There is a growing likelihood that Donald Trump will return to the White House in Jan. 2025. Europe must act now to be ready to protect its democracy without relying on its U.S. ally.
PARIS — I get criticized for working too often off the worst-case scenario. Yet recent events, in France and just about everywhere else in the world, should have by now convinced even the most optimistic that the worst-case is in fact never impossible. The best approach, in any case, is to be prepared.
It is not too late then to prepare for a certain hypothesis that is more likely every day: the return of Donald Trump to the White House following the next U.S. election on Nov. 5, 2024.
To understand the importance of such an event, just imagine what the world situation would be like today had he been re-elected in November 2020.
A whole different Ukraine
The United States would certainly not have imposed sanctions against Russia; they would provide no military support to Ukraine; Britain, always following the footsteps of its American mentor, would undoubtedly have done no better; Germany would have been happy to save its Russian gas and oil supplies and turned a blind eye. And we would have found many voices in France to recall that the conflict in Ukraine is not our war, and that the Russian alliance is a fundamental basis of French geopolitics.
This conflict would therefore have ended long ago with the collapse of the Ukrainian army and economy, regardless of the courage and skills of the Ukrainians.
President Trump of 2025 would be very different from President Trump of 2017.
On many other matters, Trump's presence in the White House would have changed everything: He would have continued to display his hostility to anything that could strengthen the European project; the Supreme Court's new doctrine on abortion would have long been implemented. Only on the fierce desire to counter China on all grounds would there be a consensus between the two major parties fighting for power in Washington.
Grim prospects for democracy
The hypothesis of a return of Trump to the Oval Office is now more than likely. President Biden is deeply unpopular. The Democrats will lose the interim elections next November. The Republican Party is entirely in the hands of Donald Trump. He is already choosing who will run for governor and senator among the Republicans and he has gladly confided to his most recent private visitors that he will be a candidate in 2024.
But make no mistake: President Trump of 2025 would be very different from President Trump of 2017. He would hold the power over the two legislative chambers, the Supreme Court and most of the media. And he might refuse to make this second term to be his last.
It can be said without exaggeration that the United States would cease to be a democracy. And even those who today praise his results in this or that sector will no longer be able to support him without repudiating the most fundamental values of democracy.
Pro-Trump demonstration in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 23
Two deeply divided Americas
Of course, nothing has happened yet, and many things can happen between now and then. A bright Democratic candidate can appear, capable of reconciling today’s two deeply divided Americas, which are on the verge of civil war even, as racially motivated shootings prove more frequently. Who knows? We could even witness the arrival of another Republican candidate, who could show middle America that such populist withdrawal is suicidal.
Of course, we Europeans cannot intervene in such an election. But we can — actually, we must — prepare for such a possibility. If only because its likelihood would motivate some, particularly in the Kremlin, to drag out the current conflict long enough for Trump to withdraw all support for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
And because we are absolutely not prepared to live in a world where the United States would become a totalitarian country, threatened by civil war, and refusing any solidarity with the other continents, let alone with Europe. A country that could even carry out Trump's repeated threat to leave NATO.
The future of Europe
We would then have to fend for ourselves against any external threat. And this is a situation we absolutely cannot afford.
If we wait to be faced with a fait accompli, if here and elsewhere we go for a denial of reality, it will soon be too late to act. The Biden interlude can make us believe for a little longer that we will never be alone and that the United States will always be there to fight for democracy in Europe.
It is an illusion. And it would be criminal for the future of prosperity and democracy in Europe to have them depend on elections in another country, not matter how friendly they currently are.
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