Europeans are realizing, too, that the United States’ turn inward goes much deeper than Trump. Steinmeier bemoaned Trump’s retreat from transatlantic ties, but he recognized, “We know that this shift began a while ago, and it will continue even after this administration.”
A former top national security official in Republican and Democratic administrations summed up the implications of the U.S. political morass for foreign allies: “They understand now that waiting it out is not a good strategy. They know that the backstop is no longer there.”
Europeans feel a nostalgia for the old order, summed up in the “Westlessness” theme of the Munich conference. But there’s opportunism, too — a desire to expand influence as America’s contracts. You could see the gleam in the eye of French President Emmanuel Macron as he discussed onstage with Wolfgang Ischinger, the conference’s chairman, the possibility that Germany might soon look to France’s nuclear deterrent, rather than depending solely on U.S. pledges.