Trump’s diplomatic downgrade of the EU is
seen as another snub… what else do vassals expect?
By Finian Cunningham
January 11, 2019 "Information Clearing House" - European
Union officials are up in arms over the Trump administration’s
demotion of its US ambassador. The downgrade is viewed as yet
another slight from a president who has contempt for
supranational bodies like the EU.
But, strictly speaking, in terms of diplomatic protocol, the Trump
administration is correct. The conventional position of ambassador is a
representative envoy between two states. The EU gained an
ambassadorship to the US – in addition to envoys from its 28 member
states – at the discretion of former President Barack Obama, who
created the position in September 2016.
Why should the EU have such a privilege? For example, the African
Union, which comprises twice as many states and more than double the
population of the EU, is classed as an “international
organization” in Washington’s ranking of diplomatic
If the EU were given an ambassador role, then why shouldn’t the AU,
or any other regional bloc, such as the Commonwealth of Independent
States that includes Russia, or the Asian group ASEAN?
Trump’s downgrade of the EU from ambassador to international
organization with a “head of delegation” is therefore a step
to normalize diplomatic protocol, by reverting to the status quo ante
that existed before Obama’s questionable decision to bestow the
European bloc with exceptional privilege.
Having said that, it was the way Trump did it that irked the Europeans.
The US side “ forgot” to notify the EU of the demotion when
it went into effect at the end of October. Brussels reportedly only found out about the change of status
when its ambassador David O’Sullivan was left out of official
Apparently, the conspicuous occasion was the state funeral for President
H.W. Bush on December 5, when the EU diplomat was not on the usual roll
call of ambassadors. He found himself ranked with the African Union. It was
then that European querying led to the news that the EU no longer had an
The furore has reportedly spurred the Trump administration to reverse
its decision and reinstate the EU ambassador. That’s not the end of the
matter, however. Brussels is said to be still formulating an official response to
what it views as an extraordinary snub from the Trump White House.
Several EU politicians and diplomats have voiced outrage over the fact
that the diplomatic demotion even occurred.
“The US Congress has been sent an open letter by EU parliamentarians
fuming over the sidelining of the EU’s mission in Washington,”
reports Deutsche Welle. “The MEPs again accuse
President Donald Trump of eroding transatlantic relations.”
Daniela Schwarzer, of the German Council on Foreign Relations, is
quoted by the New York Times as saying: “The
downgrade symbolizes the contempt the US president has shown for the EU
and its supranational nature.”
There has been criticism too in American official circles. Nicholas
Burns, a former diplomat in the G.W. Bush administration, described Trump’s
decision as a “gratuitous, unreasonable swipe at the EU”.
What’s peeving the Europeans is that the move seems to have been an
arbitrary political decision. If Trump was merely normalizing diplomatic
ranking of the EU, then he should have made the call when his
administration took over from Obama. But it was almost two years in office
before Trump downgraded the EU ambassador. That smacks of a whimsical
decision laden with an uncomplimentary political message.
Over the past year, Trump has been ramping up the rhetoric deriding the
EU. Back in July, he even called the European bloc a “foe” alongside
China and Russia in terms of international trade. Trump has been
haranguing the Europeans for “taking advantage of the US” with
alleged unfair trading practices. His venom is particularly reserved for
Germany, which he accuses of dumping cars into the US market.
And, of course, the EU members of NATO are constantly lambasted by this
American president for not spending enough on military budgets and
“freeloading” on US protection. At times, he has even warned he
might pull the US out of NATO. (That’s an idle threat for several strategic
reasons to do with America’s military power projection over Europe, but
that’s another story.)
Trump’s tearing up of US participation in the Iran nuclear accord in May
last year was also another poke in the eye for European “allies.”
He brushed off their appeals to uphold the international agreement,
ignoring their concerns about regional security and multi-billion-dollar
In his first cabinet meeting of the new year, Trump let loose on a
question about his low poll ratings among the European public. He
retorted: “I don’t care!”
Then last month, on December 4, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
delivered a remarkable speech in Brussels in which he openly questioned the
relevance of multilateral institutions, specifically the EU and United
Pompeo, like his boss in the White House, is a self-declared nationalist
with a derogatory view of supranational bodies. The top diplomat is also
seen as a cipher for Trump, so when he mouths criticism, it’s as good as
With this background, it’s no wonder the EU has reacted with alarm over
Trump’s downgrading of the bloc’s diplomatic status. The notion of a
special “transatlantic partnership” is rudely dispelled under
Trump. The move resonates with the cynical old saying: there’s no such
thing as allies, only interests.
Nevertheless, it’s hard to have any sympathy for the Europeans. Trump
may be offending them, but all their protesting is just so much whining.
How many putdowns, how many slights, how many slaps in the face does the
European political class need before it goes beyond whining and actually
take decisive action to chart a policy direction independent from
For nearly eight decades since WWII, European governments and the EU
bloc have served as nothing but vassals to Washington. They are subservient
to US neoliberal capitalism privileging big banks and business over the
democratic needs of people; they are subservient to US militarism, allowing
its NATO machine to roll all over Europe, while indulging Washington in its
criminal overseas wars, killing millions of people, unleashing terrorism
and mass refugee flows.
Tragically, too, the European vassals have allowed Washington’s
anti-Russia ideology to poison relations with Europe’s biggest neighbor,
and arguably, most natural political, economic and cultural partner.
The nadir is how European territory is turned into a launching pad for
US missiles against Russia. It is only the pathetic obeisance of European
governments that permit such an obscenity – an obscenity which offends the
rights of European citizens as much as it does Russians.
Trump’s slap in the face to the EU over its privileged ambassador
position is well deserved. European self-importance is overblown and full
of effete flatulence. Until EU leaders really begin to stand up to
Washington’s hegemonic arrogance and truly assert the rights of their
people – especially in regard to peaceful relations with Russia – then
European officialdom should be treated with the contempt that vassals
Finian Cunningham has written
extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several
languages. He is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked
as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge,
England, before pursuing a career in newspaper journalism. He is also a
musician and songwriter. For nearly 20 years, he worked as an editor and
writer in major news media organisations, including The Mirror, Irish Times
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