What has been the United States foreign policy stance toward European integration since its beginning in the 1950s? Has this changed under President Trump?

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“In international relations, in foreign policy, a great deal has to do with historical circumstances, a great deal has to do with the sense and perception of people.”

– Salman Khurshid –

This article will discuss the US foreign policy towards the Europe during 1950s and the comparison with the current policy. After the end of world war two, the US has concerned what would happen to Europe. The US seems wanted to see the Western Europe as one nation. In order to turn it into a reality, Marshall Plan was established under the Truman presidency. The Marshall Plan was established to recover the Europeans – mainly from the economic side (Dobson and Marsh, 2006). The US wanted the Europe government to cooperate together, if they coordinate their continent – the US will be willing to help. The US support at that time was very powerful that without the support from the US, it is more likely the EU will not stand on where is it now (McCormick, 2011).

The Europe itself wanted the American involvement – because they have realised their political, economic and military are dependent to the US, even the UK was economically dependent to the US (Dobson and Marsh, 2006). Therefore, they have finally agreed to the idea of Marshall Plan. However, there are several disagreements between those parties. The Europe sometimes disagreed with some of the policies that were made (McCormick and Olsen, 2014). Nonetheless, even though the European often disagreed with the US policies they had not much power to stand against it because they rely on the US economic investment and security guarantees (McCormick, 2011).

Conflict and crisis towards Europe still continued. For instance, France wanted to weaken German power after the Nazi – and to some extent, France were ambitious to gain power. Furthermore, the US saw this as a weak situation in Europe. In order to dominate the Soviets, Franco-German conflicts between those countries have to be recovered (Hogan, 1987). The Monnet Plan was established by the French in order to keep the German and maintaining the French economy. However it was not working long lasting because of the US power over the Europe. France wanted to prevent the US policy towards the German, however French was too weak to fight against the US (Creswell and Trachtenberg, 2003). Thus, the fight over the Ruhr and Rhineland continued. Nonetheless, in the end – none of the parties including the American Army, British and German Socialists were allowed to involved in the Ruhr and Rhineland (Gimbel 1976).

In the early 1950s, the US for the first time – has directly supported the European integration (Dobson and Marsh, 2006). The first reason is because the US needed Europe as a market. It was the national interest of American – they wanted Europe to recover as fast as possible because from the economy perspective – they need Europe to buy American goods and supply. At the same time, the US leaders wanted the world trade to be under the principles of liberal capitalism – which implement free trade and equal opportunity (Hogan, 1987). It could be argue that – If the rest of the world follows the principles of the US economy – they will be dependent to the US.

The other reason behind it – was to conquer the Soviets. In order to prevent the spreading of Soviets power, economic integration is crucial (Hogan, 1987). Mainly because if those specific countries were relied to the US economy – it would be less likely for those countries to go to the Soviets – as they were depended to the US. On the other hand, the Soviets will have less chance to influences. Thus, policymakers under Truman administration believed that, “Dynamic economy” was implied – in a sense that the US is a home for trade and investments – which constructed with the Europe into a multilateral system of world trade (Hogan, 1987).

Secondly, the US was not just afraid of the Soviets economy power, but also afraid of the ‘communism’ that has started to spread from the Soviets. After Germany lost the world war two – there was a big question where will the power in Europe lead. There was also a question to what will happen with Germany. The US thought that there would be another threat soon after German, which was the Soviets. After the failure of conference in Moscow – discussed about the future of Germany – it was strongly arguable that the time is up for the US to take over the Western in order to prevent the threat from the Soviets (Romero, 1992). In addition, many countries in Europe were still not holding democracy as their ideology (such as Spain and Portugal) – and when communist moved in Czechoslovakia and the Greek civil war arised – the tension of the Cold War has started to develop. Therewith the Soviets had clearly shown that they were not interested in the peace negotiation (Gimbel, 1976) – caused fear to the US.

Therefore, in order to deal with the situation, the US started to promote containment policy. Containment is a foreign policy by the US that was established under Truman administration in order to maintain the spread of communism by stopping the expanding of it (Dictionary, 2017). The policy was made because of the fear of communism. The fact that Europe was bankrupt and weak after the world war two – has caused the Europe became one of the easiest areas to implement the containment policy (Dobson and Marsh, 2006). The US has focused to get the support mainly from the workers and union in Europe (Romero, 1992). However, the containment policy was not just applied in Europe, but also in other part of the world such as Vietnam and Korea. Furthermore, the council of Europe became a watch out of democracy.

During 1947, the Western has started to reinforce their military security in order to balance the Russian power (Henderson, 1982) – until two years after, NATO was established. North Atlantic Treaty Organization that was established within the Marshall Plan, main functions is to maintain security between European states and to prevent any influence from Eastern Europe to the West (North Atlantic Treaty Organization, 2016). As the Soviets have tried to increase their military power (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, 1995) – If the European has decided to be US allied, it means that the Soviets are their opposition. This situation has caused fear to the West – especially because after the world war, the Europe military power was weaken because of the leak of fund.

