“The West as we once knew it no longer exists,” Der Spiegel’s editors wrote. “Our relationship to the United States cannot currently be called a friendship and can hardly be referred to as a partnership. President Trump has adopted a tone that ignores 70 years of trust.”
Then there are the hard facts. Europe’s trade with the United States is incomparably larger than its trade with Iran, and even if Britain, France and Germany — co-signers of the Iran accord, along with China, the European Union, Russia and the United States — try to maintain the Iran deal and support their companies against so-called secondary sanctions by Washington, many European banks and industries would be wary of defying America’s enormous economic clout, and especially the reach of its banking system.
Mr. Trump, who has long complained about Germany’s trade surplus and Europe’s low military spending, is not overly sympathetic to Europe’s economic or security concerns, and even less so with the überhawkish John Bolton now as his national security adviser. In a phone call to British, French and German officials last Wednesday, Mr. Bolton said there would be no sanctions exemptions for European companies.
The anger in Europe, however, is not so much about the cost of renewed sanctions as about the total, humiliating disdain for the Europeans’ arguments, and, by extension, for the trans-Atlantic alliance and all it has stood for since World War II. If Europeans allowed other powers, including allies, to make security decisions for them, “then we are no more sovereign and we cannot be more credible to public opinion,” Mr. Macron said in a statement that echoed the sentiments of many of his European neighbors.
There have been bitter differences before, notably over the war in Iraq, but to Europeans, Mr. Trump’s contempt is of a higher order, an arrogant mind-set that even on matters of paramount global importance, America will do what it wants without giving a damn for the interests of its closest allies.
That was made stunningly clear by a tweet from the new ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, shortly after he presented his credentials last Tuesday, declaring that German companies doing business in Iran “should wind down operations immediately.” To the Germans, that was an unacceptable order to fall in line, and Mr. Grenell’s subsequent assurances that there would be no trade war did little to temper the outrage.