Tuesday, May 30, 2017

An Alien Among Allies

The Man from Moscow, aka US President Donald Trump, has returned from his first trip abroad as President. His behavior, intentional or not, is likely to reshape Europe and our alter our relationship with our NATO allies. Trump behaved less like an honored partner and more like a member of another, hostile alien undermining the alliance.

The Washington Post covers Trump’s trip in Alternately charming and boorish, Trump plays the role of a lifetime overseas.

Trump was charming and boorish. He was deferential to the berobed king of Saudi Arabia and Pope Francis, yet aggressively rude to his European colleagues, brushing aside a Balkan prime minister to get to his place lining up for a photo shoot at NATO. The French newspaper Le Monde admonished Trump for “verbal and physical brutality” toward NATO allies and said he “lectured them like children.”

In Europe, Trump’s badgering remarks on defense spending — during a NATO ceremony memorializing the joint alliance response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks — left a bad taste. There was widespread disappointment at Trump’s failure to use the occasion to reaffirm the U.S. commitment to the alliance’s joint defense pact, Article 5, although national security adviser H.R. McMaster said that “of course” Trump supports it.

Trump’s behavior, said Stefan Leifert of Germany’s public broadcaster ZDF, was “a slap in the face of all other alliance members.”

Trump’s behavior toward our allies already has global consequences. Following Trump’s trip, Merkel says Europe can’t rely on ‘others.’ She means the U.S. reports the Washington Post on German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s reaction.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday declared a new chapter in U.S.-European relations after contentious meetings with President Trump last week, saying that Europe “really must take our fate into our own hands.”

It was the toughest review yet of Trump’s trip to Europe, which inflamed tensions rather than healed them after the U.S. president sparred with the leaders of Washington’s closest and oldest allies on trade, defense and climate change.

Merkel, Europe’s de facto leader, told a packed beer hall rally in Munich that the days when her continent could rely on others was “over to a certain extent. This is what I have experienced in the last few days.”

The remarks were a clear repudiation of Trump’s troubled few days with European leaders, even as Merkel held back from mentioning the U.S. president by name. On Thursday, Trump had harsh words for German trade behind closed doors. Hours later, he blasted European leaders at NATO for failing to spend enough on defense, while holding back from offering an unconditional guarantee for European security. Then, at the Group of Seven summit of leaders of major world economies on Friday and Saturday, he refused to endorse the Paris agreement on combating climate change, punting a decision until this week.

The NY Times picked up the story in how Merkel, After Discordant G–7 Meeting, Is Looking Past Trump.

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, Europe’s most influential leader, has concluded, after three days of trans-Atlantic meetings, that the United States of President Trump is not the reliable partner her country and the Continent have automatically depended on in the past.

Ms. Merkel’s strong comments were a potentially seismic shift in trans-Atlantic relations. With the United States less willing to intervene overseas, Germany is becoming an increasingly dominant power in a partnership with France.

“This seems to be the end of an era, one in which the United States led and Europe followed,” said Ivo H. Daalder, a former United States envoy to NATO who is now the director of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. “Today, the United States is heading into a direction on key issues that seems diametrically opposite of where Europe is heading. Merkel’s comments are an acknowledgment of that new reality.”

Ms. Merkel’s emphasis on the need of Europe to stand up for its own interests comes after Mr. Trump declined to publicly endorse NATO’s doctrine of collective defense or to agree to common European positions on global trade, dealing with Russian aggression or mitigating the effects of climate change.

“We have to know that we must fight for our future on our own, for our destiny as Europeans,” Ms. Merkel said.

If they do not, a fractured Europe lies bare to the Russian bear, susceptible to being picked off one country at a time by Trump’s friend in Moscow.

The Post provided an unfortunate image of the United States’ new role as follower.

… in picturesque Taormina, at the Group of Seven summit on the rocky Sicilian coast, Trump struggled to look interested during long meetings with allies in a room decorated with the flags of other countries. As the other G–7 leaders strolled the streets of this ancient fortress town, Trump followed along in a golf cart.

Trump’s behavior certainly was not that of the leader of the democratic West. The next question is which foreign power, really, Trump is following. That question, it seems to me, should motivate an independent investigation into the connections between Trump, his associates, and now his family. That investigation should shed light on Trump’s trip in which he refused to reaffirm ties to our friends while implicitly endorsing ties to our enemies.

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