12 July 2018Hot off the Press
US President Donald Trump has made a rocky landing in Europe, demanding NATO members contribute 4% of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to the military alliance, calling allies “delinquent” and labelling Germany a “captive” of Russia.
Speaking with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Mr Trump accused allies of owing “tremendous amounts of money” to the US.
“Many countries are not paying what they should, and, frankly, many countries owe us a tremendous amount of money from many years back,” the American President said. “They’re delinquent, as far as I’m concerned, because the United States has had to pay for them.”
At the 2014 NATO summit in Wales, it was agreed to that members would try to pay 2% of their GDP by 2025.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed Mr Trump’s call for NATO members to increase spending to 4% of GDP, saying, “The President raised this same issue when he was at NATO last year. President Trump wants to see our allies share more of the burden and at a very minimum meet their already stated obligations.”
What good is NATO if Germany is paying Russia billions of dollars for gas and energy? Why are there only 5 out of 29 countries that have met their commitment? The U.S. is paying for Europe’s protection, then loses billions on Trade. Must pay 2% of GDP IMMEDIATELY, not by 2025.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 11, 2018
However, Mr Trump was particularly critical of Germany, claiming the country is “totally controlled by Russia” because of its dependence on Russian energy resources and saying it only pays “a little over 1% [of GDP to NATO] whereas the United States in actual numbers is paying 4.2%”.
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) July 11, 2018
He said the US spends heavily to defend Germany from Russia and “Germany goes out and pays billions and billions of dollars a year to Russia.”
“Germany is a captive of Russia I think it’s something that NATO has to look at.”
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: "You have to understand when we stand together in dealing with Russia we are stronger."
— TicToc by Bloomberg (@tictoc) July 11, 2018
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has responded to Mr Trump’s comments, saying she knows what it is like to live in a state under foreign control having grown up in East Germany, and that modern Germany is an independent state “united in freedom”.
“I have experienced myself how a part of Germany was controlled by the Soviet Union,” Chancellor Merkel said. “I’m very happy today that we are united in freedom as the Federal Republic of Germany, and that’s why we can make our own policies and our own decisions.”
The German Chancellor noted that Germany provided the second-largest number of NATO troops, after the United States, and had thousands of troops supporting the American-led effort in Afghanistan.
“Germany does a lot for NATO,” she said, adding that, in the process, Germans “defend the interests of the United States.”
Ms Merkel said she is “looking forward to the NATO summit” and that “I am counting on controversial discussions.”
After the NATO summit, Mr Trump will pay a state visit to Britain, following which he will have a one-on-one meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.
By criticising Germany’s energy relationship with Russia on the backdrop of a NATO summit, US President Donald Trump has essentially admitted that Russia is the enemy, which sends a pretty clear message to the Kremlin that its long-held concerns about the alliance are legitimate. Trump actually told Stoltenberg: “How can you be together when a country is getting its energy from the person you want protection against, or from the group you want protection against?” It has to be said, Trump makes a good point. However, at what point did Russia become the enemy?
It is no secret that NATO’s main purpose was to deter any westward expansion by the Soviet Union. It was a period dominated by muscle-flexing, proxy wars and espionage; a time where anything could happen. However, when the USSR collapsed and the Cold War ended, there was no longer a danger to western Europe and instead fear transformed into a willingness on both sides to build a new relationship between east and west — or so we thought.
Ties between Russia and the West improved remarkably, hitting a high point in the 2000s despite the continuation of various proxy wars and what the Kremlin views as attempts to destabilise the re-born Russia. But there was one major obstacle that stood in the way of complete harmony between east and west — NATO.
NATO, in the eyes of Russia, was an obselete alliance designed specifically to keep a threat that no longer existed at bay; if Russia was a friend, why did NATO still exist? The Kremlin was told there was nothing to worry about, however, as the years went on, NATO began expanding eastward, edging closer and closer to Russia’s borders.
All concerns voiced by Russia regarding what it interpreted as a strategy to surround and isolate it were dismissed as paranoia, and any responses to NATO build-ups along Russia’s borders were declared Russian aggression. However, the language used by NATO post-Cold War has been considerably calm, denying for the past 30-odd years that it poses any threat to Russia; that its role is purely defensive; and that it is always open to dialogue with the Kremlin.
Trump, with his bull-headedness and blatant disregard for diplomacy, has called out NATO, and in the interest of international relations and geopolitical communication, it leads us to a conversation that should be had, particularly for Europe — what is the point of NATO? Is it to protect member states? If so, where does Russia sit — is it friend or foe? Or is it a tool for member states to keep Russia under their thumbs while proclaiming a willingness to work together?
The merits of either option is another discussion entirely, but surely it is best just to be honest to allow for meaningful dialogue, not superficial attempts at diplomacy while pointing guns at each other under the table.
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