What Tolkien can tell us about Merkel’s comment on Europe “fighting for its own destiny”

Mrs Merkel said she wanted friendly relations with both countries as well as Russia but Europe now had to “fight for its own destiny”. […]

“The times in which we could completely depend on others are on the way out. I’ve experienced that in the last few days,” Mrs Merkel told a crowd at an election rally in Munich, southern Germany. […]

The relationship between Berlin and new French President Emmanuel Macron had to be a priority, Mrs Merkel said. — BBC

There are multiple threads here. Clearly EU allies were not pleased with the current US administration’s unwillingness to commit to the Paris accords. Nor were they thrilled by the Trump administration’s protectionist rhetoric and railing against German car-makers.

But perhaps the most serious of the breaches was President Trump’s unwillingness to affirm his administration’s commitment to NATO’s Article 5. This is the collective defense portion of the NATO treaty. It obligates all members to respond to an attack on any one member. It was first invoked after the 9/11 attacks, though NATO member states have taken collective defense measures numerous times, thrice at Turkey’s behest after various wars in the Middle-East. More recently collective defense measures are in place after Russia’s annexation of Crimea and concern among Eastern European NATO member states.

The US is treaty-bound to honor its NATO obligations. However, with sole command of the armed forces, the president would decide whether and what resources to commit. When it comes to our nuclear arsenal, the president’s authority is virtually absolute.

So when Angela Merkel says she does not believe Europe can rely on the US, she is at least partly thinking of the scenario below. If she calls for aid, will the US answer?

When troops are outside Berlin’s walls, or missiles in flight, will Donald Trump answer the call? This is an critical question for someone like Merkel, who is tasked with ensuring the safety of over 80 million people, and over 500 million if you include the entire EU. It is a serious responsibility.

Back in March, I’d posted a lengthy diary about the implications of a Trump presidency on nuclear proliferation. For decades, our allies have relied on us and abstained from developing nuclear weapons. This has limited the spread of nuclear weapons.

If Europeans don’t believe they can rely on the US nuclear umbrella, the next obvious step is to develop a credible deterrent of their own. With Brexit imminent, this will not be the UK’s program. It is partly in this light that any discussions between France and Germany must be seen.

But it’s not just Germany or Italy or Poland who are reconsidering what they thought they knew about the US. Other major allies like Turkey, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and South Korea will too. Canada is probably still covered, but most Central/South American states have long been skeptical the US will respond to its mutual defense obligations in the Rio treaty. Will they come up with a deterrent of their own?

Will America First end up meaning America alone?