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The Return of Jacksonianism in US Foreign Policy under the Trump Presidency: A Risk or an Opportunity for Europe?

European Union
Foreign Policy
International Relations
NATO
Policy Analysis
USA
POTUS
Kristian Nielsen
Copenhagen Business School
Anna Dimitrova
ESSCA Ecole de Management
Kristian Nielsen
Copenhagen Business School

Abstract

How is the Trump presidency affecting the transatlantic relationship? Trump’s view of the transatlantic security alliance as “obsolete” and “economically unfair” when it comes to NATO, or a “bad deal” when it comes to EU-US trade agreements, not to mention his ‘America-first’ foreign policy approach, calls into question the very essence of the transatlantic partnership. While Europeans still feel uncomfortable with Trump’s impulsive and controversial foreign policy actions, we argue that his approach to the world reflects the resurgence of an older American foreign policy tradition. Drawing upon Posen and Ross’ conceptual framework of ’grand strategy’, we first argue that Trump does have a grand strategy based on a clear nationalist vision of US role in world affairs, which is narrowly focused on US security interests and material gains. Second, in line with Mead’s historical analogies for foreign policy analysis, we seek to demonstrate that Trump’s ’America First’ grand strategy marks the return of ‘Jacksonianism’ in US foreign policy. Additionally, this article also aims to put forward the question of Europe’s own grand strategy, and how it must be adapted to the new circumstances, and thus help Europeans minimize the risks a ‘Jacksonian’ Trump presidency poses for transatlantic relations. It will involve both a strengthening of capabilities on the European side, as well as putting European interests first in a more explicit way – something the EU has traditionally been reluctant to do. Only by doing so can Europeans enhance their influence in the transatlantic alliance and make Europe less dependent on the US security umbrella, as well as less vulnerable to the whims of the American president.