The end of democracy, the end of NATO? | How a Trump Comeback Would Change the World

You don’t have to be a clairvoyant to say that a single election this year will determine the future of the entire world. It’s the U.S. presidential election. As things stand – and almost certainly – incumbent Democratic President Joe Biden and Republican Donald Trump will compete there. And the latter has a good chance of returning to the White House. Joe Biden is losing ground in key swing states. Donald Trump, on the other hand, does not seem to be harmed by the countless court cases and, most recently, the exclusions from the primaries in Colorado and Maine. What is certain is that if Trump wins, the world as we know it will soon look very different. After all, Trump is eager to make plans that he was unable to push through in his first term of office all the more emphatic reality in his comeback – after all, he himself emphasizes this. But what does that mean in concrete terms?

Democracy and the Constitution:

Trump himself has already described himself as a dictator with a view to another term in office. At least on the first day of his presidency, he would be one, he declared in an interview with the TV channel Fox in December. Warnings of a serious threat to democracy are now coming not only from the ranks of the Democratic Party. Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney also sees a “very real threat” if Trump, who continues to question the last election result despite judicial recognition, is re-elected. In an article for the Washington Post, political scientist Robert Kagan compares the United States to the Weimar Republic before Adolf Hitler seized power. Clues to the claim can be found in a speech Trump gave in New Hampshire last December. There, referring to immigrants pouring into the country, he declared: “They are poisoning the blood of our country.”


“Democracy in the U.S. is indeed endangered,” emphasizes political scientist Thomas Jäger from the University of Cologne in an interview. According to Jäger, another term in office is particularly dangerous because, unlike the stumbling first presidency, Trump’s team was able to prepare for it for much longer: “There were people in offices who didn’t know what to do there.” Now they are preparing for a “blitzkrieg” with which institutions are to be hijacked. The Heritage Foundation think tank is already working on a plan called “Project 2025”. It is a 920-page draft by leading ultra-conservative thinkers who want to use an aggressive strategy to advance the reactionary restructuring of the American state. This in itself is nothing out of the ordinary. When a new president arrives, the administration is replaced. The problem, according to Jäger, is that the environment created by Trump is taking on cult-like features. “It’s about Trump believers” who see the ex-president as a god-like savior. Trump himself uses a martyr motif in his speeches, the message is: The Democrats are after you, not me. I’m just getting in their way. Political challengers and dissenters would no longer be seen as adversaries, but fought as enemies. “In the worst-case scenario, Trump can rule by force, bypassing Congress, by talking about an imminent rebellion or insurrection. This has happened again and again in the history of the USA,” explains Jäger.


The days when the US puts its protective cloak over Europe may be numbered. Trump is flirting with a “standby mode” of NATO. He no longer wants to stick his neck out for Europe. He emphasized this back in 2018. At a meeting in the Oval Office, Trump read out a list of NATO countries – Montenegro, Luxembourg, Latvia. No American has ever heard of the countries, Trump said, according to Rolling Stone magazine. In the event of an emergency, he would nevertheless have to “start the Third World War” for these countries. He is not interested in Europe. This is shown in another episode from the Oval Office. In the same year – 2018 – when heads of state of the Baltic countries Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia travel to Washington, Trump reportedly made it clear that he blamed the countries for the war in Yugoslavia. The Baltic presidents were surprised – until they understood that Trump had confused the Baltics with the Balkans. A geographical gap that is devastating in view of the geopolitical situation – Russia is the immediate neighbour of the Baltic States.

According to Article 5 of NATO’s Charter, the alliance is obliged to support members in the event of an attack. But the treaty leaves open how and to what extent one will rush to help. Trump could take advantage of that. In a second term for Donald Trump, the US would “almost certainly” withdraw from NATO, said John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser. This would massively damage Europe’s deterrence capability vis-à-vis RussiaPolitical scientist Jäger does not believe that the US will actually withdraw from NATO: “Trump already propagated the withdrawal from NATO in his first term in office, but then strengthened the armed forces in Europe.” The ex-president is unpredictable. A withdrawal from NATO is “quite possible” in itself, but it is not conducive to the status of the USA. The question also remains open as to whether the pacesetter of the defense alliance could so easily terminate its leading role: “After all, the accession documents of the member states are all in Washington,” Jäger emphasizes.

