UNITED NATIONS – In the latest instance of the Trump administration issuing contradictory messages to U.S. allies, White House chief strategist Steve Bannon reportedly told Germany’s U.S. ambassador earlier this month that the United States wished to handle European matters bilaterally, as opposed to through E.U. channels.
The conversation between Bannon and Ambassador Peter Wittig is the subject of an exclusive report by Reuters, which quoted a senior administration official as saying, “there appears to be no understanding in the White House that an unraveling of the E.U. would have grave consequences.”
If true, Bannon’s message to Wittig undermines a series of statements subsequently made by Vice President Mike Pence during a visit to E.U. headquarters in Brussels last week.
Pence used his first visit to Europe to stress that “the United States’ commitment to the European Union is steadfast and enduring,” and he held meetings with the E.U.’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini and European Council President Donald Tusk.
“President Tusk, President Trump and I look forward to working together with you and the European Union to deepen our political and economic partnership,” Pence said at a joint press conference.
Bannon’s reported conversation with Ambassador Wittig would mark the highest-profile expression of doubt over whether to continue U.S.-E.U. policy by the Trump administration, but it was hardly the first time Bannon questioned the efficacy of the 28-member bloc.
In a 2014 speech delivered at a Vatican conference, Bannon sympathized with European citizens who increasingly “don’t believe in this kind of pan-European Union.”
“I think strong countries and strong nationalist movements in countries make strong neighbors, and that is really the building blocks that built Western Europe and the United States, and I think it’s what can see us forward,” Bannon said.