Bom­bast and lies aside, Trump has a point about NATO and Rus­sia

The Peterborough Examiner - - Opinion - THOMAS WALKOM Twit­ter: @tomwalkom

Don­ald Trump has con­founded his NATO part­ners and is now on his way to play nice with Rus­sia’s Vladimir Putin.

The U.S. pres­i­dent’s many crit­ics call him a dic­ta­tor lover who is de­lib­er­ately try­ing to up­end the post-1945 world or­der. But a sim­pler ex­pla­na­tion is that he is do­ing what he promised: re­con­fig­ur­ing that world or­der so Amer­ica gets more ben­e­fit.

Trump went through the Brus­sels NATO sum­mit this week like a one-man wreck­ing crew. He de­manded, in­sulted and com­plained.

He took credit for things that didn’t hap­pen — most no­tably a non-ex­is­tent prom­ise by the al­lies to spend more than two per cent of their en­tire eco­nomic out­put on de­fence — and praised him­self as a “very sta­ble genius.”

Like the 28 other NATO lead­ers in at­ten­dance, Trump signed a sum­mit dec­la­ra­tion that sin­gled out Rus­sian med­dling in Europe as a ma­jor threat to world peace.

“There can be no re­turn to ‘busi­ness as usual’ un­til there is a clear con­struc­tive change in Rus­sia’s at­ti­tudes,” the 23-page dec­la­ra­tion read

But Trump clearly didn’t mean it. And in his own ram­bling way, he raised a le­git­i­mate ques­tion: If NATO mem­bers think Rus­sia is so bad, why do they con­tinue to do busi­ness with the coun­try?

In par­tic­u­lar, why are they push­ing ahead with an un­der­sea pipe­line project to dou­ble the amount of nat­u­ral gas that Rus­sia sells di­rectly to West­ern Europe?

The story of the Nord Stream 2 pipe­line il­lus­trates all of the con­tra­dic­tions of NATO’s ap­proach to Rus­sia. Eastern Euro­pean mem­bers in par­tic­u­lar see Rus­sia’ an­nex­a­tion of Crimea, as well as its med­dling in the af­fairs of for­mer Soviet re­publics, such as Ge­or­gia, Moldova and Ukraine, as a direct threat.

Yet much of Europe is re­liant on Rus­sian nat­u­ral gas. Ger­many gets 40 per cent of its gas from Rus­sia, France 25 per cent. Over­all, about 37 per cent of Europe’s nat­u­ral gas comes from Rus­sia.

Most Rus­sian gas ex­ports to Europe are car­ried on pipe­lines run­ning through coun­tries such as Poland and Ukraine. But com­mer­cial and po­lit­i­cal dis­putes have made some of th­ese lines un­re­li­able.

A 2009 dis­pute be­tween Rus­sia and Ukraine led to a 13-day dis­rup­tion of gas to West­ern Europe — in the mid­dle of win­ter. That, in turn, in­creased pres­sure on the Eu­ro­peans to go ahead with Nord Stream 1, a pipe­line built under the Baltic Sea and run­ning from Rus­sia di­rectly to Ger­many. It was com­pleted by 2011.

Then came Rus­sia’s 2014 an­nex­a­tion of Crimea. Europe, the U.S. and Canada re­sponded by levy­ing lim­ited eco­nomic sanc­tions against Rus­sia.

But no one in West­ern Europe was anx­ious to cur­tail the flow of Rus­sian nat­u­ral gas. In­deed, plans for a sec­ond un­der­sea pipe­line from Rus­sia to Ger­many, Nord Stream 2, were soon un­der­way.

That pipe­line is be­ing built by the Rus­sian en­ergy gi­ant Gazprom. Big Ger­man, French, Dutch and Aus­trian com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing Royal Dutch Shell, are in­volved in the fi­nanc­ing. It’s due to be com­pleted in 2020.

Trump ar­gued in Brus­sels that it makes no sense for Amer­ica to pick up the bulk of the cost of de­fend­ing Ger­many from Moscow when the Ger­mans them­selves are en­gaged in a mas­sive busi­ness deal with Rus­sia. He has a point.

But the broader point is this: How can Rus­sia be both a threat to NATO coun­tries and their busi­ness part­ner? The ques­tion is most ob­vi­ously di­rected at Ger­many and France. Yet Canada, Ice­land, Nor­way the U.S. and Den­mark are happy to have a busi­ness-as-usual re­la­tion­ship with Rus­sia in the Arc­tic — re­gard­less of what the NATO dec­la­ra­tion they signed says.

Trump says Rus­sia need not be treated as an im­pla­ca­ble en­emy. That’s why he is meet­ing Putin on Mon­day in Fin­land.

In this new cold war cli­mate, the idea of mak­ing an ac­com­mo­da­tion with Moscow may seem odd. But the bump­tious U.S. pres­i­dent has it right. Rus­sia is a big coun­try with its own in­ter­ests. It is not Satan.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.