Donald Trump’s inauguration speech on January 20 repeated the disruptive message of his election as US president. It was a call of defiance against the political and media mainstream in the USA, which also rattled the political and business elites in many European countries.
The Trump administration wants good relations with other powers, but it will pursue US political and economic interests at full speed. It will do so even if it means breaking current Western taboos against economic protectionism, restricted migration, the reform of NATO or good relations with Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
Trump’s threatening approach on the nuclear deal with Iran has also made European leaders uneasy. Many European political leaders and virtually every major European business want the nuclear deal to work. If the US would walk away from the nuclear deal, one may see statements by European governments trying to keep the nuclear deal alive.
However, the EU does not have a good record of standing up to US pressures over the Middle East. When forced, for instance, European governments mostly choose good relations with the US over good relations with Iran.
EU structures in Brussels are still suffering from the UK’s Brexit decision and are over-tasked by the challenges of economic and geopolitical instability.
The governments in many of the EU member states also face pressures by populist parties during nine elections across Europe in 2017. This is the case in influential states like France and Germany, too. Foreign ministers in these countries are politicians first. Their eyes will now be on winning elections, not on provocative policy positions that force them to stand up to the USA.
The Trump years do not need to be a lost half-decade. Some of his appointees are hawks on the nuclear deal, but there are segments of his supporters and some appointees who do not want to become enmeshed again in new regional standoffs.
Trump also wants to stimulate job creation in the US, on which his populist political success will depend.
Washington’s establishment will generate many obstacles and he will encounter difficult new world developments and unintended consequences on the way.
The unorthodox millionaire will have to make many decisions every day to solve real problems.
Iran’s position as a space of stability and economic opportunities will remain valuable to the Trump administration.
There will be both security and economic incentives for Trump to make the nuclear deal succeed.