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Published on November 14, 2020 7:29 AM

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What Europe fears most about the US election
(CNN) Europe, but particularly France and Germany -- the two motor nations of the continent -- are holding their collective breath for the outcome of Tuesday's American presidential election. They recognize that the future of the trans-Atlantic relationship, the very nature of the Atlantic alliance, which has preserved the peace in Europe for three-quarters of a century, hangs in the balance.

However, there is a dawning recognition in both nations that some elements of a decades-long trans-Atlantic partnership may be all but irrevocably lost -- regardless of who wins in America next month. There is considerable uncertainty both in Paris and Berlin as to just how much the United States can be trusted any more. "Donald Trump has not fallen down from the sky out of nowhere," Jana Puglierin, head of the German office of the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) told me in a Zoom conversation from Berlin. "He has not taken half of the American population hostage and kind of brainwashed them. So there is a reason why he is there, and the reason remains even after he leaves."

Still, Germans, and especially the French, may be forgiven for being somewhat distracted at this moment. Even more immediate and frightening for Europe than the US elections is the sudden resurgence of coronavirus infection for which the United States has been of little help and certainly no model for containment.

With France counting more than 270,000 new cases in the last week, President Emmanuel Macron told the French people in a nationwide address Wednesday evening that a second nationwide lockdown was coming Friday for a nation already approaching paralysis. Germany, too, headed for a second partial shutdown.

The elections across the Atlantic, of course, can hardly be ignored. Yet at the heart of all feelings among French and Germans today is the increasingly intransigent belief that the will of the American electorate is so unpredictable, their choice of a leader so self-centered and dependent on forces spiraling out of control, that Europe may be unable to count on a solid and dependable United States over the long term.

The ECFR found, in a continent-wide survey, that even if Joe Biden were elected, voters in France and Germany believe Europe should "maintain good relations with the US, [but] prepare for disengagement." Should Trump win, however, voters in Belgium, Sweden, Austria and Croatia also believe preparation for ...