Derek Chollet: There Is a Resurgence of Supporters of the Transatlantic Relationship


After eight years of a coherent US foreign policy on Europe, under the Obama administration, the Old Continent now finds itself with the polar opposite in the White House. Will the remnants of Obama’s policy outlive the Trump era?

Derek Chollet is former US Assistant Secretary of Defence for International Security Affairs, vice president and senior advisor for security and defence policy at the German Marshall Fund of the United States. He spoke to Santiago de la Presilla about the future of the transatlantic relationship.

How much of Obama’s legacy will survive in Europe?

The fundamentals of Obama’s approach to transatlantic relationships will survive. We’re going through a period of turbulence with what’s going on in Europe and the United States: the rise of populism, economic nationalism or whatever label you decide to choose to put on it. Within the US context, there has also been a resurgence of supporters of the transatlantic relationship, with the rise of Trump.

President Obama is being unfairly maligned for not doing enough for Europe. I explain with two factors: firstly, there were very high expectations for what Obama could do in Europe; probably unrealistic expectations with the Nobel Peace Prize being a perfect example of that. Secondly, the rebalance to Asia which some called a ‘pivot’, was perceived, in Europe, as less US attention on them.

President Obama likes to say history sometimes zigs and zags but tends to head in a direction of progress. We might be in one of those zig and zag moments.

Derek Chollet
Derek Chollet (courtesy of

Aren’t there some similarities between Obama and Trump’s approaches when it comes to getting Europeans to spend more on defence?

There’s only a similarity at the surface level; the entry point to the debate is completely different. It is absolutely true that presidents, going right back to George W. Bush in 2004, talked about the importance of building up European defence. I remember that ten plus years ago there were debates in Europe and the US on concerns about the widening gap in capabilities. We saw those gaps become clear in the days of Iraq and Afghanistan, and there were concerns about a two-tier alliance.

Certainly, Obama and his defence secretaries have worked very hard to try to get Europeans to spend more. Trump has carried that forward, but he seems to frame the issue in a more transactional way as if this is something that is owed to the US. The lack of European defence spending is seen as ‘ripping us off’.

If you go back to Secretary of Defence, Bob Gate’s, speeches, where he warned of the damage that could be done if this gap in defence spending remained, he meant the danger of the moment we’re now in. He was trying to send the message to European audiences that you cannot assume that the US political body’s patience is infinite. If this continues, we’re susceptible to the kind of debate that Trump is offering.

Obama and Trump can agree that we all want Europeans to do more, but Obama’s perspective has always been that we want to do more together. Trump tends to frame it as ‘we want Europeans to do more so we can do less’.

Who should the Europeans listen to: Mattis, Pence or Trump? Defence Secretary Mattis and Vice President Pence gave the traditional Washington foreign policy message when they were recently in Europe.

It’s important for Europeans to listen to all the voices. Obviously, the president is the president; that being said, there are different viewpoints being expressed within the Trump administration, within the Washington community grid-large and within Congress, all supporting a strong NATO. So far, at least, we have not seen the policy implications of some of Trump’s rhetoric.

Yes, there have been tweets that have maligned NATO and that have talked about European countries in a way that disturbs a lot of people, but this hasn’t been translated into policy. It’s always important to pay attention to what the US says, but more important to pay attention to what the US does. So far, we’ve seen the US doing the same things it was doing before, when it comes to European security; there’s been no change to our forward presence here in Poland and the Baltic region, regardless of what the rhetoric may be.

Hungary is particularly happy about Trump. Orbán almost endorsed him during the campaign. Isn’t the fact that the V4 states rooted for Trump a bit like the turkey that votes for Thanksgiving?

It’s clear that in the US and Europe there are challenges to liberal democracy that are coming from within. These are related to issues of identity, nationalism and economic dislocation, as a result of globalisation. The bargain that was struck in the last few decades has led to economic growth for some but a lot of hardship for others. Certainly, Russia is playing a role, in terms of trying to promote some doubts about liberal democracy. This is a shared concern that we all have, but it’s a mistake to embrace that.

In the US we’re also having a very intense discussion about the free press, the role of dissent and how the government operates. It all comes down to accountability, the rule of law and the freedom of speech. What is very concerning is the role that Russia is playing, they have a stake in this outcome and they’d like to see the democracies of Europe and US as something to be questioned and that people lack confidence in them.

That’s something we’re seeing happen in Europe, as well. It is incumbent in all of us within liberal democracies. All of our systems are being tested now.

Concerning Trump’s proposed budget where defence gets a nine per cent boost, while the State Department gets 28 per cent cut: is this ‘hard power’ budget good for Central Europe when it comes to its defence?

