President Donald Trump took off the gloves as soon as he arrived in Brussels, Belgium for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit. He came out swinging with a quick one-two aimed directly at Angela Merkel. “Germany, as far as I’m concerned, is captive to Russia,” Trump boldly declared.
During Wednesday morning’s breakfast meeting with Jens Stoltenberg, President Trump called Germany out, accusing the nation of shoveling billions at the enemy that they won’t use to pay their NATO bill.
Insiders were anticipating a “stressful” summit. Across the pond, they used the word “fraught.” As expected, President Trump was there in his role as deal-maker-in-chief to make sure American interests come first. He did it so well, he upstaged the rest of the proceedings.
Our chief executive simultaneously focused the world’s attention on Germany’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline project and the continued lack of payments to the defense fund by the majority of members, effectively getting his main NATO concerns squarely on the table.
Germany is particularly a target of Trump’s ire because they sell a lot of expensive cars in America with huge export taxes attached. They aren’t some struggling “third-world” kind of nation and can afford to pay their share for defense.
President Trump’s jab made it crystal clear to NATO’s Secretary-General he’s not happy with Merkel. “The United States is paying far too much and other countries are not paying enough, especially some.” Germany only pays 1.19 percent of their GDP when the target is 2 percent.
He followed the jab up with a hard cross, referring to a back-room deal to buy natural gas from the Kremlin. The plan calls for running a huge 800-mile pipeline straight down the middle of the Baltic Sea.
“It’s very sad when Germany makes a massive oil and gas deal with Russia,” Trump lamented. Especially when NATO’s entire purpose is protecting Europe from Russia. “We’re supposed to protect you against Russia but they’re paying billions of dollars to Russia.”
“I think that’s very inappropriate” the President added. “So we’re going to have a meeting on that.”
He will be cornering Angela Merkel later today to discuss why Germany can’t manage to hold up their end of the defense bargain but can find the funds to make deals with Putin’s cronies.
Eastern European nations like Poland and Ukraine, which have strained relationships with the former Soviet Union, are left out in the cold. The pipeline project would transfer natural gas from Russia directly to the German border at the Baltic coastline.
The added capacity would not only double the amount of gas that Russia can supply to Germany but also give Moscow an equal amount of “greater leverage over Western Europe.” They did it before and they can do it again.
It wasn’t all that long ago that the Kremlin stopped a flow of desperately needed fuel.
In June of 2014, “Russia cut off Ukraine’s gas supplies for weeks in what Kiev said was an attempt to blackmail Ukraine,” the Washington Post reports. They did it to soften them up after invading Crimea.
President Trump went into greater detail about the spending issue at breakfast. Ever since he was on the campaign trail, our top administrator has been calling for the imbalance to be fixed as soon as possible.
In Brussels, he called the situation “disproportionate and not fair to the taxpayers of the United States.” President Trump vowed, “we’re going to make it fair.”
All members of the NATO alliance are supposed to spend 2 percent of their gross domestic products “on national defense.” They agreed to make hitting the target a priority and hope for full compliance by 2024. That isn’t good enough.
President Trump reminded the members the promise is nothing but lip service without action.
“Many countries in NATO, which we are expected to defend, are not only short of their current commitment of 2 percent (which is low) but are also delinquent for many years in payments that have not been made.”
President Trump rhetorically asked, “Will they reimburse the U.S.?”
Liberal media had a field day over that one. They had a chance to attack the president for apparent naiveté. That’s not how it works, they are quick to point out. It’s “not some kind of direct payment to NATO or the U.S.,” a CBS affiliate writes.
President Trump is fully aware that the 2 percent is a pledge, like the ones PBS goes looking for a few times a year.
The Public Broadcasting System learned to tell everyone a long time ago, “have your credit card ready before you call.” The days of calling up and saying you will send a hundred bucks just to get back to the program are over.
PBS is smart enough not to count the money until they get the credit card numbers, yet America is supposed to take every one of our allies on faith that they will keep their word.
Stoltenberg acknowledged that NATO members could be doing a better job on keeping the money flowing. “We all agree that we have to do more.” The NATO leader noted that more money has been coming in from Canada and some of the European countries.
“Why do you think that happened?” Trump interrupted, prompting a sheepish reply from Stoltenberg. “It’s also because of your leadership, because of your clear message.”
You bet it was. Obama let Europe and the rest of the allies get away clean.
“Because of me they’ve raised about $40 billion over the last year,” Trump agreed, chuckling that at least the secretary-general likes him. “He may be the only one, but that’s okay with me.”