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FDR and Churchill, 1941. Photo: Print Collector/Getty

Again and again, President Trump has laid body punches into America's foremost allies, calling them deadbeats and threatening to withdraw from NATO, the military alliance that for 7 decades has helped prevent a new great power war.

The big picture: While they will dispense with Trump's firebrand rhetoric and threats, a Democratic administration in 2020 — should Trump lose his re-election bid — would not bring the Atlantic alliance back to what it was.

"The Atlantic alliance as we know it is dead," write Philip Gordon and Jeremy Shapiro, both former officials in the Obama State Department, this week in Foreign Affairs.

  • In that framework, they look at how both a Trump or Democratic 2020 victory would play out, making their assessment from both sides of the Atlantic — Gordon as a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, and Shapiro as research director at the European Council on Foreign Relations.
  • If Trump wins, "the alliance could be reborn as a populist, nationalist, and racist partnership between the United States and governments in Hungary, Poland, Italy, or others."
  • Should a Democrat win, "we hope the new president will be more on the same page with Europe on climate change and Russia. But don't expect the nostalgic past in which Americans pay for Europe's defense and not expect Europe to pay its part," Gordon told Axios by phone today.

What would change under a Democratic administration, Gordon said: It would not question the legitimacy of the alliance. But Derek Chollet, executive vice president at the German Marshall Fund, said President Obama, too, drubbed European allies for a failure to meet the NATO spending floor of 2% of GDP on defense, and griped about "free riders" on the U.S. dime abroad.

  • One of Obama's signature foreign policy moves was a pivot to Asia, which upset Europeans. Chollet tells Axios that the Europeans saw their relations with the U.S. "in zero-sum terms."
  • Six straight U.S. defense secretaries have "banged the drum on spending more for defense," Chollet said.

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - World

Biden reviews U.S. arms deals with Saudi Arabia and UAE

Trump struck several large arms deals with Mohammed bin Salman (L) and Saudi Arabia. Photo: Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

The Biden administration has put on hold two big arms deals with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates which were approved in the final weeks of the Trump administration, a State Department official told Axios.

Why it matters: The sales of F-35 jets and attack drones to the UAE and a large supply of munitions to Saudi Arabia will be paused pending a review. That signals a major policy shift from the Trump era, and may herald sharp tensions with both Gulf countries.

Trump supporter found with pipe bombs accused of plot to attack Democrats

Five improvised explosive devices that the FBI says "were fully operational and could cause great bodily harm or injury if handled improperly." Photo: FBI/Justice Department

The FBI believes California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) and the Bay Area headquarters of Twitter and Facebook were targets of a man facing federal explosives charges, according to a criminal complaint.

Driving the news: Prosecutors charged Ian Benjamin Rogers after finding weapons including five pipe bombs, 49 guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition following a Jan. 15 search of his Napa County home and auto repair business. His alleged goal was to ensure former President Trump remained in office.

6 hours ago - Health

Fauci: COVID vaccine rollout needs to prioritize people of color

Anthony Fauci. Photo: Alex Wong via Getty Images

Infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci highlighted the need to address racial disparities in the COVID-19 vaccination process, per an interview with The New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday.

What he’s saying: "I think that's the one thing we really got to be careful of. We don't want in the beginning ... most of the people who are getting it are otherwise, well, middle-class white people."