U.S. President Donald Trump in the White House, January 2017.
Joshua Roberts / REUTERS

A few days before his inauguration as U.S. president, Donald J. Trump took aim at the United States’ most important allies. In an interview co-published by Germany’s Bild and The Times of London on January 15, Trump disparaged NATO as “obsolete,” chastised German Chancellor Angela Merkel for her government’s openness to asylum seekers, and seemed to advocate the breakup of the European Union, calling it a “vehicle for Germany.” Those comments came two days after a different bombshell: on January 13, Anthony Gardner, the outgoing U.S. ambassador to the EU, said that officials from Trump’s transition team had called EU leaders and asked which EU country would be “leaving next.” 

Trump’s words marked an extraordinary departure from the norms of the postwar transatlantic relationship. For decades, the United States and the EU have been each other’s most important foreign policy partners, tightly bound by a

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  • KATHLEEN R. MCNAMARA is Professor of Government and Foreign Service at Georgetown University and the author of The Politics of Everyday Europe: Constructing Authority in the European Union. Follow her on Twitter @ProfKMcNamara.
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