Most political leaders across Europe must be horrified at the notion that Donald Trump may be re-elected President of the United States.
The main concerns in Portugal are about Trump’s denial of global warming and his criticism of NATO countries. This could cause more climate, military and economic insecurity.
The election is still more than a year away, but European officials are already preparing for a Republican defeat of the democrat Joe Biden with whom Europeans have got on exceptionally well.
The United States has become a strongly divided nation, largely because of Trump. An increasing number of Americans are choosing to move to Portugal. Nearly 1.4 million people of Portuguese descent live in the US today, but the number has been decreasing. Meanwhile, Trump continues to have many millions of far-right followers all across America.
There are concerns that the present close cooperation between the US and the EU on all major issues could abruptly end with a government led by Trump or even his current far-right rival Ron DeSantis.
A recent fact check by the broadcaster CNN reported that “Trump has been using wildly inaccurate figures to minimise the threat of climate change”. For example, he has repeatedly defended his opinion by using “imaginary statistics” on the non-extent to which sea levels are expected to rise.
Yet, accurate figures on rising sea levels are precisely one of Portugal’s biggest climate change worries.
Trump told Fox News last month that talk of sea level rises was all “nonsense”. As for the severe or extreme droughts and wildfires predicted as we head towards summer, Trump apparently could not care less.
While Portugal is well known to be one of the most vulnerable countries in Europe to climate change, the United States is the world’s second largest greenhouse gas polluter and, like China, India and Russia, it is still not doing enough to bring down CO2 levels. It is likely to do even less under a Trump administration.
On the war in Ukraine, Trump said last week that ending it would be a priority for him. On the surface, that sounded good. In typical Trump rhetoric, he went on to say he could end it in 24 hours but didn’t say how. The trouble with this sort of claptrap, on top of Trump’s past harsh criticism of NATO, is that it could weaken the bipartisan support for the alliance across the America Congress and amongst the American people.
Having escalated into a full-scale war, there is a danger that the situation in Ukraine is now threatening to expand and bring Europe back to an even more precarious situation than when Trump was last in power up to a year and a month before President Putin’s “special military operation”.
Trump and Putin share a common characteristic: they disregard the truth. Putin shows no sign of ending the war, but it is clear he would greatly welcome a return of Trump to the White House. The Kremlin leader must be well aware that European countries have scaled back their military capabilities since the Cold War.
Europe could not replace the US dominance in providing weaponry and ammunition for Ukraine. Russia might be too strong for Ukraine.
Portugal has provided military equipment to Ukraine, though on a far smaller scale than other European countries, especially the UK and Germany. All European countries, including Portugal, but more especially the UK and Germany, are now going through an economic crisis. As of last week, Germany is in recession.
The war in Ukraine and the energy crisis have disrupted the EU economy. In Portugal, an improved outlook amid persistent challenges is forecast. Meanwhile, the further tightening of Western sanctions against Russia announced at the G7 summit in Japan last week indicate that the sanctions have so far failed in the face of strong Kremlin resistance.
So much is hanging in the balance with Trump’s re-election hopes. What are his chances of winning? Opinion polls place him well ahead of his only republican opponent, Ron DeSantis. Polls also suggest that public support for Biden’s staunch backing of Ukraine’s war efforts are falling, but that the odds are in favour of him winning a second term. That could well change in the months ahead.
COMMENT By Len Port
Len Port is a journalist and author based in the Algarve. Follow Len’s reflections on current affairs in Portugal on his blog: algarvenewswatch.blogspot.pt