Trump Rants,Threatens Allies, But Agrees to Strengthen NATO
Politics is all about theater to Donald Trump and commentators who try to figure out some grand design behind his rants are on a fools errand. Yes, I know, we should be able to take our Commander in Chief seriously and parse his words for some underlying strategy. Nope, save yourself some time and focus on the only thing that motivates him, his base, in this instance, his anti-globalist base. The President realizes that he has to feed them red meat every day to keep them engaged so he creates a daily Twitter narrative of someone taking advantage of America [migrants, NATO, the UN, China, the EU, Canada, etc.] and sets himself up as our savior. It doesn't at all matter if its true or if his claims seem ridiculous to the media or policy experts. His sole question is whether it will help Donald Trump keep his base, will he get good feedback from Fox and Friends, Hannity and Rush.
This NATO summit is a wonderful example. His twitter statements were all about proving that he was going to be tough on our allies because America was footing too much of the bill to support our collective defense.
Axios: On President Trump's first day at the NATO Summit, he scolded Germany as "a captive of Russia," accused allies of being delinquent on defense payments and called on member countries to double their defense spending from 2% to 4% of GDP.
All of this is cringe-worthy hyperbole. Germany has been much tougher on Putin than Trump, our NATO allies don't owe us a cent and even America doesn't spend 4% on defense. Moreover, our allies have already promised to increase defense spending to the 2% target by 2024, agreed to by the United States. If he wanted to prod them to move faster, he could have done that in private conversations before or during the summit. However, private prodding would not of allowed him to grandstand for his base who, by in large, doesn't fact-check his bluster.
Our NATO allies are worried, especially after Trump threatened to "do his own thing" if member countries do not immediately increase defense spending commitments, but they also realize that his rants are meant for his fans back home rather than them. They are getting used to it. For now they will focus on the positive things accomplished at the summit.
Axios: Nevertheless, NATO made important decisions that strengthen the alliance:
Agreement to deploy 30 battalions, 30 air squadrons and 30 war ships in 30 days by 2020 to defend NATO territory.
Reform of the integrated command structure to enable rapid reinforcement across the Atlantic and Europe to defenses in the East.
Reaffirmation of the commitment to spend 2% of GDP on defense by 2024.
Strengthening of the counterterrorism training mission in Iraq.
But, and its a big but, will the President make promises to Putin on Monday that undermine what was accomplished?
Ivo Daalder, President of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and the former U.S. ambassador to NATO for Axios: The real test will come Monday, when President Trump meets Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. If Trump stands up to the Russian leader and underscores differences over Ukraine, Syria and arms control, allies will be reassured. But if Trump agrees to concessions — like halting the deployment of troops in the East, limiting missile defenses or ending NATO enlargement — allies will know that Trump's bluster is real.