When Angela Merkel meets with Donald Trump on Friday, she won’t just be representing Germany. She’ll be bringing all the hopes and anxieties of an anxious continent—one whose fears have been stoked by the fervor sweeping from Amsterdam to Rome, Paris to Berlin. It’s no exaggeration to say that this meeting between Trump and Merkel could set the tone for the very future of the Western Alliance.
For a specter is haunting Europe—the specter of populist nationalism. Ideologically indeterminate, it manifests across the Continent in the form of France’s right-wing National Front, the post-communist German Left party and the Italian Five Star Movement, which defies any traditional political label. While these parties, and the intellectual currents to which they give voice, may not align on everything, they are invariably anti-establishment, opposed to the European Union, and hostile to America. They are also all supported—either materially or through other, less tangible instruments—by Russia.