An America Firster might not see much to dislike here. In the past 70 years, the U.S. has allowed more and more of the security burden to migrate from allies onto the U.S. Both of this week’s initiatives would relieve some pressure from U.S. forces as the U.S. tries to prioritize its efforts away from the Gulf to manage the China challenge. Both are undertaken by trusted American allies. They may prove to be the harbinger of a more balanced relationship among strong states of the West.
That would be a good outcome for the U.S.—but only if allies were choosing to do more consistent with American interests. They are not. The U.S. had a proposal for maritime patrols in the Gulf that its European allies declined to join. If the U.S. doesn’t act in concert with others, it will have less absolute power.
To take a financial example, European Union countries did not develop a so-called special-purpose vehicle for funding business with Iran to support American efforts—they are building means to circumvent dollar primacy because they object so strenuously to American policy on Iran. The SPV won’t succeed in the near term, but it shows that America’s European allies are so rattled by Trump’s Iran policy and so exasperated by the profligacy of U.S. sanctions that they’re looking to limit American financial power.