Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Saturday, May 27th, 2017.


Why Does Trump Hate Europe?

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Trump Maladministration

Many could not help but notice how the so-called president was all smiles with the Saudis and all scowls in Europe. Why so nasty with the Europeans?

Notice that Josh Marshall wrote this before the news about Jared Kushner broke yesterday.

President Trump’s visit to Brussels/Europe wasn’t just another grab bag of impulsive aggression and gaffes. It wasn’t scattershot. It was quite clearly focused on destabilizing and perhaps eviscerating the NATO Alliance and somewhat secondarily, but relatedly, the European Union. This has been the strategic goal of Russia and before it the Soviet Union for decades. The sum total of everything that happened on this trip casts the entire Trump/Russia story in a decidedly more ominous light.

And the light was already quite ominous.

This is a significant point, I think:

On virtually every other issue he is almost infinitely malleable and susceptible to blandishments and praise. Except this one. Here he remains fixed on True North.

Remember, we went through the NATO Thing when Angela Merkel allegedly set him straight about his nutty idea that Germany owed NATO dues to the U.S. Trump appeared to soften his anti-NATO position, for a time. This happened just as The Atlantic was publishing a major feature called “Trump’s Plan to End Europe,” by David Frum. The Atlantic added a disclaimer to the article, but frankly, they needn’t have bothered. In Brussels this week Trump gave an ungracious speech, scolding allies for being cheapskates and refusing to explicitly reaffirm Article 5 of NATO’s founding treaty, which states that an attack on any member is an attack on all. Trump is the only U.S. president since NATO was founded who has not clearly stated commitment to Article 5.

Frum pointed out that Trump has surrounded himself with anti-European Union ideologues, such as Steve Bannon.  (I saw a PBS program on Bannon last week. Bannon strikes me as a man of mediocre intellect and with an adolescent’s simplistic view of the world, who has nevertheless set himself up as an “expert” because he is so supremely sure of himself, and because as a white man he gets benefits of doubts. Watching it made me think of the Kevin Klein character from A Fish Called Wanda. Except Bannon isn’t funny.) And that reminded me of something I quoted earlier this week by Josh Marshall:

Trump used a very high profile and public moment to chastise our NATO allies for not paying enough for their own defense and actually owing the US vast sums of money. As I explained below, this is demonstrably false, both in a general and specific sense. Beyond the inaccuracy, Trump’s comments clearly envision a transformed and debilitated NATO, one that is one half protection racket, one half high-dollar membership golf resort. You pay your dues or you’re out. It’s a service, not a commitment.

Trump also declined to pledge his support for Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, the provision that commits all members states – but most importantly the US – to defend members who are attacked. Article 5 isn’t a key part of NATO. It’s the cornerstone. In many respects it is NATO.

Meanwhile, a report in der Spiegel suggests Trump viciously attacked German and its export practices in a meeting of NATO/EU leaders. His team also created confusion among their EU interlocutors by appearing not to understand that EU member states only make trade deals as a group. It’s a bit hard to decipher precisely what was being discussed here. Was this really a misunderstanding or a bullheaded effort to make a point?

See also an article Anne Applebaum wrote back in July 2016:

Russia is clearly participating in the Trump campaign. The theft of material from the Democratic National Committee a few weeks ago was the work of Russian hackers. Russian state media and social media, together with a host of fake websites and Twitter accounts with Russian origins, actively support Trump and are contributing to some of the hysteria on the Internet. I’m not arguing that any of this has been decisive. But whatever resources Putin wagered on Trump, they are paying off.

For even if Trump never becomes president, his candidacy has already achieved two extremely important Russian foreign policy goals: to weaken the moral influence of the United States by undermining its reputation as a stable democracy, and to destroy its power by wrecking its relationships with its allies. Toward these ends, Trump has begun repeating arguments identical to those used on Russian state television. These range from doubts about the sovereignty of Ukraine — earlier this week, Trump’s campaign team helped alter the Republican party platform to remove support for Ukraine — to doubts about U.S. leadership of the democratic world. The United States has its own “mess” to worry about, Trump told the New York Times on Wednesday: It shouldn’t stand up for democracy abroad. In the same interview, he also cast doubt on the fundamental basis of transatlantic stability, NATO’s Article 5 guarantee: If Russia invades, he said, he’d have to think first before defending U.S. allies.

Putin wants Europe undermined. A suspicious person might think Trump is working for Putin.

 

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