by Brent Budowsky
For the first time in American presidential history, when President Donald Trump visits the capitals of America’s democratic allies in Europe, our president will be greeted by massive demonstrations of passionate Europeans deeply concerned about the future of freedom and democracy in our country and across their continent.
2017 will be one of the most important years in the modern history of Europe. European unity and democracy are challenged by Russian President Vladimir Putin, a dictator who seeks to subvert and discredit liberal democracy, and President Trump, who foments disunity everywhere, repeatedly praises Putin and insults our democratic allies including leaders of Germany, Australia and Mexico.
In the battle of Europe that takes center stage in 2017, European unity and democracy are challenged by a series of crucial elections where far right parties would take Europe back to the early 1930s. They are competing first in the Netherlands and France, to be followed by critical elections in Germany and potentially Italy.
Until recently analysts expected the other finalist in May to be Francois Fillon, a pro-Putin conservative who favors harsh economic austerity but is now embroiled in a financial scandal. While the situation in France is fluid, at this time the most likely opponent of Le Pen will be Emmanuel Macron, the fast-rising former minister in the Socialist government who is now running as a center-left independent.
This week The Washington Post and BBC reported that Macron is under attack from sources with Russian ties that are spreading malicious rumors against him. Putin may be employing the same tactics of espionage and covert action to support Le Pen and defeat Macron that he used to support Trump and defeat Hillary Clinton, which remains under investigation by U.S. authorities.
A future column will further consider this “war of the worlds” in the battle of Europe that will involve repeated Russian attacks against champions of liberal democracy in other European nations, fueled by the far right in Europe, aiming to destroy European unity and undermine NATO and Western security.
A recent story in The New York Times highlighted skyrocketing sales in France of books discussing the fears of political doom and decline in Europe and France.
There is indeed a crisis of confidence in democracy across Europe and America, but let me offer here a counterthesis.
The rise of Trump, far right parties in Europe and Russian aggression against democracy may well create a counter-reaction that could ultimately bring Europe closer together by mobilizing the left, center and all who reject anti-semitic and anti-Muslim bigotry and reject the aggressive nationalism and jingoism that drenched Europe in the bloodshed that gave birth to NATO and the EU.
Presidents Kennedy and Reagan visited Berlin to speak great truths about freedom and rally a continent that first defeated fascism and then communism with the unity of America and Europe after World War II.
Kennedy and Reagan, who spoke truths about tearing down walls and building up alliances, would reject Trump, who speaks many falsehoods and would create new walls, and would reject voices of hatred and extremism in nations across Europe.
Let Trump come to Berlin, and stand where Kennedy and Reagan stood, and praise Vladimir Putin. This Trump will dare not do because he fears peaceful armies of protestors who will stand against him in the great battle for Europe, if he does.