Europe’s Great Refusal: Germany Leads the Anti-Trump Front

There has always been bad blood between Europe and Donald and the Iran crisis has revived conflicts which have been of constant concern for the presidential administration in the United States.  

For those European countries that undersigned the agreement on Tehran’s nuclear program (but also those who were not involved, such as Italy) it is vital that the 2015 agreement remain in force. But the election of Trump is now challenging all this. And now, with the US dropping out of the pact, the resuming of sanctions, the numerous crises in the Middle East and the oil tanker wars in the Persian Gulf, the escalation of hostilities between the US and Iran have inevitably invested European diplomacy as well. 

Mainland Europe wants to keep at a distance from the crisis, both as individual countries as well as the EU as a whole. In the end no one seems particularly interested in finding themselves embroiled in the dispute. While no European power wants to stand against the US, neither do they want to be an obstacle in the way of the Iranian nuclear program or reassemble the Atlantic axis. The impression is that the divide between the two sides of the Atlantic is being aggravated by the current Gulf crisis. At present there is only one certainty: Trump has not been able to (or has not wanted to) recompose the Europe-US axis. While it has become increasingly evident that European countries want to take a distance from Washington’s policy (especially this administration’s) towards Iran. And we were just recently given confirmation of this with the European States’ decision to stall on (or openly refuse) the US request to join a coalition to secure the Strait of Hormuz and Bab el-Mandeb.

The European rejection front is led mainly by Germany. At yesterday’s press conference Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, renewed Berlin’s refusal to participate in the mission planned by the United States and Great Britain to secure Persian Gulf waters. Maas was adamant. Facing journalists the German Minister commented on Great Britain’s intention to participate in the American operation with these words: “At the moment the Britons would rather join an American mission. We won’t do that.” He also added that what Germany wished for was a “European mission.” 

Such a wish has a precise strategic significance: for Germany it is fundamental that such an operation be carried out by Europe with Germany at its head, not the United States in alliance with Great Britain. Two powers which today represent the real rivals of Germany’s strategy in Europe: Atlantic counterpoints to the dominance of Europe. 

From this point of view, the Persian Gulf is not just a challenge between Iran and the United States. It is also another facet of the deepening rift between America and Europe, which has marked recent years, and especially with Trump’s rise to power. The US administration has decided to declare war on a Germany-led Europe (more so than on a Franco-German one), confirming Washington’s strategic objective to limit rising German power over Europe. Trump cannot consider himself the architect of this clash, but he is definitely one of its best interpreters. And the US attack on a Germanocentric Europe takes on different forms: the attack on the Euro and the possible currency war; disputes over tariffs; Nord Stream 2 sanctions; support of Brexit, and those movements critical of the EU; clashes regarding relations with China and Russia. And finally the Iranian issue, with the US scheming to try and divide the European front concerning the Iranian nuclear program. 

On the other hand is Germany, resisting and attempting to play its cards. Germany’s refusal to take part in the Gulf maritime operation is in itself a very clear signal. As it is clear that both Italy and France are hesitating in the face of Washington’s request. There is no interest in joining this mission. But above all it is clear that those countries which are  closely bound to Germany will not be able to completely submit to The Donald’s requests. And this refusal on the part of its European allies is but the last in a series of refusals received by the American administration from the Old Continent. Particularly as concerns security. 

In any case, the dispute is before everybody’s eyes. On the one hand blows the Atlantic wind, gathering strength through the renewed special relationship between Great Britain and the United States, confirmed by Boris Johnson’s election as head of the British government. It is the Atlantic axis par excellence, but also an alliance representing Brexit and the departure from the EU. On the other is the European Union, attempting to take its first steps in asking to lead a naval mission in the Persian Gulf (as envisaged by Germany) , but above all refusing to abide by Trump, which in itself appears like yet another conflict between the two sides of the Atlantic. A financial and economic war which has now overflowed into the realm of politics. The Hormuz mission is only the latest example of this.