13. The mood in Washington on that other cranky authoritarian state, Vladimir Putin’s Russia, is also an article of bipartisan conviction. Despite Trump’s own strange affinity for Putin, I see little prospect that widespread (and understandable) suspicion of Russia, born of its aggression in Ukraine and its meddling in American politics, is going to ease anytime soon.
14. It would certainly be a welcome step if Trump and Putin extended the New START treaty—the last remaining pillar in U.S.-Russian arms control, and an important guardrail in a combustible major-power relationship. Over time, Americans and Europeans may both see some space for artful diplomacy with Moscow, as Russians chafe at being China’s junior partner and realize that the Belt and Road Initiative is meant in part to subordinate their influence in Eurasia. But that won’t happen in 2020, or for some time to come.
15. In the Middle East, our frictions with the Trump administration are nearly as numerous as the dysfunctions of the region itself. The Iranian nuclear agreement, briefly a reminder of what Americans and Europeans can accomplish together, is on life support. If Trump’s “deal of the century” between Israelis and Palestinians is finally unveiled in 2020, its one-sidedness will likely bury what little is left of the two-state solution, and deepen U.S.-European differences. Trump’s not-so-benign neglect of Africa also matters to us—and not in a good way—given the consequences for Europe of insecurity on a continent exploding demographically.
Read: We led successful negotiations with Iran. Trump’s approach isn’t working.
16. Trump will continue to plow stubbornly backwards from the Paris Agreement, doing more existential harm to all of us. There will remain over the coming year the risk of more trade conflicts with EU states—and little likelihood of serious progress toward the U.S.-U.K. bilateral trade pact that Trump has dangled before Brexiteers. We’re also likely to continue to spin our wheels in discussions with the Americans about how best to maximize the benefits and minimize the dislocations of the technology revolution, a huge missed opportunity, since the Chinese are not sitting idly by while we get our act together.
17. So it’s hard to be much of an optimist about where we’re headed with the Americans, but I realize that gloom is not a strategy; 2020 will be another year of containing the damage. If Trump is reelected, we’ll have to manage as best we can, playing to his vanity and coping with his impulsiveness and dismissiveness of alliances and institutions. But I fear a mutually destructive uncoupling between the United States and Europe, leaving both of us less capable of dealing with a very unforgiving and competitive international landscape.
18. If Trump loses next November, wounded by the impeachment process and a gradually slowing economy, having worn out voters beyond his defiantly loyal base, we’ll face a much more welcome but still complicated challenge. The natural reaction if a Democrat replaces Trump will be a sigh of relief audible across the Atlantic, and an early round of self-congratulatory visits and restorationist rhetoric. We’ll be tempted to think that we can quickly turn the clock back, tinker around the edges of the transatlantic alliance, and sail merrily ahead.