Robert Harneis-TDO- (FRANCE)- President Trump has been enjoying himself at the new billion-dollar NATO headquarters at the alliance’s annual conference. His remarks caused consternation amongst his allies but will be greeted with roars of applause in the United States amongst his voters. Congressional mid-term elections are now less than four months away. His opinion poll ratings are going well.
His anti-German harangue on the subject of the Nordstream2 gas pipeline, in which he treated the Secretary General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg with humiliating contempt, was typically well sprinkled with half-truths and omissions. Germany is a “captive of Russia” as a result of the pipeline. Later he tweeted “....On top of it all, Germany just started paying Russia, the country they want protection from, Billions of Dollars for their Energy needs coming out of a new pipeline from Russia. Not acceptable!”
He is of course right for the wrong reasons. It is indeed crazy for Germany to join with Russia to build a pipeline to double the amount of gas delivered, so long as Germany sincerely goes along with the fiction that Russia is a threat to Germany. But Germany has only gone along with that fiction to please Trump’s predecessors in the White House who have used ‘the Russian menace’ to keep Europe and Russia divided. The Germans know perfectly well that the chances of 150 million Russians starting a war with the 800 million inhabitants of the EU, NATO and the United States is precisely zero. Clearly the Russians would have preferred to keep the Baltic states within their federation. Estonia, now a member of NATO in breach of undertakings given by President HW Bush, is uncomfortably close to St Petersburg. But they are not going to start a world war over that. Behind the fuss over Nordstream2 is the US ambition to force Europe to buy its much more expensive LNG gas shipped in by tankers, via close ally Poland.
In slagging off the Germans for trading with the ‘enemy’ Trump omitted to mention that the United States itself is buying a billion dollars’ worth of space rocket engines from Russia that they are incapable of building themselves. That it seems is acceptable. The Pentagon has also insisted on buying Russian helicopters for the war in Afghanistan.
To keep the pot boiling Trump has demanded that not only should NATO allies increase their spending to the already agreed 2% but now wants the figure to be 4%. He has also threatened to leave NATO if the allies did not immediately increase their military spending targets. At one point during the conference the observers were told to leave the room including Jean-Claude Juncker President of the European Union so that the allies could talk in private.
One NATO official said Trump wants a plan from alliance members by January on how to reach the 2% spending target. It will not be lost on President Trump or any of his allies that any big increase in expenditure on defense must mean a financial bonanza for the US arms industry.
The US President was asked if he had threatened to pull out of the alliance, and whether he thought he could do so without first consulting Congress. He said, “I think I can.”
As Trump threatens to pull out of the military alliance, a new poll shows that many Germans would actually be in favor of an American troop withdrawal from their country, where they have been present since the end of the Second World War.
Far from being seen as a threat, a YouGov poll for the dpa news agency found that more Germans would welcome the departure of the 35,000-strong American force than would oppose it. 42 per cent said they supported withdrawal while just 37 per cent wanted the soldiers to stay, with 21 per cent undecided. Last month the US media reported that the US government was in the process of assessing the cost of keeping troops in Germany ahead of a possible withdrawal, citing Pentagon sources.
But the policy of pulling out of the country has not actually reached the negotiating table in this week’s Brussels summit and is not expected to be discussed at this stage.
The idea of US withdrawal enjoys significant support from across the political spectrum in Germany but is particularly strong with the supporters of certain parties. Voters for the left-wing Die Linke are particularly in favor of withdrawal, with 67 per cent backing it, as are supporters of the far-right AfD, on 55 per cent. Greens also back withdrawal by 48 per cent.
Less supportive of withdrawal are voters for the center-right CDU, at 35 per cent, the SPD at 42 per cent, and the FDP at 37 per cent. The same poll also found significant opposition to militarism in general in the country. Just 15 per cent of all Germans agree with Angela Merkel that the country should increase its military spending to 2 per cent of GDP by 2024, with 36 per cent saying the country already spends too much on its military.
After trampling on his NATO allies, President Trump is now visiting Britain where he has criticized the Prime Minister Theresa May over Brexit and praised her likely rival for her job, Boris Johnson. He is holding a summit in Finland on July 16 with President Putin, which his allies will watch with nervous apprehension.