Moreover, if the Soviets decide to take over the west – and if the military of Soviets is stronger than the West – what might happen is the rest of the West would be under the Soviets, which conclude that the West would have to act accordingly with the Soviets principles. As the undemocratic forms of government has threatened human rights and liberty in many parts of the world – mainly the Eastern European (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, 1995) – this has increased the fear of the West. Having their freedom and human rights taken away – was and is not something that the West wants to face.

In order to maintain the situation, the West ambition within NATO is to try to put their military power together to cause fear to the Soviets. The West might not be able to conquer the Soviets as an individual state – however, if they put their power together as one collective security, the Soviets will have to think twice before making any decision. Moreover, under the article 5 of NATO, it was written that if one of the ally get attack, the rest of the members will defenses them (North Atlantic Treaty Organization, 2016) – as a collective security against the Soviets. This means that the United States – as a member of NATO – will provide military defense to each West Europe countries if they get attack by other countries mainly the Soviets.

However, since the Trump presidency, the US foreign policy towards the EU has started to change. The EU has emerged number of meetings in order to try to deal with Trump and predict what is he going to do. Trump wants to change the US policy towards EU back to the 1950s when the US was the strongest nation-state in the world (Laderman, 2017). After the world war two, the US has started to help many other nations that were struggling and even though it was under the US interest, but arguably it has taken down the US power. Trump believes that giving an aid to Europe and Asia – like what the US has always do – is useless (Laderman, 2017). Seems like the US interference towards other state does not necessarily beneficial to the US. Trump argued that funding NATO and the UN is pointless. Mainly to the NATO, giving Europe military alliances is not the US priority anymore.

Furthermore, it was true that the reason behind the interference is to prevent the spreading of Communism – because Truman’s was afraid of the balance of power. However, Trump does not share Truman’s fear of balancing the Cold War, scared of Communism or needing other state to balance the economy (Laderman, 2017). This has caused fear to the world – mainly the European – because Trump is unpredictable. He does not act corresponding to the US rules and laws – therefore there is not reassurance whether Trump will act accordant to the international system or not.

As far as it seen, Trump has a completely different views from the European – on the EU itself, NATO, immigration, trade, Russia, the nuclear deal with Iran, and climate change (Kupchan, 2017). Under the economy perspective, Trump seems more interested to built a trade within Russia or other nations – rather than the EU. If the Americans would be willing to welcome any agreements with the EU – mainly from the economy side – it has to give something as a result (Malloch, 2017). Trump clearly wants to make America great again – which means that any policy that will be make under Trump administration would have to benefit the US – way more than it was in the past.

Germany, as one of the most powerful state in the EU does not has a very good relations to the US. The US suspected the German has been using their currency to take down both the EU and the US (James, 2017). The US – under Trump administration – is afraid of German purposes that might wants to increase their power. Thus, in order to maintain the situation – the US is more likely to establish any policy to take down the German economy or the euro of EU as a whole (James, 2017). Furthermore, both parties have a completely different view on immigrants. Merkel has opened door for many refugees – while Trump is the total opposite of it (Kupchan, 2017).

Therefore, in order to solve the issue, Merkel as German leader has decided to visit Washington. Even though both parties does not get along really well, but the cooperation between those two is possible (Kupchan, 2017). Nonetheless, there are several things that both parties have to work on. As Merkel – as well as other European – has started to maintain their border like the US is trying to do (Kupchan, 2017) – Trump might start to respect the EU – which could bring the cooperation even more possible. On the other hand, Trump needs to make it clear that he would be willing to cooperate with the Europe on several issues (Kupchan, 2017). Mainly issue on Russia.

What scared Europe the most is that if Trump has decided to make a deal with Russia (Politico, 2017) – which means that the whole foreign policies since 1950s would have to change. Thus, if Putin and Trump have formed some sort of coalition – this could leave Europe in a very unsafe position (Politico, 2017). For instance, there have been few arguments that one of Trump’s foreign policy priorities is to destroy the Islamic state (Politico, 2017). The situation in Damascus is very unstable and the civil war that has been emerged since the last couple years is still going. As Putin allies with president Bashar al-Assad’s and the EU allies with Syrian National Council to fight against Syrian government – if Trump and Putin cooperate together, it is less likely Trump will cooperate with the EU. This will add another fear to the European.

In conclusion, since the beginning of European integration in the 1950s the US has shown their support towards the EU. Within the Marshall Plan, establishment of NATO and economic dependent – the US policy toward European has helped Europe to survive. However, under Trump administration – it is more likely the policy will change. The situation in this century was not the same with after the world war. The Cold War has ended and Trump has his own purpose – that might not beneficial to the world, including the European. For instance, Trump and the EU have many different perspectives towards some cases – mainly to the Russia and the Middle East.


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McCormick, J (2011). European Union Politics. Hampshire; New York: Palgrave Macmillan. p425-441.

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Featured Image taken from Google Search.

“No foreign policy – no matter how ingenious – has any chance of success if it is born in the minds of a few and carried in the hearts of none.”

– Henry Kissinger –

Author: Valentina Laura

A dreamer & a lover.

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