As Donald Trump marches towards the Republican nomination, a question hangs over Europe: how should the continent prepare for a world in which Nato becomes dead letters? For some, the answer is ‘strategic autonomy’; for others, it lies in procuring as much US-made kit as possible to buy goodwill with the future administration.
One obvious response, however, has been left by the wayside: nuclear deterrence. When it comes to Trump-proofing the security of Eastern Europe, few measures would be as effective as arming the largest country of the region – Poland – with nuclear weapons.
Even centrist EU politicians, such as Manfred Weber – the current leader of the European People’s party – are thinking about nuclear deterrence as a possible answer to Mr Trump’s return. Weber proposes that France, with its large nuclear capabilities, lead European deterrent efforts. His scheme could include the United Kingdom, with the purpose of collectively turning the EU and its closest European partners into a nuclear power.
The basic rationale is sound, whether or not Mr Trump will decide to remove US nukes from Germany, Belgium, and Italy. Many Ukrainians will admit that giving up the country’s nuclear arsenal in the 1990s was a tragic mistake, setting the stage for Russian interference and aggression in the years to come.
There is no sugarcoating the situation for the Europe: Mr Trump will not be ‘tough’ on Russia, nor will he be interested in strengthening Nato. The former president called the alliance obsolete and has mused about leaving it. Forget ‘adults in the room’ – the prospective Trump administration will be staffed far more heavily by sycophants and Trump loyalists than by traditional Republicans.
The bipartisan bill passed last year that supposedly prevents US presidents from withdrawing from the alliance without either the Senate’s approval or an act of Congress is legally hollow.