No. The budget is a wish list; an accurate depiction of what Trump desires. It is highly unlikely that this will go through in its current form, and whilst there is support in the US for increasing spending on defence, there is not a lot of support for cutting the State Department and USAID so dramatically. I expect that when this gets to Congress a lot of it will be fixed.

There is pretty close to a bipartisan consensus in the US that you need hard power, a military second-to-none and sufficient spending on building the force of the future, but you cannot short change diplomacy and development. As Defence Secretary Mattis puts it, if you don’t fund the State Department, you’ll just have to buy more bullets.

Despite the Polish government’s (and her own) reservations about her(self), is Angel Merkel the new leader of the free world?

This goes to her persona, as well as Germany’s anxieties about leadership. I don’t think Germany presumes to be the leader of the free world in any way, but they’ve recognised that they’re an important pillar. Merkel is the most experienced leader in Western Europe, or what we call the West. There’s just no one to compare her for her time in office, her degree of success and the credibility that she has on the global stage. The only one who has been on that stage longer is Putin, and of course, he spent a lot of time behind the scenes in 2009-2011.

She has a lot of credibility and she has earned it. She projects steadiness and is a rock solid individual in an environment where there’s so much uncertainty about the US. Trump himself is so erratic that Merkel’s role has become more pronounced. That being said, she’s in a real fight for her own political future.


Warsaw Rising: The Polish Capital’s Skyline Gets Even Taller


Lithuania Handed Top Marks for Business Services

Beautiful panorama of Vilnius Old Town taken from Gediminas hill; Lithuania

Lithuania Set to Streamline Competition Legislation

Industrial dock with cranes on the quay

CEE Must Improve Infrastructure and Logistics

Aerial view of Gliwice Sosnica motorway junction. There are international traffic in four directions

Bulgaria and Romania Get EBRD SME Boost

Startup Diversity Teamwork Brainstorming Meeting Concept

More Brexit Fears As the UK Proves To Be A Needed Member

City of London view from Waterloo Bridge. This view includes: St. Paul`s Cathedral The Gherkin Tower 42 and Blackfriars Bridge.

Lviv Region in Double Logistics Boost

goods train logistics

Growth Increase Offers Glimmer of Hope for Moldova


Economy Minister: Internationalisation Is the Key To the Slovenian Economy

Tech Giant Expands Romanian Operations

The Polish Government’s Mid-Term Report: Must Do Better

Front of finance ministry in Warsaw Poland with a fountain framing the entrance. Could be used for images about Euro currency problems

Romania Cuts Income Tax, Introduces Solidarity Tax

CLUJ NAPOKA ROMANIA - OCT 2 2016: People on the central street of Cluj Napoka - the unofficial capital of Transylvania.

Bosnia and Herzegovina: Focussing on Stability and Business Climate

Sarajevo Bosnia and Herzegovina - August 23 2015. View of Miljacka River in Sarajevo city

EconMin: Bulgaria — Number One Outsourcing Destination And an Island of Stability in Europe

IMF: Institutions Key to Sustainable Growth


Continental Launch Largest Ever Lithuanian Greenfield Investment

kaunas lithuania

EU Commissioner Launches Veiled Attack on Poland and Hungary

eu commission

Serbia, Belarus and Ukraine Ranked Lowly by Wharton Business School

Kyiv Ukraine - April 172017: The postal square in Kiev on Podol the Dnipro river. view of the square from the river panorama

CEE Tech Growth Continues: Poland and the Czech Republic Lead the Way


Emerging Europe to Record Positive Growth Across the Board in 2018

coins growth

Ukraine’s Q2 Growth Climbs

kyiv ukraine emerging europe

Regional News Outlets: The Real Target of Poland’s New Media Law?

poland media

Romanian Economy Grows Fast in 2017

Brasov cityscape panoramic and aerial view over medieval architecture of Brasov town, in Transylvania Romania

Investigations Into the Corrupt Ukrainian Fuel and Energy Sectors

Ukrainian money hryvnia. The national currency. Corruption in Ukraine

Automotive and Transport Companies Dominate the CEE Region

Car bodies on the production line inside automobile factory

Retail Rents Rise Across Emerging Europe

Na Prikope Prague

Non-Financial Reporting No Longer a Secondary Consideration in CEE

HSBC Reports CEE Growth Surge in Q3

romania national bank

IMF Increases Growth Forecast With Emerging Europe Prominent

Dambovita river and center of Bucharest at sunset time Romania.

