Let's begin with an assertion: Vladimir Putin does not have the United States' best interests at heart. It's fair to say that Putin believes what's bad for the U.S. is good for Russia. His actions in Ukraine, with Syrian despot Assad, and toward NATO all provide ample evidence that he is not our nation's friend. Putin is all for the breakup of the European Union; he sees weakening of economic, political and social stability of European democracies as a very good thing for Russia.
It is fair to say that a strong European Union is in the United States' best economic interests. Our business and financial ties to England, France, Germany and the rest of democratic Europe run deep, and when Europe's economy catches a cold, America's businesses sneeze. Last Thursday's Brexit vote in which the United Kingdom opted to leave the EU triggered steep declines in the value of the pound-sterling and a 600-point shockwave drop in the Dow Jones.
If Britain actually initiates departure from the EU, consequences will be grave: globalization, the distribution of manufacturing and trade across international borders, affects every one of us. When European currencies weaken against the dollar, it becomes harder for Europeans to buy American goods. A cheaper euro means price rises in euros for a Boeing plane or a Whirlpool dishwasher, making it harder for those and other American companies to compete against Airbus or Phillips.
American jobs suffer when Europe's economy tanks.
Tourism in America becomes more expensive, so Europeans find other travel destinations; conversely, Americans will find Paris and Rome more affordable.
And just as American goods become harder for Europeans to afford, it's cheaper for us to buy imported products than goods made in the USA.
It's a double-whammy for American manufacturers and workers. Across Europe and the United States, the overall view of Brexit on world economies ranged from "not a disaster" and "not good" to "not sure." Not a single economic analyst said it would improve the economic picture, either here, in England or in mainland Europe.
None of this troubled presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in the least. What flashed before his eyes were increased profits accruing to his Scottish luxury golf course.
It is also fair to say America's strong defense ties to Europe through NATO have helped stabilize it against the threat of Soviet expansion after World War II and reduce both the number and scope of European wars. In the half-century prior to NATO's formation, at least 20 small-to-catastrophic armed conflicts were fought on the continent. Since then, only one major European armed conflict not involving the Soviet Union (now Russia) and countries bordering it has been fought, that over Yugoslavia's dissolution. NATO member states have shared the burdens of American military actions in Iraq and Vietnam.
Earlier this month, Putin grumbled that recently concluded NATO exercises in Poland were a provocation to Russia and responded to these exercises by mobilizing troops in eastern Ukraine. Russia also said that NATO needed an enemy to justify its existence and of course Russia is no threat to the rest of Europe or the United States.
Previously, Putin called Donald Trump "bright, brilliant, talented." Trump's bright, brilliant, and talented comments on NATO were less well-received by our allies, saying: "We are getting ripped off by every country in NATO, where they pay virtually nothing, most of them. And we're paying the majority of the costs." In fact, each member nation contributes an amount proportional to its GDP, meaning America pays around 22 percent of NATO's operating budget. It's also true that only a few of the member states allocate 2 percent of their budgets to defense. That tiny element of truth in his attack brought the fact-check rating of his attack down to what was for him a modest three Pinocchio lie.
The bottom line is that Trump's spoken positions on our complex economic and defense relationships with Europe align more closely with Putin's than they do with our long-standing friends. Yes, improving our nation's relationship with Russia would be good, but not at the cost of throwing our proven, reliable allies under the wheels of Trump's golf carts.
Next week, we celebrate the 240th anniversary of our still-great country's birth. Enjoy the fireworks and cookouts. Have a safe and happy Fourth, and remember our best days lie before us, not in our past.
Mitch Edelman writes from Finksburg. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.