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European Leaders Gather to Grapple With Donald Trump’s Victory

BRUSSELS — An emergency meeting of European Union foreign ministers on Sunday was the latest sign of the global disquiet in the wake of the election of Donald J. Trump, who has questioned some of the central tenets of American foreign policy.

Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, hastily scheduled the dinner meeting after Mr. Trump ’s victory, which threatens to foment further division in a continent already reeling from crises over Greece’s debt, migration and Britain’s decision to exit the bloc.

A number of European countries face the same powerful populist forces that elevated Mr. Trump. Some, like Hungary, may be prepared to embrace changes that could include warmer ties with Russia. Others, like Poland, want to double down on the decades-old trans-Atlantic alliance, with NATO as its cornerstone.

There were concerns in some European capitals that scheduling the gathering before Mr. Trump appointed a secretary of state or announced his policy agenda would cast too much doubt on his ability to devise a working relationship with Europe.

The British government said that the meeting was unnecessary and that Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson would skip it. Last week, Mr. Johnson dismissed concern over Mr. Trump’s victory as unjustified complaining, or a “collective whinge-o-rama,” by other Europeans.

Jean-Marc Ayrault, the French foreign minister, also would not attend the dinner, a decision that French officials attributed to scheduling issues, and a Hungarian diplomat said Hungary’s foreign minister would not make it, either. Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary described Mr. Trump’s win as “great news” on his Facebook page.

Ms. Mogherini emphasized Europe’s potential to be “a superpower” in an era of global cooperation after Mr. Trump’s victory. But the list of foreign policy challenges that Europe faces has grown longer.

Baltic states like Estonia are newly vulnerable because Mr. Trump has threatened to break with an article of the NATO alliance that obliges the United States to defend all other members in the event of an attack. Mr. Trump has said the guarantee should apply only to those countries that “fulfill their obligations to us.”

Then there is Mr. Trump’s open admiration for Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin. That could make it even more of a challenge for Europe to maintain economic sanctions imposed on Moscow for annexing Crimea and destabilizing Ukraine.

Ahead of the gathering, Jens Stoltenberg, the secretary general of NATO, underscored his concerns by warning in an opinion piece for The Observer, a British newspaper, that the West faces its greatest security challenge in a generation.

“This is no time to question the value of the partnership between Europe and the United States,” Mr. Stoltenberg wrote. “European leaders have always understood that when it comes to security, going it alone is not an option.”

But regional analysts are still grappling with the implications of Mr. Trump’s win, particularly for Europe. “The entire European project has always taken place in the context of American hegemony and the security guarantee, and all of that now is in question,” Hans Kundnani, a senior trans-Atlantic fellow at the German Marshall Fund in Washington, said in an interview on Sunday.

“The argument that Europeans finally pull together as a result of the election of Trump could be very wrong, as it may well sharpen their differences and help pull them even further apart,” Mr. Kundnani said.

Europe also faces the prospect that the Trump administration will pull the United States out of the nuclear accord that Iran reached with a group of world powers that included European Union nations. In September, Ms. Mogherini praised the accord, which restricts Iran’s ability to develop nuclear weapons, calling it of “historic political importance.”

In addition, Mr. Trump also has promised to tear up a landmark global accord to reduce greenhouse gas emissions despite warnings by the United Nations that climate change will sow global unrest by contributing to desertification, heat waves, floods and rising sea levels.

At best, the meeting may give ministers an opportunity to process Mr. Trump’s victory and move forward with a long-planned meeting on Monday to outline incremental steps toward greater defense cooperation.

The plan for greater cooperation, which has been in the works since long before the United States presidential election, is intended to complement NATO, rather than provide an alternative to American-backed collective defense. An outline of the plan, which was still being discussed on Sunday, is expected to recommend steps toward more joint military procurement, activating dormant battle groups and centralizing more military decision-making in Brussels.

That will do little to address the immediate threats to the bloc from Turkey’s slide toward authoritarianism, the war in Syria and Russian aggression in Ukraine.

Some member states, including Austria, were expected to push on Monday to suspend talks with Turkey about its application for membership in the European Union because of a crackdown by the Turkish government after an attempted coup in July. But no immediate decisions were expected.

Source: NYT > World

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