Czech Election Result Could Delay Euro Adoption Until 2025

czech banknotes nominal value two and five thousand crowns on white background. 300 000 Kc is approximately 12 450 US dollars (USD) or 11 100 Euro (EUR)

Georgia Leads Emerging Europe in Ease of Doing Business Report

Is Prague the New Face of Overtourism?

prague tourists

Sarajevo Stock Exchange Connected to SEE Link

sarajevo stock exchange

Georgia’s Growth Continues

Batumi, Adjara, Georgia - May 27, 2016: Batumi, Adjara, Georgia. Gogebashvili Street Road And Marine Station Or Maritime Station Building Batumi On Background

Romanian Cabinet Reshuffled as New Splits Emerge in Ruling Party

BUCHAREST ROMANIA - MAY 25 2014: The Victoria Palace. Victoria Square.

Does the Sceptre of Separatism Haunt Emerging Europe?

Szekely Land Flag

PE and VC Investment In CEE Is At an Eight-Year High

venture capital

Estonia Leads Baltics in Cutting Sugar in Food and Drink

High Real Estate Prices at Home Force Czech Investors Abroad

Construction of the Petrin lookout tower in Prague Czech Republic

CEE Boosted by Positive Tourism Trends Across the Region

cruise ship in Kotor Bay Montenegro. Aerial view panorama. Kotor bay Montenegro.

Bulgaria: Real Estate’s New Frontier?

Hungary Seen as Riskiest Country in CEE


Slovakia: Growth Continues But Problems Remain

Chris Lowney — What Jesuit Spirituality Can Teach Us About Global Leadership

Macedonia — Stepping Out Of the Shadow Of the Balkans

Valga and Valka – Where Estonia and Latvia Work Together

Valga valka emerging europe

Kraków: Officially Emerging Europe’s Most Elegant City

Krakow. Image of Krakow Market square, Poland during sunrise.

Emerging Europe Back on Track to Convergence


Estonia Proposes Bill of Rights and Responsibilities for Robots

Robotic hand accessing on laptop the virtual world of information. Concept of artificial intelligence and replacement of humans by machines.

Czech Republic Raises Interest Rates

czech koruna

Budapest’s Property Boom Goes Nationwide


Despite Public Anxieties, Migration is Playing a Key Role in ECA Growth

Bratislava city aerial panoramic view. Bratislava is the capital of Slovakia.

Effective Policies Have Strengthened the Georgian Economy

TBILISI GEORGIA Jul. 18 2017: Bridge of Peace is a bow-shaped pedestrian bridge a steel and glass construction over the Kura River in downtown Tbilisi capital of Georgia

Georgian PM Reshapes and Reshuffles Cabinet

Giorgi Kvirikashvili

Baltic Bank Merger May Tempt Polish Heavyweight

DNB Bank Vilnius

Air Passenger Volumes Reach Record High in the Baltics


Emerging Europe Makes Some Progress on Closing Gender Gap

world economic forum gender gap report

TV Still a Star for CME

ICT Growth Continues to Boost Bosnian Economy

ict, it

Putin Urges Belarus to End Oil Transit Through Lithuania

Athens Greece - May 27 2016: Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers

Fitch And the World Bank: Economic Growth To Remain Solid Within CEE In 2016

Hungary Today: Potential and Challenge

Chain bridge on Danube river in Budapest city. Hungary. Urban landscape panorama with old buildings and domes of opera

e-Estonia: Believe the Hype

‘Traditional Values’: A Potent Weapon Against LGBT Rights

gay rights putin

Poland to Switch from Emerging to Developed Market by September 2018

warsaw stock exchange

Škoda too Strong for VW Group

MLADA BOLESLAV CZECH REPUBLIC - MAY 30: Skoda Octavia on conveyor line during Doors Open Day at Skoda Auto a.s. factory. Skoda auto celebrated 120 years since its founding on May 30 2015 in Mlada Boleslav.

21st century Manufacturing Arrives at Great Stone

Great stone

Romanian Car Maker Dacia Sees Sales Boom

Sables d Olonne France - May 07 2017 : Dacia Tour 2017 is a commercial operation organized by the car builder in order to present its cars throughout France - Close-up on cars

Budget Chaos Hits Romanian Leu

Different Romanian Lei Banknotes on the table

Economic Confidence Rises Across Eurozone

Euroscepticism in Serbia: An Image Problem?

Polish Labour Market Deficits Are Impacting All

Construction site with crane and building. Construction site in western europe - in Poland.

