Rat­tling NATO, Trump at­tacks Ger­many’s ties to Rus­sia

Yuma Sun - - OPINION -

BRUS­SELS — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump tore into this week’s NATO sum­mit ques­tion­ing the value of a mil­i­tary al­liance that has de­fined decades of Amer­i­can for­eign pol­icy, torch­ing an ally and propos­ing a mas­sive in­crease in Euro­pean de­fense spend­ing.

Un­der fire for his warm em­brace of Rus­sia’s Vladimir Putin, Trump on Wednes­day turned a harsh spot­light on Ger­many’s own ties to Rus­sia, declar­ing that a nat­u­ral gas pipe­line ven­ture with Moscow has left An­gela Merkel’s govern­ment “to­tally con­trolled” and “cap­tive” to Rus­sia.

The at­tack against a core ally comes just days be­fore Trump is set to meet one-on-one with Putin. With scorch­ing lan­guage, Trump ques­tioned the ne­ces­sity of the al­liance that formed a bul­wark against Soviet ag­gres­sion, tweet­ing af­ter a day of con­tentious meet­ings: “What good is NATO if Ger­many is pay­ing Rus­sia bil­lions of dol­lars for gas and en­ergy?”

He de­manded via tweet that mem­bers “Must pay 2% of GDP IM­ME­DI­ATELY, not by 2025” and then rat­tled them fur­ther by pri­vately sug­gest­ing mem­ber na­tions should spend 4 per­cent of their gross do­mes­tic prod­uct on de­fense — a big­ger share than even the United States cur­rently pays, ac­cord­ing to NATO sta­tis­tics.

It was the most re­cent in a se­ries of de­mands and in­sults that crit­ics fear will un­der­mine a decades-old al­liance launched to coun­ter­bal­ance Soviet ag­gres­sions. And it comes just days be­fore Trump sits down with Putin in Finland at the con­clu­sion of his closely watched Euro­pean trip.

Trump has spent weeks be­rat­ing mem­bers of the al­liance for fail­ing to spend enough of their money on de­fense, ac­cus­ing Europe of freeload­ing off the U.S. and rais­ing doubts about whether he would come to mem­bers’ de­fense if they were ever at­tacked.

He de­scribed the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion as “dis­pro­por­tion­ate and not fair to the tax­pay­ers of the United States.”

How­ever, a for­mal sum­mit dec­la­ra­tion is­sued by the NATO lead­ers Wednes­day reaf­firmed their “un­wa­ver­ing com­mit­ment” to the 2 per­cent pledge set in 2014 and made no ref­er­ence to any ef­fort to get to 4 per­cent.

Merkel, who grew up in com­mu­nist East Ger­many, shot back that she had “ex­pe­ri­enced my­self a part of Ger­many con­trolled by the Soviet Union, and I’m very happy to­day that we are united in free­dom as the Fed­eral Repub­lic of Ger­many and can thus say that we can de­ter­mine our own poli­cies and make our own decisions and that’s very good.”

Amid the tu­mult, British Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May sounded a call for sol­i­dar­ity among the al­lies, say­ing, “As we en­gage Rus­sia we must do so from a po­si­tion of unity and strength — hold­ing out hope for a bet­ter fu­ture, but also clear and un­wa­ver­ing on where Rus­sia needs to change its be­hav­ior for this to be­come a re­al­ity. And, as long as Rus­sia per­sists in its ef­forts to un­der­mine our in­ter­ests and values, we must con­tinue to de­ter and counter them.”

From Brus­sels, Trump heads to Eng­land, where May’s govern­ment is in tur­moil over her plans for ex­it­ing the Euro­pean Union.

Al­though ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials point to the long-stand­ing al­liance be­tween the United States and the United King­dom, Trump’s itin­er­ary will largely keep him out of cen­tral Lon­don, where sig­nif­i­cant protests are ex­pected. In­stead, a se­ries of events — a black-tie din­ner with busi­ness lead­ers, a meet­ing with May and an au­di­ence with Queen El­iz­a­beth II — will hap­pen out­side the bustling city, where Mayor Sadiq Khan has been in a ver­bal bat­tle with Trump.


U.S. PRES­I­DENT DON­ALD TRUMP ges­tures while speak­ing to NATO Sec­re­tary Gen­eral Jens Stoltenberg dur­ing their bi­lat­eral break­fast Wednes­day in Brus­sels, Bel­gium.

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