How a Second Trump Term Could Destroy NATO

Two Tornados of the German air force's tactical air wing 51 "Immelmann" during a flyby as part of a return roll call at NATO's Schleswig/Jagel Air Base. (Photo by Christian Charisius/picture alliance/Getty Images)

A second term for Donald Trump—the prospect of which cannot be ignored—would likely have devastating consequences for Ukraine. Trump has been highly critical of American support for the war effort, without which Ukraine would likely lose. But there’s an even more serious consequence of U.S. abandonment of Ukraine: the end of NATO.

To understand how that could happen, you have to understand European federalism, an ideology that has nothing in common with what Americans call federalism: While American federalism emphasizes the value and necessity of local government, European federalism calls for the centralization of power in the hands of the EU. It strives to transform Europe into a federation in which national governments are nothing more than regional authorities tasked with carrying out Brussels’ directives. This vision is popularly known as the “United States of Europe.” 

European federalism became popular among intellectuals and certain policy-makers in Europe in the aftermath of World War II. When what today is known as the European Union was founded, it was a narrow organization concerned mainly with ensuring the ease of trade of coal and steel across its then-six member states. But even the Treaty of Rome, the founding treaty of what was then the European Economic Community, had the fingerprints of federalism, stating that its aim was to lay the foundation for an “ever closer union between the peoples of Europe.” A union of nations that grows ever closer does inevitably become a superstate. The founding fathers of the European Union were aware of this, and many of them, including Konrad Adenauer, actually spoke rather candidly about their hope that their project would one day create such a superstate.

The appetite for federalism came from two sources: Some supported it simply in the belief that it was the only way to guarantee peace in Europe at a time when the continent had just suffered two horrendous wars in a span of less than 30 years. This was an admirable ambition, but was only half of the reason federalism caught on: Politicians from former or declining empires looked with despair at how Europe’s influence on the world stage was waning. Finding themselves in this helpless situation deeply wounded the pride of Europe’s political leaders. 

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