Belarus Steps Up Liberalisation of Business


Estonia Leading CEE Country in WEF Competitiveness Index

pharmaceutical factory woman worker operating production line at pharmacy industry manufacture factory

Latvian Deputy Prime Minister Highlights Riga’s Potential


IMF Urges Croatia to Speed Up Reform


Poland’s Q2 2017 Growth Is Stronger Than Expected

WARSAW, POLAND - MAY 07, 2016: Building Palace of Culture and Science among the modern buildings of the city

After Economic Shocks Armenia Plans for Macroeconomic Stability

yerevan armenia minister of finance

Kaczyński Defends PiS Record

Do Your Homework First and Starting Business in Poland is Easier

Poland’s Flying Circus

airport poland

One in Five Poles Unaware of Source of Funds for 500 Plus Programme

CEE Lags in Business Connectivity

ANIS romanian ICT

Meghri Becomes Armenia’s Third FEZ

armenia emerging europe

Go East

Kosovo: A Population of Talented Young Entrepreneurs Waits at Europe’s Door

Lviv Is the Pearl and the Soul of Ukraine

CEE Emigrants Could Boost Their Countries’ Economies

Londoners walking through Millennium Bridge with St.Paul's Cathedral at the background after sunset - London, UK

The Reality in Romania Exposes False Perceptions Of The Country

Košice Business Matchmaking Event Brings in Hungarians

kosice, slovakia

Montenegro Accelerates Legal Reform

montenegro law reform

Business Standards Are High in SEE But Vary Widely

Aerial view of The Cathedral of the Assumption in Varna

Czechs Hold Emerging Europe’s Most Powerful Passport

World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2016 Resume For Emerging Europe

Young Georgians Make Their Mark at Emerging Europe-EBRD Event

maximilien lambertson at emergeing ebrd outlook on georgia

Lech Wałęsa: Hard Options Can Force Nations to Get Down to Work

Changes Are Making Ukrainian Banking More Aligned with International Standards

Nadiya Savchenko: I Dream of a Great Ukraine

Panorama of the top part of the Andrew's Descent from Castle Hill in springtime in Kiev Ukraine.

Beyond Borders: Immigration Within the EU

refugees immigrants

Ukraine Is Offering Europe Unique Combat and Technological Experience

EU May Offer Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine Customs Union and Schengen Access


World Bank: Brexit Hides Greater Challenges to the European Union and the CEE Region

Ukraine to Make New Privatisation Push

Ukraine’s Economic Recovery: Good, But Slow

ukraine money

SEE Link — Sharing SEE Europe’s Hopes for a Brighter Investment Future

GE Inaugurates Its New Bucharest Software Centre

Asian Outsource Developer Team Sitting At Desk Working Laptop Computer Mobile Application Software Real Office

Estcoin: Estonia’s Own Digital Currency?

1 euro coin money (EUR) currency of European Union Estonia over blue background

Still Potential for Growth in CEE as Economies Stabilise

CEE Is Key to China’s Belt and Road Initiative

Shanghai skyline Panoramic view of shanghai skyline and huangpu river Shanghai China

Chinese Electric Car Maker Seeks Emerging Europe Base

zhi dou d2

Visegrad Group Looks East

EU Membership and Transition into Market Economies Have Helped CEE Achieve Social Progress

EU: Consumption Still Driving Growth

Baltics Seek Lockstep With High Tech States

Euro money: Macro view of euro coin and bill. Suitable for financial, monetary, euro or European Union concepts and ideas

Slovenia Sets Green Vehicle Deadline of 2030


Moldova Launches New e-Procurement System In Search For Positive Change

Photo team work process, holding contract hand, signs documents. Account managers young crew works with startup project.New idea presentation, analyze marketing reports.Blurred, film effect, horizontal.

UK Economic Growth Slows as Brexit Uncertainty Bites

flags of UK and EU combined over icons of London - Brexit concept

Poland’s Business Constitution Must Be Finalised

Front of finance ministry in Warsaw Poland with a fountain framing the entrance. Could be used for images about Euro currency problems

Belarus Introduces New Business-Friendly Auditing Procedures

MINSK, BELARUS - AUGUST 15, 2016: Aerial view of the southwestern part of the Minsk with Palace of Sport and old and new other buildings. Minsk is the capital and largest city of Belarus.

Sunday Trading in Poland Under Renewed Threat

Ukraine’s Finance Ministry Wants Urgent Tax Reform

Bad Payers Still Causing Problems for Romanian Firms

Close up Romanian currency note, LEI or LEU, Romania

Jadranka Joksimović: Serbia Takes Its Candidacy of the EU Seriously


Why Was Zapad-2017 So Important?

russian tank belarus zapad

GSA Names Ukraine as UK’s Offshoring Destination of the Year

map of ukraine emerging europe

Global Players Dash for Tempting CEE

dollar pound euro coin on euro background.

