivals in International Relations (Rowman & Littlefield, 2018).