LONDON (AP) — The European Union is blatantly anti-American and President Donald Trump's administration regards it with suspicion, a leading contender to be the U.S. envoy to the 28-nation bloc said Thursday.
Ted Malloch, whose potential appointment has prompted anger and alarm in Brussels, said he and Trump "have very similar views about Europe."
He said the U.S. is "somewhat critical and suspicious" of the bloc, an economic and political union involving half a billion people.
"We would prefer, certainly in the Trump administration, to work with countries bilaterally," Malloch said in an interview with The Associated Press.
Trump has yet to appoint an EU envoy. But Malloch, a 64-year-old former U.N. diplomat in who teaches governance at England's Henley Business School, says he has been interviewed and vetted for the post.
Reports that he may get the job have outraged many EU politicians. Leaders of the Christian Democrat, liberal and socialist groups in the European Parliament took the unusual step of writing to EU leaders saying that Malloch should be denied accreditation if the U.S. appoints him.
They accused Malloch of being on a mission "to disrupt or dissolve the European Union."
Malloch — an enthusiastic backer of Trump's "America First" policy — seems unperturbed at the cool welcome from Brussels. On Thursday, he declined to endorse British Prime Minister Theresa May's view that a strong, successful EU is in the global interest.
He said the EU's "blatant anti-Americanism" is "problematic."
"It has taken positions contrary to American foreign policy in the last eight years in any number of issues, whether it's on Israel, on the Middle East, on Iran, on some human rights issues," Malloch said. "There is a long and growing list of issues where U.S. foreign policy differs from that of the EU."
Malloch watched with approval as Britons voted last year to leave the EU. He sees the Brexit vote and Trump's election as part of an international movement to reassert national sovereignty and strong borders. And he expects that, in the wake of Brexit, other EU countries will re-consider their relationships with the bloc.
"I think that democracy is a very healthy thing," he said. "It certainly was good for Britain."
Critics say Brexit, Trump and European populists are tapping into xenophobia and other dark forces. In France, presidential candidate Marine Le Pen of the far-right National Front says her country is in a fight for its "civilization" against the "two totalitarianisms" of globalization and Islamic fundamentalism.
Malloch appeared reluctant to comment on whether there is a dark side to the nationalist, anti-globalization wave. He declined to say whether he supported a Le Pen victory in the French presidential election this spring, calling it a decision for the French people.
"I don't know the history of that party," he said of Le Pen's National Front. "I guess there are some elements in its long past that are anti-Semitic or that have colorations certainly that I wouldn't subscribe to."
Malloch says he supports Trump's aim of "a more positive relationship with Russia" — something that is also fueling alarm in Europe.
He said a new detente between Washington and Moscow could help reduce nuclear tensions, fight Islamic State group violence, end the Syrian civil war and resolve tensions between Russia and its Baltic neighbors in the wake of Moscow's military machinations in Ukraine.
"All of these things, just objectively, would be good," Malloch said. "Of course, how do you get from here to there? That's the question."
He said Europe should not fear Trump's presidency, calling the trans-Atlantic alliance "the bedrock of American foreign policy."
Trump has previously called NATO "obsolete." But Malloch said the president has come to believe that "NATO is important ... but it could be restructured, re-engineered to be something forward looking instead of backward-looking."
"The rest of the world shouldn't be worried if America is strong again, that America is the sheriff of the world again, that the American economy is growing at a clip that it hasn't, frankly, for the last decade," Malloch said. "The rest of the world actually benefits from a strong America."
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