Albania’s Construction Sector Supports the Country’s Growth

SARANDA, ALBANIA - MAY 18: View of the city Saranda, most important tourist attraction of the Albanian Riviera on May 18, 2017 in Saranda, Albania.

Polish Shoppers in Hunt for Eggs

eggs in rack

Lithuania Wants to Bring Home its Skilled Workers

VILNIUS - FEBRUARY 25: Many people choose books at the indoor book

Poland Stays Cool on Euro Adoption

Euro cash and Zloty on one photo.

The Azerbaijani Laundromat: Why It Matters

azerbaijani money laundering

Trans Adriatic Pipeline Will Fuel Albanian Growth

Xanthi. Greece - July 30 2017: aerial view of construction of gas pipeline Trans Adriatic Pipeline - TAP in north Greece. The pipeline starts from the Caspian sea and reaches the coast of southern Italy

Poland Is Set To Become a Large Economic Zone

Aerial view over the building materials processing factory. View from above.

Doing Business Across Eurasia Could Be Easier

Eurasia emerging europe schneider group

Larisa Manastirli: Where is Bulgaria After Ten Years in the EU?

A Risky Evaluation of Croatia’s Economy?

ZAGREB, CROATIA - JULY 17, 2017: Square Ban Josip Jelacic with tourists and trams on a summer day in Zagreb. City of Zagreb is the capital of Croatia.

Prospering Czechia Still Needs a Bigger Workforce

prague emerging europe

Ukraine to Restart Privatisation to Realise Profits

Pricatisation electricity ukraine

Digital Business Space Gives All Businesses an Office in Sarajevo

Sarajevo Bosnia and Herzegovina - August 24 2015. View from Vraca Memorial Park with building of Avaz Twist Tower

Serbia Drafts New Competition Law

serbia belgrade flag

IMF Wants Banking Sector Reform in Western Balkans

croatia national bank

CEE Nation Brands Still Behind Western Counterparts

TALLINN ESTONIA- JUNE 17: View of the modern high rise buildings on border with an old part of the city on June 17 2012 in Tallinn Estonia

Baltic States to Launch Combined Capital Market

capital markets

Western Ukraine Could Be an Entry Point into the Country

Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey Launch New ‘Silk Rail’ Link

Lithuania Gives Innovation a StartUp

MILAN ITALY - MAY 2: People visit Lithuania pavilion at Expo universal exposition on the theme of food on MAY 2 2015 in Milan.

Albania’s Economy Booms Despite Political Infighting

Panorama view to the city Tirana Albania

Industrial Production Prices in New Increase


More EU Help for Belarus SMEs

GRODNO BELARUS - DECEMBER 13 2013: Seamstress in textile factory sewing with a industrial sewing machine .

Mayor: Armenia And Its Capital Yerevan Offer Safe Investment And Tourism To a Growing World

China Agrees to Build High-Tech Business Park in Serbia

BELGRADE SERBIA - SEPTEMBER 29 2016: View on the city center and the junction of Rivers Sava and Danube in Belgrade Serbia.

Romania’s Budget Deficit ‘Should Start Alarm Bells Ringing’

BUCHAREST ROMANIA - June 29 2017: Romanian Prime Minister Mihai Tudose during a swearing-in ceremony at Cotroceni palace in Bucharest capital of Romania June 29 2017.

Poles Still Keen on German Jobs

Brandenburg Gate in Berlin in Germany. The Brandenburg Gate is a triumphal arch a city gate in the center of Berlin. It is one of the most known sites in Berlin.

All for One, and One for All


Growth Continues for State-Owned Azerbaijan Airlines

Azerbaijan Baku - September 16 2015: View of the Heydar Aliyev International Airport sign in Baku Azerbaijan. The airport is the home of Azerbaijan Airlines the national flag carrier.

Poland Fails to Spend Billions of Euros in EU Funds

euro banknotes

EY: Belarus’ IT Scene Is Thriving

High tech park minsk

Measure, Strengthen, and Grow

dacia brand

Chickens Blamed for Romanian Budget Deficit

Two white chickens or hens inside a chicken coop or hen house seen through chicken wire.

Latvia Urged Not to Increase Expenditure As Economy Grows

Riga, Latvia - August, 2010: Panorama view from Riga cathedral on old town of Riga, Latvia

Belarus’ Economy Is Slowly Recovering From Past Declines

Hungary’s Solar Dreamer

hand sun and blue sky with copyspace showing freedom or solar power concept

Croatian Salaries Are Growing in Line With Other CEE Countries

Dubrovnik Croatia emerging europe

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *