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Bracing for US election, Europe’s leaders seek to Trump-proof policies

Iowans may have been cold this week as they braved freezing temperatures to vote in the Republican caucus, but their choice of candidate sent political shivers through America’s allies in Europe.

One concern: what a Donald Trump presidency would mean for Ukraine, and how Europe might make up the inevitable arms shortfall if Washington were to back away.

Why We Wrote This

Donald Trump’s Iowa caucus victory has concentrated European minds on the possibility of a second presidential term. They fear it, and they are not ready for what it might bring.

But at a deeper level, political leaders fear for the entire fabric of the decades-old trans-Atlantic alliance, involving trade, defense, and security. That could unravel should Mr. Trump return to the White House.

Last week, the head of the European Central Bank, Christine Lagarde, sounded a warning. Judging from Mr. Trump’s first term, she said, his return to power would be “clearly a threat” to Europe.

Just look, she said, at his liberal use of trade tariffs, his weak commitment to NATO, and his refusal to join the fight against climate change.

But Europe is still far short of having a credible Plan B, either for arming Ukraine or to safeguard itself against an emboldened Vladimir Putin if Washington were to retreat from its European commitments.

Belgian Premier Alexander De Croo this week called on Europeans to face up to that, and to “put Europe on a more solid footing, stronger, more sovereign, and more self-reliant.”

Iowans this week braved record-cold temperatures to kick off the race for this year’s Republican presidential nomination. And their verdict – a comfortable win for Donald Trump – sent political shivers through America’s key allies in Europe.

Their immediate concern was what a second Trump presidency would mean for Ukraine. The Iowa result has brought a new sense of urgency to Europe’s efforts to find a “Trump-proof” way of ensuring Kyiv has the arms and ammunition to keep fending off Russian forces, even if Washington were to back away.

But there is also a far deeper worry.

Why We Wrote This

Donald Trump’s Iowa caucus victory has concentrated European minds on the possibility of a second presidential term. They fear it, and they are not ready for what it might bring.

It is that the entire fabric of the decades-old trans-Atlantic alliance – involving trade and tariffs, defense and security – could unravel should Mr. Trump follow up his Iowa victory with further primary wins and ultimately return to the White House.

The key concern is NATO, the military alliance that has long provided bedrock security. Europe is still far short of having a credible Plan B, either for arming Ukraine, or to safeguard itself against an emboldened Vladimir Putin if Washington were to retreat from its European commitments.

All this may sound like the kind of apocalyptic scenario spun by pundits in search of a catchy headline.

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