Wednesday, July 11, 2018

NATO Summit: Trump Dresses Down Chancellor Merkel

The European Union has used hefty U.S. defense spending and its willingness to send American troops into harm's way to protect Europe for 69 years. It is in effect a kind of social welfare subsidy: we spend money on arms, they build ever-more generous welfare states.

And then, from the safety of their left-leaning think tanks, universities and EU bureaucracies, they complain about American “militarism”, “imperialism” and “aggression”.

It's getting tiresome, but it bears repeating. NATO's 28 members are required by the treaty that established the mutual defense organization to spend 2% of their gross domestic product on defense.

In 2016, President Obama's final year in office, the U.S. spent 3.6% of its GDP on defense, Greece 2.4%, the U.K. 2.2%, Estonia 2.16% and Poland 2%. Everyone else was below 2%. Everyone.

And note that those that are pulling their weight are among Europe's poorest nations. The others should be ashamed, but shame is in short supply in Europe these days.

President Trump entered the summit committed to harshly criticizing the alliance members for continuing to shirk the agreed upon 2% target of GDP spending on defense.

During a breakfast meeting at NATO Headquarters the President said, “I think it is very sad when Germany makes a massive oil and gas deal with Russia. We are supposed to be guarding against Russia and Germany goes out and pays billions and billions of dollars a year to Russia.”

“We are protecting Germany, we are protecting France, we are protecting all of these countries and then numerous of the countries go out and make a pipeline deal with Russia where they are paying billions of dollars into the coffers of Russia. I think that is very inappropriate.”

“It should never have been allowed to happen. Germany is totally controlled by Russia because they will be getting 60-70% of their energy from Russia and a new pipeline. You tell me if that’s appropriate because I think it’s not. On top of that Germany is just paying just a little bit over 1% whereas the United States is paying 4.2% of a much larger GDP. So, I think that’s inappropriate also.”

“Germany’s plan to increase its defense expenditure to the NATO target of 2% of GDP by 2030 was not good enough,” Trump said. “They could do it tomorrow.”

Right on cue, the lefties began to tweet:  Schumer and Pelosi posted identical tweets:

“President Trump’s brazen insults and denigration of one of America’s most steadfast allies, Germany, is an embarrassment. His behavior this morning is another profoundly disturbing signal that the president is more loyal to President Putin than to our NATO allies.”

Sen. Diane Feinstein tweeted, “NATO countries have fought alongside Americans for almost 70 years. His insults weaken our security and undercut our national interests.”

The most ludicrous tweet came from NBC’s Andrea Mitchell who claimed:

“Can only imagine what @SecPompeo, COS Kelly, US NATO Ambassador Hutchison thinking watching them look down awkwardly as @realDonaldTrump harangues NATO Secretary General saying Germany is captive to Russia. Unreal. Putin wins.”

My favorite Twitter parody account summed it up best:
The President’s criticism of a German deal with Russia on energy relates to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline Germany hopes to build on the floor of the Baltic Sea.  Eastern European countries vehemently oppose it fearing it could potentially cut them off from critical energy supplies and make Europe helplessly dependent on Gazprom, the Russian-state gas exporter.

As you might expect, the arrogant Frau Merkel pushed back saying, “I have experienced myself how a part of Germany was controlled by the Soviet Union. I am very happy that today we are united in freedom. Because of that we can say that we can make our independent policies and make independent decisions. That is very good, especially for people in eastern Germany.”

“Germany does a lot for NATO,” she said.  “[We] are the second largest provider of troops; the largest part of our military capacity is offered to NATO and until today we have a strong engagement towards Afghanistan. In that we also defend the interests of the United States.”

Is that so?  Well…

After the end of World War II, much of Europe lay in ruins. In Germany, it has been estimated, 70% of housing had been obliterated.  Factories and workshops were rubble; fields, forests and vineyards ripped to pieces. It looked as though Germany would never rise again.

The Marshall Plan (officially the European Recovery Program, ERP) was an American initiative to aid Western Europe, in which the United States gave over $12 billion (approximately $120 billion in current dollar value as of June 2016) in economic support to help rebuild Western European economies after the end of World War II.

Poland’s Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz suggested the President has a point on the Nord Stream pipelines. “Some countries are too close” to Russia, he said on a panel at a parallel event to NATO, accusing the pipelines which transit gas to western Europe under the Baltic Sea of funding Russia’s military buildup.

Poland and Ukraine also fear that Russia may be diversifying its gas routes into Europe to be able to exploit its grid for political reasons.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also took a pop at Germany, complaining that Merkel’s government withdrew its patriot missile system from Turkey’s Syrian border. When German Defense Minister Ursula Von der Leyen responded that it was a rotation and Germany stayed 3-4 years, Cavusoglu said: “Italy has been prolonging, like a real ally.”

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