Death of Soleimani: what was Trump's goal? 2:26
(CNN) – This week's escalation of tensions between Iran and the United States has exposed an uncomfortable reality for many of America's friends in Europe.
When the president of the United States, Donald Trump, asked the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia and China (the other signatory nations of the Joint Comprehensive Action Plan -JCPOA-, also known as the agreement with Iran), to join He, to get away from JCPOA, was asking his European allies to do much more than isolate Iran.RELATED
The agreement with Iran, which was signed under the auspices of the European Union, is the greatest achievement of foreign policy in the history of the EU.
It was the EU that boosted efforts to bring all the important parties to the table. In doing so, he not only encouraged Iran to engage with the West, but created a crucial forum in which the EU could begin to navigate what is now its main foreign policy objective. "The EU's top priority is balanced relations between the two big ones: China and the United States," said Steven Blockmans, head of foreign affairs at the European Center for Political Studies.
Europe's problem with China is serious. Stagnant economies on the continent benefit from Chinese investment, but that often carries the potential security risk of allowing Chinese state-owned companies, such as telecommunications giant Huawei, to operate in Europe.
For its part, China is very happy to consolidate its position as a major influence in Europe, home to some of the largest economies on the planet.
Historically, China and Iran have good diplomatic relations. These improved after the signing of the JCPOA, as Chinese investment in Iran increased and continued even after Trump withdrew from the nuclear agreement.
Something that China and Iran also have in common are bad relations with Trump. He has tried to marginalize both countries by entering into a trade war with one and imposing sanctions on the other.
Meanwhile, Iran has friendly relations (diplomatic and military), with Russia, another state with which the EU must maintain a complicated balancing act. Many EU nations depend on Russian investment and natural resources, while major European financial centers, including London, have seen large investments of wealthy Russians seeking to get their money out of Russia.
However, in recent years, Europe has imposed financial sanctions on Russia, after Russian interference in European nations, from disinformation campaigns to state-backed murder of Russian dissidents. And the nations of Western Europe have been among the noisiest in opposing the illegal annexation of Crimea by Russia in eastern Ukraine.
By asking his European and NATO allies to have a greater participation in his confrontation with Iran, Trump essentially asks them to make a choice: stay on good terms with new friends in Beijing, Moscow and Tehran; or they line up behind their former ally, despite the fact that it is currently run by a man that most European diplomats consider worryingly erratic and may not even be in office after this year.
Now, it could be again. Europe has to think hard about what the implications of Trump's second term could be. Four more years, of course. But what would it mean for the long-term policy of the most powerful nation on earth? Can the United States be as it was before?
Complicating the EU decision, at least, is the fact that one of its most powerful members will leave the block in less than a month. "The United Kingdom is leaving the EU at a time when Trump is trying to renegotiate the transatlantic relationship," said Mark Leonard, director of the European Council on Foreign Relations. "There is a danger that when Britain leaves the EU, it puts trade agreements above everything else."
At the top of the UK priority list in terms of trade are the EU and the US, and the latter is a political priority for London. But most trade experts believe that a comprehensive agreement with one reduces the chances of doing so with the other.
A good example of how difficult the balance is for the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson, can be seen in how he has supported the United States in his attack that eliminated Iranian military chief Qasem Soleimani, while telling Tehran that he has all The intention to continue to support the JCPOA. It is not clear for how long the maintenance of both positions remains viable, especially following the death of four Britons among the 176 who lost their lives in the Tehran plane crash for which Iran has admitted its responsibility.
The crisis with Iran has withdrawn the curtain and has revealed the much more complicated changing power dynamics facing Europe.
The EU wants to manage the China-United States balance; the United Kingdom wants to manage its balance between the United States and the EU, and both the United States and China want to separate each other from the path to strategic primacy on the continent. And at this moment, it is the White House that is acting with the greatest purpose.
In 1948, President Harry Truman promulgated the Marshall Plan, which saw the United States send billions of dollars to Western Europe to rebuild after two world wars.
In 2020, it could be said that another American president is a much bigger disruptor to the old continent than China, Iran or Russia. What a difference 72 years can make.