OPINION: Countering Trump, Merkel and Macron look to lead free world
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Three events in recent days dramatize the challenges facing the free world resulting from President TrumpDonald John TrumpMcCabe says he was fired because he 'opened a case against' Trump McCabe: Trump said 'I don't care, I believe Putin' when confronted with US intel on North Korea McCabe: Trump talked to me about his election victory during 'bizarre' job interview MORE's lack of global leadership, the international stature of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the dynamism of the newly-elected President of France, Emmanuel Macron.

The first event was the Group of Seven summit meeting, during which Trump castigated European leaders for not increasing defense spending and refused to reiterate the historic commitment of the United States under Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) pledging to defend any NATO nation from an invasion by Russia or any other hostile power.

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The second event was the stunning speech from Merkel over the weekend where she stated that Germany and Europe must consider going it alone because they cannot depend on the United States under Trump to defend their security.

 

The third event was the decision of Macron to pledge that France will take a stronger position toward Russia than Trump has taken, following the handshake heard around the world when Macron gripped Trump's hand extremely tight and would not let go for a prolonged period as a signal to Trump of France's resolve.

Trump's antagonism toward European leaders during the G-7 summit was an unprecedented moment in the recent history of European-American relations that both alienated and alarmed many of America's strongest allies. Trump was entirely right, and consistent with the stands of American presidents from both parties, in calling on those European nations that have lagged in defense spending to increase their defense budgets.

Trump was terribly wrong in using hectoring and antagonistic language against European allies that no president in post-war American history has ever used, and he was disastrously wrong in refusing to restate America's commitment to defending Europe under Article 5, which every American president, Democratic and Republican, has viewed as an article of faith and resolve to defend our European allies from foreign invasion and attacks.

Monday, President Macron had his long-awaited summit meeting with President Vladimir Putin of Russia in which he took a strong position against Russian aggression and sought to reset relations with Russia based on mutual respect and protection of mutual security.

Macron later described the meeting as "extremely frank and direct" which in diplomatic parlance means Macron took an aggressive position with Putin, demanding the protection of French and Western security while seeking a dialogue in good faith about ways to improve relations.

It was positively astounding for Macron to stand next to Putin and publicly — and correctly — accuse Russian television of being a propaganda vehicle for what virtually all experts believe is Russia's attack on liberal democracy. It is rare for a newly-elected president of a European nation to take such a strong, leading role promoting and defending Western security in a summit meeting with the leader of an unfriendly nation, such as Russia.

Similarly, it was extraordinary for the Chancellor of Germany to conduct herself as the virtual leader of the free world in the absence of leadership from the American president and to publicly suggest Europe might have to "go it alone" because American leadership under Trump cannot be counted on to defend their security.

European leaders are understandably perplexed and worried about developments in the Russian scandal now being investigated by American counterintelligence and law enforcement agencies. They are concerned by the antagonistic tone Trump has taken toward European leaders, including and particularly his apparent hostility toward Germany and his negative comments about NATO coupled with his tendency to praise the Russian strongman Putin.

In effect, Germany and France are moving in the direction that would earn Merkel and Macron the role of leaders of the free world, unless Trump acts in a way that reinforces the time-honored American role of global leader.

Trump should immediately and firmly reiterate his commitment, and America's commitment, to defend Europe under Article 5 against any attack or invasion from any hostile power, particularly Russia. Every president from both parties has clearly and unequivocally supported the full and unconditional American support for Article 5 and Trump should join them without conditions or reservations.

It is not too late for Trump to reaffirm Article 5 and restore good relations with our European allies, but he must do so quickly, clearly and unequivocally. Until he does, watch for Merkel, Macron and other democratic leaders in Europe and throughout the world to define new leadership of the free world.

Brent Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), then-chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. in international financial law from the London School of Economics.


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