Europe's relationship with the United States has always been a complicated one. Over the decades there have been periods when Americans haven't felt particularly welcome on the continent. Stories of students from the United States sewing Canadian flags on their backpacks to avoid incidents of rampant anti-Americanism are not apocryphal. Canadians hold a passport that is embraced almost anywhere. Their neighbours to the south, not so much.
Things had improved dramatically under Barack Obama. Like most of the world, Europe was captivated by the U.S. president's smarts and charisma, not to mention his progressive politics. Mostly, Mr. Obama was not George W. Bush, the predecessor much of Europe hated. All of which is to say any young Americans heading off this summer to see Rome, Athens and other European environs may want to invest in a small Canuck flag before they do. The rise of Donald Trump has helped ensure that anti-Americanism throughout the EU and Great Britain is back with a vengeance.
Joe Biden predicted this. Last summer, when Mr. Trump was still a long-shot presidential candidate running on a nativist, nationalist platform, the then-vice-president said the reality-TV star's proposed policies would cause a "corrosive rift" throughout the hemisphere. Mr. Trump's embrace of Vladimir Putin at a time of Russian aggression wouldn't help either.
He was right.
While political leaders in Europe and Britain have tried to remain reasonably diplomatic in their views of the new U.S. President, social commentators have been unsparing in their hostility towards him. Der Spiegel, one of the largest-circulation publications in Europe, recently had a cover with a great meteor in the shape of Mr. Trump's head hurtling towards the earth. The headline said: "The End of the World (as we know it)."
The early take on Mr. Trump is that he has no interest in carrying on the title: leader of the free world. Rather, he seems intent on building a much more insular-looking, anti-globalization foreign policy. There are questions being asked about what will happen to those areas of Europe, especially potentially vulnerable nations in the Eastern flank, looking for U.S. leadership. There is a sense the new President has ushered in a dangerous era of instability. The President's cozy relations with Mr. Putin have doubtlessly given German Chancellor Angela Merkel a headache as well.
The skepticism Mr. Trump has expressed about man-made climate change has also dismayed many on the continent, where the matter is taken seriously. Most see the President's desire to power up the U.S. economy a priority he intends to achieve at any cost, even if it means blackening the skies. In a piece entitled, "The End of Enlightenment" which recently ran in the popular German newspaper Die Zeit, author Adrian Daub laments: "Donald Trump is the remnant of a dying America. He has turned the country from a multicultural lighthouse into an isolated island of white people who are afraid of their own shadow."
In Britain, Owen Jones writing in the Guardian says: "Trumpism is, by nature, an authoritarian movement that regards democratic norms as dispensable if they fail to serve political ends. If the American people accept the legitimacy of this president, they normalize this would-be tyrant and it will only embolden him." It's a sentiment expressed in much of the analysis across Europe these days.
We are already seeing a massive backlash in Britain over the invitation Prime Minister Theresa May recently extended to Mr. Trump to meet with the Queen. It didn't take long for thousands to march in the street, denouncing the overture. A petition calling for the invitation to be rescinded is closing in on two million signatures. Even the Queen is believed to be not happy about what transpired; the overture by Ms. May was apparently made a year prematurely.
I doubt Mr. Trump worries too much about whether Europe likes him. He doesn't like the EU. He sees it as a group of countries that gave up their sovereignty, their identity, which is something he fears the United States has given up too.
Europe sees Mr. Trump as the archetypal gauche, gold-chain-wearing, cigar-smoking, Ugly American, whose idea of seeing Europe's historic capitals is something best done in the back seat of a limo.
A deep chill is descending on the U.S.-European alliance. There could soon be a run on Canadian flags.