Alwaght- The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO, held one of its most challenging two-day meetings on July 11 and 12. The recent meeting was hit by two main challenges: First, President Donald Trump dragged his mercantilist approach into the purely-military organization. And second, he questioned the long-dominant view that the Western military bloc is a sine qua non for the West to deter the Russian threats and accused the members of equivocal behavior leading to their failure to meet their bloc-related commitments.
The meeting was held under a heavy cloud of NATO-Washington tensions and divisions. In the last hours of the meeting, the American leader brazenly accused the Europeans of flouting the NATO budget obligations and asked them to make sure they will raise their defense spending, part of which is paying a share in the alliance’s budget.
Driven by utter profit-seeking mentality, Trump is heading to split the 29-member NATO, without respecting the fact that the US has been crucial and a leader of the organization over the past decades. His view is that the US should not pay for others’ security, even if for its closest allies. He is developing an intercourse pressing the allies to pay for a bigger part of the NATO budget.
Trump’s pressures come while in 2014 the member states agreed that their defense spending will reach 2 percent of their gross domestic production (GDP) by 2024. Trump argues that this sum should be solely allocated to their NATO share not their national defense budget. His stances drew a climate of surprise and frustration among the participating leaders at the Brussels summit.
The NATO states are now facing a US president with an interest-centered view, ahead of Trump one-on-one meeting with the Russian President Vladimir Putin on July 16 in Helsinki, Finland. The analysts argue that his adoption of this approach is decisively guiding the American foreign policy towards damaging the world order and NATO, risking end of the military alliance’s several-decade life.
Trump’s logic and discomfort with Germany-Russia energy links
Certainly, the quality of confronting Russia takes center stage in the Trump-NATO clash. At the Wednesday NATO gathering, Trump, talking to the NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, attacked the bloc’s members, particularly Germany for double-faced policy towards Moscow.
“It’s very sad when Germany makes a massive oil and gas deal with Russia where we’re supposed to be guarding against Russia and Germany goes out and pays billions and billions of dollars a year to Russia,” Trump was cited as saying.
“Germany is totally controlled by Russia…They will be getting between 60 and 70% of their energy from Russia and a new pipeline, and you tell me if that is appropriate because I think it’s not. If you look at it, Germany is a captive of Russia, because they supply…they got rid of their coal plants, got rid of their nuclear, they’re getting so much of the oil and gas from Russia. I think it’s something NATO has to look at,” he continued.
The anti-Berlin attacks continued as Trump argued that Germany NATO share is a little bit more than 1 percent of its GDP but the US, practically taken, pays over 4 percent of its GDP as a NATO spending. “This is inappropriate also,” he bemoaned.
Trump said the US protects Germany, France, and others and pays big money for this which has been done for long decades. He said that his predecessors already raised the issue but none managed to find a solution. Now he is bringing it to the surface afresh because it is very “unfair” for the American people and taxpayers to pay for Europe’s protection.
Beside NATO members, Trump’s Chief of Staff John Kelly and US envoy to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchinson were annoyed by the president’s remarks. But Trump did not seem to pay any attention when he fired his final shots, saying the rich NATO states, on top of them Germany, should take immediate steps.
“I think these countries have to step it up, not over a 10 year period, they have to step it up immediately. Germany is a rich country, they talk about increasing it a tiny bit by 2030. Well, they could increase it immediately, tomorrow, and have no problem,” Trump maintained, accusing Germany of being “captive of Russia” for supporting a Baltic Sea pipeline deal with Russia.
The German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen rejected Trump’s comments on Berlin, saying “I don’t know what he means by that.”
“I look at our chancellor, she has been having regular contacts with the Russian president for 13 years," the German defense minister went on to say. "We have many questions for Russia but one should maintain dialogue not only with friends but with opponents as well,” she asserted.
Trump’s remarks have broadened the already-wide gap with the NATO allies. This policy develops prospects of wider division among the allies, beside endangering the US strategic sway and leadership over the Western world. Deterioration of relation can lead to Washington getting its forces out of the whole of Europe.
Congressmen blast Trump’s NATO approach
The US politics is itself divided. The division is marked by Trump-Congress opposing views on NATO. Just a day before Trump Brussels trip, senators of Congress and the Democrats of the House issued statements, offering backing to the NATO and refusing the president’s stances on the bloc. Lawmakers on Tuesday overwhelmingly voted in favor of a motion supporting NATO, as President Trump continued to criticize the alliance ahead of his summit in Europe. The 97-2 vote was an unbinding move asking for the administration’s commitment to NATO. Forty-four Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committee Democrats released a statement on Trump meetings with NATO and Putin.
“President Trump must not seek to undo the work that generations of American men and women have done to help defend and uphold democratic values throughout the transatlantic region. Europe returned from the devastation of the Second World War to prosperity largely due to the North Atlantic community’s commitments to its shared values and to collective defense,” the Democrats stated.