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Trump is right to shake up NATO

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While a do-nothing Congress is consumed with impeachment, Russia ups the pressure on NATO, European member countries create suicide pacts, Eurpean Commission cohesion erodes, and President Trump tries to put American steel into European spines.

For example, Vladimir Putin’s energy weapon to defeat NATO can be simply stated: Russia doesn’t  need nuclear weapons when it’s got Gazprom (the massive Russian energy company). The point is that Russia can politically blackmail NATO countries if Europe becomes disproportionately dependent on Russian natural gas to power its industry and avoid freezing in the winter. Observing recent events, Putin might also think, “Russia doesn’t need nuclear weapons when we’ve got Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron.” No one is doing more to undermine NATO than our allies, Germany’s chancellor and France’s president.

Last week’s NATO meetings brought that into high relief with Macron’s characterization of NATO’s strategy as “brain dead,” as he attempted to shift the focus from Russia to Islamic extremism. 

France, with a huge influx of Muslim immigrants and Muslim-controlled “no-go” zones in Paris and elsewhere, mirrored by Germany, with a similar problem brought on by Merkel’s inexplicable open-border policies toward Arab refugees, have created a serious problem. Demographics suggest that Muslim populations, with more than a few embedded extremists, are growing into major political forces in both countries — triggering predictable domestic backlash and potential instability. 

But these are not NATO threats. These are home-grown domestic threats, brought on by conscious policies of Germany and France. At the same time, the Russian threat remains orders of magnitude greater and more deadly. So, rather than label the NATO focus on Russia “brain-dead,” Macron might more aptly label French and German domestic policy as such. 

In Germany, Merkel has abruptly shut down nuclear power generation, potentially leading to overwhelming dependence on Russian gas and a serious weakening of NATO. Reflecting the same suicidal thread, Merkel’s predecessor, former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, actually went to work for Russia, building Gazprom’s pipeline to Germany, a Russian weapon pointed directly at NATO.

To put this in further context, one of the principal, but always unspoken, aims of the European Union, in addition to creating a large, integrated European market, was to tighten economic and political alliances with Germany to prevent a third global conflict in the 20th century. A secondary goal was to encourage a reunited Germany to remain fully allied to the West, rather than trying to balance an East/West strategy. The twin fears were reignited German ultra-nationalism and serious Russian aggression against Europe. The soft German, Canadian, et. al. financial support for NATO, the growing European energy dependence on Russia, and the continued weakening of the EU are far greater strategic threats than Trump’s oafishness.

Compounding this mess, Macron launched a critique of Turkey, and echoed the new progressive mantra of all-in support for the Kurds. Reality check: Turkey has the fourth-largest standing army in NATO and is the southern bulwark of NATO, i.e., it borders former Soviet states as well as Syria, Iraq and Iran. It is the southeast border wall for Europe. While it is certainly fair to say that Turkey has become an authoritarian Muslim state, exploring closer relations with Russia, it also is fair to say that the EU brought some of that problem on itself through the short-sighted policy of holding up and ultimately rejecting Turkish entry into the EU. 

And, for France to call the Kurds friends and allies, whom we should defend against Turkey, defies history and strategic logic. The Kurds have always picked their partners on a purely opportunistic basis. As recently as 2015, for example, for the third time, the Kurds attacked the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline in Turkey, supporting the Russians against vital U.S. and European interests. The pipeline was a U.S./Europe venture to bypass Russia and related political energy extortion and supply natural gas to Europe. The Kurds also have launched numerous terrorist attacks throughout Turkey. 

Macron’s notion that NATO should oppose one of its most important members and defend a group that is hardly a consistent ally or “friend,” and which has engaged in its own terrorism, is truly “brain dead.”

All of this reflects a Europe that lacks strategic focus; that allows deep cultural contradictions, progressive politics and narrow mercantilism to lead it into an Ostpolitik of short-sighted, self-defeating tactics; but which resents reasonable pressure from Trump to defend its own, long-term survival.

And, so, Trump again thundered onto the NATO stage. He excoriated other players and demanded that they keep promises to invest in defending themselves. He demanded that unfair trade deals be renegotiated. He questioned European tendencies to flirt with deadly enemies. He talked tough and changed the polite farces that have been NATO/Group of Whatever meetings into deadly serious and awkward scenes. They sneered at Trump. Unhelpful allies don’t like to be called out. 

But, in the end, Trump raised very important questions that previous U.S. presidents have dodged. He was not diplomatic, but he was not wrong to step on some sensitive toes if the Atlantic Alliance is to remain strong and focused on its very real and deadly threats.

Grady Means is a writer and former international corporate strategy consultant. He served in the White House as a policy assistant to Vice President Nelson Rockefeller. Follow him on Twitter @GradyMeans.

Tags Angela Merkel Donald Trump Emmanuel Macron France Germany NATO Russia in the European energy sector Russia–NATO relations Turkey Vladimir Putin

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