U.S. Pressure To Boost NATO Members Military
February 20, 2017 "Information
With typical bluster of a real estate
dealer, US President Trump claimed this week
that his administration was a 'finely-tuned
machine'. A nervous Europe and a
disappointed Russia suggest something more
The business magnate turned president claims
that the corporate news media in the US and
Europe are determined to disparage his
month-old administration as “chaotic”.
He has a valid point too.
relentless allegations of a “Russian
connection” to his political aides are
a “ruse” contrived by the media
opposed to his presidency. The
resignation of his top National Security
Adviser Michael Flynn last week over
allegations that he talked with a Russian
diplomat before Trump’s inauguration on
January 20 was, in the president’s view, a
case of media-driven crisis.
Trump has rebuffed media claims of chaos
in his administration as overblown and
betrays an agenda to undermine his
presidency. He counters by pointing to a
stream of executive orders signed during the
first weeks of office as evidence that his
presidency is achieving more than any other
administration towards the stated goal of
“making America great again”. Trump
is adamant, with hallmark brusqueness, that
he’s running a finely-tuned machine.
However, unofficial news seeping out of
the White House tells a different story. A
NPR correspondent this week
quoted an insider in the West Wing as
saying that the administration was a “train wreck”. Empty desks,
disenchanted staffers, lack of leadership
were said to be taking a toll on efficient
running of Trump’s administration.
The resignation of Michael Flynn and the
debacle of a successor, Vice Admiral Robert
turning down the National Security post
is an outward expression of bedlam at the
When Trump hosted Israeli premier
Benjamin Netanyahu this week at the White
House it was obvious that the president was
not adequately briefed. His non-committal
quip of “I like whatever solution Bibi
and the Palestinians like” was a
cringing admission that Trump was clueless.
And that cluelessness stemmed from not
having a National Security Adviser to get
him up to speed on the issues.
That was just one of several practical
examples in the foreign policy realm that
raise questions about the Trump White House
and whether it will derail sometime soon.
“Mixed signals” is perhaps a
charitable way to describe a Trump
presidency in turmoil. The number of
countries unnerved by Trump’s mercurial
style range from allies to foes alike, from
Mexico, Canada, Japan, South Korea, to
China, Venezuela and Iran.
Not least unnerved are the Europeans who
supposedly share a much-vaunted “transatlantic bond” with America,
manifested in the NATO military alliance.
The dominant foreign policy theme last week
could be dubbed “America’s reassurance tour
of European allies”. US Secretary of State
Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary James Mattis
and Vice President Mike Pence were all in
European capitals, each keenly trying to
elicited by Donald Trump’s earlier critical
comments about the European Union and NATO.
Mattis and Pence separately addressed the Munich
Security Conference and gushingly
that President Trump was fully committed to NATO
European leaders were
convinced, still reeling from the earlier
comments by Trump in which he described NATO as
“obsolete” and praised Britain for its
referendum decision last year to exit from the
EU bloc. In particular, Trump’s scathing
Germany for using the EU as a vehicle to boost
its national economy at the expense of others
has caused deep wounds in Berlin.
Despite reassurances from the senior US
officials, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel
warned that the
Trump presidency must not undermine European
cohesion through its seeming predilection for
populist, nationalist parties wanting to break
up the bloc.
ambiguity partly stems from his personal style
of doing business. Trump appears to be running
the White House and US government as if he is
still commanding a private business. He is
surrounded by a coterie of unelected advisers
ranging from the populist Steve Bannon as chief
strategist, to his son-in-law Jared Kushner as
“special adviser”. Trump also has a
tendency to drive competition for attention
among his aides.
enigmatic style is how presidential positions on
any number of issues can seem to cut across
those of his cabinet. For example, Bannon is
understood to share political sympathies with
anti-EU political parties, such as Marine Le
Pen’s Front National in France.
trouble is that in trying to smooth out Trump’s
policies into a more traditional form, US
officials are at risk of overcompensating, to
the point where it has unintended damaging
As if to prove President Trump’s commitment to
NATO, Pentagon chief James Mattis
alliance as the “bedrock” for
transatlantic security and called on European
members to boost their military spend. Mattis
said that the
US could no longer shoulder the financial burden
of maintaining the pact and that EU members
would have to step up to the plate. He gave them
one year to lift military spend from an average
EU level of 1.4 per cent to 2.0 per cent of GDP.
While some European politicians, like British
defense secretary Michael Fallon and German
counterpart Ursula von der Leyen publicly
US rallying call, other EU figures were leery.
European Commission President Jean-Claude
said the EU
must resist American pressure to boost military
expenditure. The bloc’s foreign policy chief
Federica Morgherini said that the issue of
“security” should be measured not just in
military terms, but in social and economic
development for the EU and regions.
If European members were to respond to
Washington’s galvanizing NATO calls,
extra annual spending
would be in the order of $100 billion. That will
inevitably levy disastrous strains on European
economies already struggling with austerity,
stoking even more populist revolt.
The American officials visiting Europe this week
also appeared to overcompensate for Trump’s
mixed signals by taking an adversarial line on
Russia. Trump has repeatedly called for
normalizing relations with Moscow and has even
spoken about “trusting” Germany’s
Russian President Vladimir Putin.
At the Munich conference, Merkel
should not put Russia on the same footing as
European allies – in a thinly veiled riposte to
Trump. This European lament seemed to result in
Mattis and Vice President Pence talking tough on
Russia. Mattis provocatively
referred to an
“arc of instability on NATO’s periphery”,
Moscow would be held accountable for Ukraine’s
Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov stood out
as the only adult in the room, when he
told the Munich
gathering that the US and Europe needed to move
beyond a West-versus-the-Rest view of the world.
Lavrov inferred that this Western order was not
only anachronistic, but was destabilizing and
counterproductive to the reality of a
functioning multipolar globe.
ambiguity – or administrative chaos – is hardly
going to stop unnerving European allies.
Reassurances by his top officials seem rather to
only complicate matters further. And there is a
real danger that overcompensating for
Trump-induced turmoil might, regrettably, undo a
much-needed opportunity to normalize relations
Finian Cunningham (born 1963) has written
extensively on international affairs. For over
20 years he worked as an editor and writer in
major news media organizations, including The
Mirror, Irish Times and Independent. Now a
freelance journalist based in East Africa, his
columns appear on RT, Sputnik, Strategic Culture
Foundation and Press TV.