This week would have been a decisive, perhaps even a pivotal, one for European defence planning – even without Monday’s dramas in Washington. Big allied meetings with any new US administration of the sort that are taking place in Europe this week always provide a moment to reshape defence strategy. Michael Flynn’s sacking as the White House national security adviser ups the ante. It means talks that were already going to be tense now take place in an almost Hollywood spy thriller atmosphere, as fresh uncertainties about the Trump administration’s links to Russia add new layers of flux and drama.
The underlying issue about Russia must not be ignored just because of Mr Trump. In the past three years, Vladimir Putin’s Russia has invaded Crimea, has promoted a civil war in eastern Ukraine, and has put pressure on the Baltic states; it is testing Nato air, sea and cyber defences almost daily, and is meddling in national elections in Europe, as it did in America last year. This is not fake. It is real.
Understandably, most European officials are privately appalled by the administration’s flirtations with Moscow. Some are saying so openly, which is itself unprecedented. Most are taking a cautious approach, watching and waiting to see how the administration settles down. In the short term this means caution about issues such as intelligence sharing, a problem that particularly affects Britain. But it would be a mistake to lose sight of the security threats facing