Why Europe Must Stand Up To Trump On Iran

The U.S. president wants to impose his will and whims on all partners. The EU, for the sake of its own security, needs to resist.

Trump on TV in Tehran on May 8
Trump on TV in Tehran on May 8
Daniel Brössler


MUNICH — The regime in Tehran is committed to destroying Israel. It promotes terrorism and creates discord in the region, while at home, the mullahs curtail basic freedoms to protect their positions of power. Iran in its present form is not, to put it mildly, a dream partner for democracies.

And yet, the European Union — together with Russia and China — is right to work against the destruction of the 2015 nuclear agreement, even and especially now that the United States is reinstating a first wave of sanctions against the country.

It's not nice to have to form an alliance with the autocrats in Moscow and Beijing to protect a deal with the promoters of terrorism in Tehran. But it's the inevitable consequence of the situation created by U.S. President Donald Trump. It's, in a way, the first global alliance against Trumpism. Whether and to what extent it is successful depends a lot on Europe and the rest of the world.

Preserving the deal is a question of security.

That applies first of all to what the Iran deal was about. The agreement is not the perfect way to prevent the Islamic Republic from developing nuclear weapons. For the time being, however, it's the only one that works. The provisions that the diplomats had spent years negotiating created shackles for Iran that it cannot just throw off, as long as it remains in the agreement. Sure, this doesn't prevent Tehran from continuing to dream of the bomb. But it drastically slows down the possibilities that this dream turns into a reality, which, from the point of view of most of the world, would be a nightmare.

Sanctions have led Iran to submit to this negotiated solution. But sanctions alone have not brought an end to the nuclear program. They won't succeed without diplomacy this time either. Preserving the deal is, therefore, a question of security for Europeans: Rockets could not carry the Iranian bomb to America, but they could hit Europe.

Trump's Twitter warning on Aug. 7 — Source: Official Twitter account

But it's not just Tehran that Europe needs to worry about. Trump is also a threat. This is, ultimately, a showdown — one that will decide whether the U.S. president can brutally impose his will on all partners, and whether everybody surrenders to his lies and whims.

Trump's biggest problem with the Iran deal is that it came from his predecessor, Barack Obama. In Trump's world, deals can only be good if he made them himself. When that's the case, even a North Korean dictator becomes a prince of peace. But if the inflated ego of an American president becomes the sole yardstick, then all reliability and, ultimately, all security is shattered. Against that, we must stand up with all our power.

The EU has got to try.

The question is whether that power is sufficient. The economic power Trump has to enforce his will is almost limitless. The EU is trying to prevent European companies from withdrawing from the Iranian business for fear of being punished by the United States. The chances that this will work are rather slim — but the EU has got to try. For itself, and for the world.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!

"The Truest Hypocrisy" - The Russia-NATO Clash Seen From Moscow

Russia has decided to cut off relations with the Western military alliance. But Moscow says it was NATO who really wanted the break based on its own internal rationale.

NATO chief Stoltenberg and Russian Foregin Minister Lavrov

Russian Foreign Ministry/TASS via ZUMA
Pavel Tarasenko and Sergei Strokan

MOSCOW — The Russian Foreign Ministry's announcement that the country's permanent representation to NATO would be shut down for an indefinite period is a major development. But from Moscow's viewpoint, there was little alternative.

These measures were taken in response to the decision of NATO on Oct. 6 to cut the number of personnel allowed in the Russian mission to the Western alliance by half. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the removal of accreditations was from eight employees of the Russian mission to NATO who were identified as undeclared employees of Russian intelligence." We have seen an increase in Russian malicious activity for some time now," Stoltenberg said.

The Russian Foreign Ministry called NATO's expulsion of Russian personnel a "ridiculous stunt," and Stoltenberg's words "the truest hypocrisy."

In announcing the complete shutdown in diplomacy between Moscow and NATO, the Russian Foreign Ministry added: "The 'Russian threat' is being hyped in strengthen the alliance's internal unity and create the appearance of its 'relevance' in modern geopolitical conditions."

The number of Russian diplomatic missions in Brussels has been reduced twice unilaterally by NATO in 2015 and 2018 - after the alliance's decision of April 1, 2014 to suspend all practical civilian and military cooperation between Russia and NATO in the wake of Russia's annexation of Crimea. Diplomats' access to the alliance headquarters and communications with its international secretariat was restricted, military contacts have frozen.

Yet the new closure of all diplomatic contacts is a perilous new low. Kommersant sources said that the changes will affect the military liaison mission of the North Atlantic alliance in Moscow, aimed at promoting the expansion of the dialogue between Russia and NATO. However, in recent years there has been no de facto cooperation. And now, as Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has announced, the activities of the military liaison mission will be suspended. The accreditation of its personnel will be canceled on November 1.

NATO told RIA Novosti news service on Monday that it regretted Moscow's move. Meanwhile, among Western countries, Germany was the first to respond. "It would complicate the already difficult situation in which we are now and prolong the "ice age," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters.

"Lavrov said on Monday, commenting on the present and future of relations between Moscow and the North Atlantic Alliance, "If this is the case, then we see no great need to continue pretending that any changes will be possible in the foreseeable future because NATO has already announced that such changes are impossible.

The suspension of activities of the Russian Permanent Mission to NATO, as well as the military liaison and information mission in Russia, means that Moscow and Brussels have decided to "draw a final line under the partnership relations of previous decades," explained Andrei Kortunov, director-general of the Russian Council on Foreign Affairs, "These relations began to form in the 1990s, opening channels for cooperation between the sides … but they have continued to steadily deteriorate over recent years."

Kortunov believes the current rupture was promoted by Brussels. "A new strategy for NATO is being prepared, which will be adopted at the next summit of the alliance, and the previous partnership with Russia does not fit into its concept anymore."

The existence and expansion of NATO after the end of the Cold War was the main reason for the destruction of the whole complex of relations between Russia and the West. Today, Russia is paying particular attention to marking red lines related to the further steps of Ukraine's integration into NATO. Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov previously stated this, warning that in response to the alliance's activity in the Ukrainian direction, Moscow would take "active steps" to ensure its security.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!