For Moscow, Trump’s hostility towards allies may look like an opportunity to close ranks with Europe, end EU-Russia hostility, normalize trade and mobilize a challenge to U.S. “America First” unilateralism.
But don’t bet on it. Russia actually stands to gain from a United States weakened by Trump’s disruptive rhetoric. If anything, Moscow will work tactically to drive the wedge between the U.S. and the EU even further.
Nor will Moscow ally itself with EU leaders against Trump. Moscow might have endorsed Europe’s decision to stay with the Iran deal, but it will not push for Macron’s move to now accommodate Washington’s new demands. Russia may join Europe in retaliating against U.S. tariffs on steeland aluminum, but Russia’s trade with the United States is symbolic.
Russia will never join the EU in opposition to Trump’s America. It will play one against the other, like when Putin humiliated Macron by offering Russian security guarantees in place of America’s.
The Kremlin’s view of the world is closer to Trump’s than it is to Merkel’s or Macron’s. Both Putin and Trump resent the international rules-based order as an unnecessary constraint on their freedom to act; they see it as encroaching on their sovereignty. Both see “the rules” not as obligations that bind countries, large and small alike, but as “deals” between major powers and their leaders to be implemented with scant regard for their consequences for smaller nations.