Sunday, June 14, 2020

Trump, NATO and Germany

The United States is drawing down a third of its troops in Germany. By the lights of internationalists, America has thereby decided to cease its role as guarantor of security for the world’s free nations. Since most of these nations are incapable of defending themselves, this is a serious matter.

Naturally, most commentators blame America. In particular, they blame President Trump. At a time when Trump’s legitimacy is constantly being questioned, when Trump is being constantly blamed for everything that goes wrong anywhere, when Trump is being harassed by his political opponents on an hourly basis, however do you imagine that he can exercise leadership on the world stage.

Besides,Trump is certainly correct to notice that many of the world’s holier-than-thou nations are free loading. They do not pay their agreed-upon contributions to NATO, preferring to waste money on social programs. But then, if anyone calls them out about it, they start crying that Trump is being a nationalist. 

Matthew Continetti offers a fairly reasonable standard view of the drawdown. That is, he reads it, as most foreign policy mavens do, as an American retreat from the world stage. But then, he does point out that both Bush and Obama drew down troops in Europe. He might have added that Obama retreated from Iraq and Syria, allowed Crimea to be annexed by Russia, allowed China to build military fortifications in the South China Sea, refused to send defensive missiles to the Ukraine and cancelled the sale of missiles to Poland and the Czech Republic.

Put them all together, and, in the eyes of a conservative like Continetti, the problem is Trump’s nationalism.

He opens with this:

The drawdown is not necessarily bad in itself. Both George W. Bush and Barack Obama reduced troop levels in Europe. What is troubling is not the policy per se but the way it was rolled out and the context in which it will be actualized. At the precise moment when it should be strengthening partnerships and expanding its presence to deter adversaries, including Russia and China, America sent another signal that its days of global leadership are coming to an end.

Continetti remarks that international organizations are far from being efficient, effective or useful:

It is easy to forget this mutual concern for a world order of free governments and open commons of sea, air, space, and cyber. Institutional degradation makes it even easier. The former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. says the American people need to decide whether the organization is “worth it,” the French president calls NATO brain-dead, the German Constitutional Court rules the European Union’s bond-buying program is illegal, the World Trade Organization is handicapped, and the American president pledges to halt funding for the World Health Organization.

Ignoring the record of the Obama administration, he concludes on this note:

Everywhere you look, however, America is leaving. We want out of Syria, out of Afghanistan, out of Iraq, out of Africa, out of Germany. In the coming years we may want out of South Korea, and even out of Japan. One or even several of these moves might be reasonable in isolation. Together they communicate to the world a disinterest in fulfilling the role of guarantor that America has played in international politics for generations.

On the other side of the debate we find Shoshana and Stephen Bryen. They offer a different analysis, more Trumpian in its emphasis (via Maggie’s Farm). They describe German as a petulant child that has failed to support American foreign policy, while leeching off American taxpayers. How can we forget that the last time Germany wanted to do military tank exercises, it discovered that it had no functioning tanks. It had to use automobiles. The German defense minister, Ursula von der Leyen, is now the head of the European Union. Talk about the Peter Principle in action.

The Bryens open:

Germany has been a thorn in Washington’s side on many issues from its failure to spend 2% of its very healthy GDP on its own military defense to its trade with Iran — including, some suspect, under-the-table nuclear goods trade — and the promotion of a U.S.-independent European Army.

For years it was on the wrong side on terrorism and terror-funding policy, only recently declaring Hezbollah a terrorist organization. And it is completely on the wrong side, from Washington’s point of view, on energy. The Germans are not only dependent on Russian natural gas supplies but are backing the newest pipeline to pump even more Russian gas into Germany and across Europe.

And so, when President Trump announced a planned reduction in American troop strength in Germany, it was seen as a knock on Germany and on NATO and a gift to Russia. Germany, maybe. NATO, no. And Russia won’t be pleased.

Yes, indeed, while Americans were ranting about how Trump was a Russian stooge, Merkel bends over for Russia and makes her country depend for energy on Putin’s Russia. And you want to blame Trump?

They note that many of the troops that America is removing from Germany are being sent to Poland:

In fact, it is a challenge to Russian President Vladimir Putin and his saber-rattling because Poland, not Germany, is on the firing line of any future land-based conflict. While some portion of the 9,500 soldiers planned to be removed from Germany will return to the United States, others will be redeployed around NATO states, particularly in Poland.

Germany might be an economic powerhouse, but it is militarily very weak. Perhaps they should be given the chance to assert themselves:

Germany is still the most powerful state in Europe with economic dominance and political influence over the common market and the EU. But Germany’s small, underfunded, and poorly maintained army and air force are no longer a front-line fighting force. It would take years of expansion and expenditure to change the picture. At the moment, Germany appears uninterested and the United States — and Poland — are moving in a different direction under the NATO umbrella.


trigger warning said...

The US presence in Germany, and especially the US presence in South Korea, are two examples of "tripwire forces". There are others.

"Tripwire forces" are, by definition and design, militarily incapable of effectively responding to an invasion by an aggressor nation.

"Tripwire force" is the jargon used by erudite and urbane security word-theorists, writing for foreign policy journals, as a synonym for "human shields".

The very idea is morally repugnant.

Sam L. said...

Germany needs to put on their big-boy outfits and "man UP". And "pay their own way".

UbuMaccabee said...

Trump called the bluff of the Huns and the US military. Well done. I like this man, he fights.