“It’s a question of prioritization,” emphasizes military strategist and Carinthian military commander Philipp Eder of the Austrian Armed Forces. The U.S. is now orienting itself towards Asia. “The Americans can save money by leaving Europe to the Europeans. But that doesn’t mean we’re going to see a complete retreat. After all, the US wants to continue to be the dominant world power.” And that would only be possible with Europe. In addition, Congress has already taken appropriate steps to prevent a premature exit from NATO: “Trump would need a two-thirds majority in the Senate for this,” Eder emphasizes. However, the Democrats have a majority of 51 seats in the Senate.


Trump also wants to hold Europe accountable with regard to the war in Ukraine. The Republicans are already blocking further funds for Kiev. However, Trump cannot single-handedly cancel military aid. Congress has the final say.

Trump also stands for an anti-Chinese stance and does not shy away from a second trade war. This is doubly dangerous this year. Elections will be held in Taiwan on 13 January. Beijing regards the democratically constituted island as a breakaway province. Experts have already warned – not least since Russia’s attack on Ukraine – of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan. The island is closely linked to the United States. Another war, in which the US appears as a party to the war, could be the result.

And Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is also looking forward to the US elections. Because despite Joe Biden’s military support, a President Trump would be more advantageous for him. Unlike Biden, Trump would ignore the Palestinian issue. The demands for Gazan administration by the Palestinian Authority, as Biden envisions for the post-war period in the Middle East, would be off the table.

At the same time, Trump has a decisive advantage: he can blame Joe Biden for the long war in Gaza – as he did with the withdrawal from Afghanistan – even if Trump had acted in the same way and planted the seeds for the renewed flare-up of the conflict through the Abraham Accords (the de facto peace between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and the promotion of the one-state solution). According to observers, a recurrence of the oil crisis, as in 1973, when the Arab countries punished the West with an oil embargo as part of the Yom Kippur War, could not be ruled out.

Legal allegations:

Donald Trump’s legal problems are immense. Four trials with a total of 91 charges are currently underway against the ex-president. So the question arises: What happens if Trump is found guilty after a possible re-election? As president, Trump has a far-reaching pardon power. Whether he can even pardon himself is a matter of debate among legal experts. However, in the event of a conviction, he could be briefly represented in office and then pardoned by a sympathetic deputy, from whom he would then take over the office again.

If the procedures for a possible inauguration have not yet been completed, Trump could also have an influence. Under U.S. law, an attorney general appointed by him could fire the special counsel appointed by the Biden administration to investigate the allegations against Trump on allegations of incompetence, misconduct or other “good causes.”


A comeback of Donald Trump would also affect the global economy. “America First is always bad for Europe,” says Klaus Weyerstrass of the Institute for Advanced Studies (IHS). Although Joe Biden largely continued the economic policies of his predecessor – only with a friendlier tone – another Trump term would change a lot. “We see that Trump’s entourage has also become highly radicalized in the meantime and that the unifying voices that are interested in transatlantic cooperation and were still there in his first term in office are almost no longer to be found,” said Weyerstrass. Due to the Russian war in Ukraine and the tensions around Taiwan, Europe has recently distanced itself from the aggressors. If the U.S. were to break away as an important partner with which free trade agreements are maintained, prosperity in Europe would be at risk in any case, Weyerstrass predicts.

In any case, the situation is different in the USA. Here, Trump’s nationalist policies would favor some companies. “Trump stands for very open markets within the US, while otherwise he is out to isolate himself,” says Weyerstrass. In any case, U.S. oil and gas companies can benefit from a new term of office for the Republican, especially if Trump again withdraws from the Paris Climate Agreement and other agreements. Such measures and government subsidies could also benefit foreign companies based in the United States. On the other hand, the expert does not expect any major upheavals in the stock markets. There could perhaps be a brief shock here if Trump is elected, but long-term shocks are unlikely to occur

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