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President Trump, the EU and the UK
30th August 2018 @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pmFree
Kenneth R. Weinstein is President and Chief Executive Officer of Hudson Institute. Dr. Weinstein is political theorist by training, whose academic work focuses on the early Enlightenment and international affairs. He serves as Chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the oversight body for U.S. government civilian international media, including the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia and Middle East Broadcasting. Weinstein previously served by presidential appointment and Senate confirmation on the National Humanities Council, the governing body of the National Endowment for the Humanities. He is the co-editor, with Paul Aligica, of The Essential Herman Kahn: In Defense of Thinking. Dr. Weinstein graduated from The University of Chicago, the Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris and Harvard University.
On August 30th the Henry Jackson Society had the pleasure of hosting Dr Ken Weinstein the president and CEO of the Washington-based Hudson Institute. The topic of discussion was President Trump and his relationship with the European Union and the implications it has on the United Kingdom. The lunchtime event was chaired by HJS’s executive director Dr Alan Mendoza and it concluded with a lively and insightful Q&A session.
Dr Weinstein opened his talk by explaining that his intentions were to cut through the smoke and mirrors, offhand tweets and the misconceptions surrounding the president. Instead, he would focus primarily on the policies Trump has implemented; touching on the psychology behind his antagonistic rhetoric and attempt to unravel the enigma that is Donald Trump – a form of analysis now termed as ‘Trumpsplaining’, he added.
He began by rationalising the president’s unconventional political style and disregard of protocol. Dr Weinstein attributes it to his personal background, in particular, the establishment’s rejection of the Trumps. His outsider status nevertheless, explained Dr Weinstein, is what convinced the electorate that he can bring real change that would benefit the broad public. Consequently, he has altered the image of the Republican Party as one that now also represents the interests of the ordinary blue-collar American. The fact that Trump has no political background and is by profession a negotiator explains, according to Dr Weinstein, why his methods of diplomacy are so unusual and heavily rely on pressure through threat, the use of leverage and other hard-line deal-making tactics.
Whilst past presidents have nurtured the EU and considered it a bulwark of Western civilisation, Trump has made disparaging remarks about the institution and clearly does not hold the Union in high regard. Dr Weinstein proposed several reasons for this: Firstly, Trump perceives the EU as part of the establishment and the global elite whose primary concern is to sustain a status quo that he is trying so hard to dislodge. Secondly, Trump is of the opinion that the EU underappreciates the significant contributions of the US to the world. Moreover, Trump is a strong believer in limited government and maintains the EU is over-regulatory and has often been held hostage by Germany. Dr Weinstein emphasised that it is important to understand that Trump conceives sovereignty in very concrete terms, for instance, national identity; and he conceptualises the EU as an institution that has essentially surrendered sovereignty to bureaucracy.
Concerning the UK, Dr Weinstein noted that Washington is increasingly looking to London to maintain and strengthen bilateral defence relations and international security projects. Furthermore, Brexit played a role in Trump’s presidential campaign as he found his “America first”, anti-EU rhetoric resonated with his audiences. He has not commented much on the current Brexit talks but is certainly watching closely how the situation unfolds. Most likely, Dr Weinstein predicts, Trump would prefer a Hard-Brexit as it weakens the EU – which benefits the US – and an unencumbered Great Britain would be an opportunity to deepen the “special relationship”.
The conversation moved on to Trump’s serious concerns over NATO and the WTO. In his eyes both organisations need major reforms and Dr Weinstein believes that these issues are at the top of Trump’s agenda. Furthermore, Trump is pushing forcefully for more trilateral talks with Japan and the EU to counterbalance the economic threat China poses to the US. The Q&A session concluded with an interesting discussion in the hypothetical case that the Democrats take control of the House. Dr Weinstein believes that policy progress would slow down dramatically and calls for impeachment would certainly escalate but was adamant that it would be to no avail.