‘Sub-critical’ Europe isn’t ready for a Trump presidency, says Airbus boss

Europe is leaving its security in the hands of a fraught U.S. presidential election, the CEO of one of the world’s biggest aircraft makers says, arguing the continent is “sub-critical” in several defense areas amid the backdrop of a potential all-out war with Russia.  

In an interview with the Guardian, Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury said Europe wasn’t ready for a potential conflict with Russia, and the election of NATO-skeptic Donald Trump would expose the bloc to a plethora of risks.

“We are coming from peacetime,” Faury told the Guardian. “I don’t think Europe has yet the level of preparedness that you would need for a conflict between Europe and Russia. Let’s call a spade a spade. And it seems like Russia is ramping up its defense capabilities.”

Faury, a former military helicopter test pilot, explained that the West was coming out of a post-World War Two era where defense strategy was focused on deterrence rather than conflict, something that has changed since Russia invaded Ukraine two years ago.

Unfortunately, that 80-year period has coincided with Europe becoming more reliant on the might of an increasingly isolationist U.S. 

“We’ve put a lot in the hands of others,” Faury told the Guardian. “We are sub-critical on most of the different systems in Europe, we don’t collaborate enough to create investment at scale. We buy mostly from outside of Europe, and mostly from the US.”

NATO’s looming Trump threat

Faury told the Guardian that Europe currently had the cushion of the military alliance NATO, but given the saber-rattling during the previous “Trump 1” presidency, the continent should be braced to lose that security blanket were he re-elected. 

“​​If Trump 2 is of the same nature or even more in terms of the U.S. expecting Europe to take care of itself… we’d better take it seriously.”

Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee for the 2024 U.S. presidential election after his biggest rival, Nikki Haley, withdrew herself from the race last week. 

Polls have shown that Americans favor the former President over incumbent Democrat President Joe Biden, increasing the genuine prospect of a second Trump term four years after he was voted out of the White House.  

Trump has repeatedly voiced his disapproval of NATO, and in recent months, his rhetoric has escalated to perhaps its most aggressive on record.

Trump has threatened to pull the U.S. out of NATO if “delinquent” European nations keep failing to contribute 2% of their GDP to the alliance.

“No I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want. You gotta pay. You gotta pay your bills,” Trump said of Russia at a rally in South Carolina in February.

A few days later, Trump was careful not to double down on encouraging Russia to attack the U.S.’s allies but was steadfast in his threats to pull the country out of NATO.

“Look, if they’re not going to pay, we’re not going to protect. OK?” Trump said.

Faury told the Guardian that Europe needed to become more self-reliant for its military infrastructure, after decades of relying on U.S. makers like Lockheed Martin and Boeing. 

Europe’s flagging economy

It’s not just Europe’s security arrangements that are on policymakers’ minds in the event of a second Trump term, but also its economy. 

In January, European Central Bank (ECB) chief Christine Lagarde said Trump’s potential re-election posed a “clear threat” to Europe and the continent’s economy. 

“You just have to look at the trade tariffs; you just have to look at his commitment regarding NATO; you just have to look at his attitude regarding the battle against climate change.

“In these three areas alone, in the past, U.S. interests were not aligned with those of Europe.”

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