INDIANAPOLIS – The United States can withstand almost any mean-spirited or just plain bad domestic policy in the near term, but foreign policy is another matter entirely. It is no understatement to claim that stakes are extraordinarily high. Hoosier steelworkers get it. Hoosier farmers get it.  Hoosier moms get it, and Hoosier teenagers get it too. 
Whether people care about trade, their paycheck, military conflict, or other violence in the broader world, tension is again ratcheting up all over. While we may not agree who they are, we likely will agree that we are living in a world suddenly full of James Bond villains.  What our president says truly matters; there are no throw-away comments by the leader of the free world. The world is always listening – friends, enemies and frenemies too, whether for reasons of economic competition or balance of power.      
The past week was remarkable for many reasons that directly relate to our standing in the world, but one comment continues to trouble me. It reveals that we are not attending to either history or the parameters of our present strategic alliances. 
Yes, President Trump is walking back his claim that he has more faith in Russian FSB intelligence than that of our director of national intelligence, Dan Coats. Still there remains another very public presidential declaration that deserves more serious attention than it got. President Trump declared that he found that the European Union “is a foe, what they do to us in trade. Now you wouldn’t think of the European Union but they’re a foe.”
Troubling. Let’s look back at the history and intent. The advent of the E.U. was predicated on the notion that Europe could not withstand another world war on its soil, and that an antidote was necessary to the extreme nationalism that led to the literal destruction of the economies, infrastructure and populations of the member states. 
First, the European Coal and Steel Community was created to control the means of war through economic cooperation, proposed by French foreign minister Robert Schuman to prevent further war between France and Germany by making “war not only unthinkable but materially impossible.” 
Trade was the key means to achieve this, and the first common market for coal and steel on the continent was launched with the hope it neutralizes competition between European nations over these most necessary resources. Over time it broadened its scope with the pact that caused the organization of the European Atomic Energy Community and also a customs union. 
Still lacking a constitution, common security or social policy or a military, the E.U. exists to benefit the collective prosperity of member states and to eliminate conflict. These are good things; just ask your parents or grandparents.
The E.U. is not our foe, it is a group of allies that have formed a strategic partnership that leverages good trade policy for order and profit.  It is also a convenient and lucrative market for U.S. goods and services – just ask our Indiana duck farmers.    

Or ask any of the Hoosier businesses that in 2016 exported nearly $9 billion of goods to Europe, accounting for 25% of our state’s total exports, according to the Indiana Business Research Center. In fact, the IBRC will tell you that Indiana is home to more than 400 European business facilities, and that Europe-based companies support 96,100 jobs in Indiana. 
Those are a lot of Hoosier paychecks. Let’s remember that it is better to keep people earning here in Indiana, rather than sending them off once again to fight war in Europe. Words matter. Our allies deserve the confidence of our president and the constancy of our special relationship. There should be no question about that.  

Hale is with Kiwanis International. She is a former member of the Indiana House and the 2016 Democratic lieutenant governor nominee.