President Trump traveled to Brussels on Wednesday to meet with the leaders of NATO, and he brought with him demands he has been making since before he assumed the presidency. Namely, that the other members of the alliance begin increasing their defense spending to match promises they made in 2014. His unwillingness to give our allies any more leeway was made clear in a breakfast President Trump had with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, during which the president asked if alliance members like Germany were really serious about protecting themselves from the Russian threat.
Trump asked Stoltenberg if it made sense for the U.S. to continue its disproportionate funding of NATO if our allies were going to go behind our backs and make energy deals with the Kremlin.
“We are stronger together,” Stoltenberg said, perhaps subconsciously pining for the days in which he thought Hillary Clinton would be the next president.
“But how can you be together when you’re getting energy from the group you want protection from?” Trump asked.
Which, frankly, is a damn good question. Every other day, we hear about how Germany and the rest of our EU allies are depending on the U.S. and NATO to protect them from the Russian monster just waiting for an opening. Trump, we are told, is doing Putin’s bidding when he weakens the NATO alliance with criticism and threats to pull out. But if Russia is such a threat to democracy in Europe, why would our allies do ANYTHING to strengthen their economic position in the world? Does this not indicate that these supposed Russian threats are just a bit overblown?
“We’re supposed to protect you against Russia and yet you make this deal with Russia,” Trump said, referring to a pipeline deal Germany made with Moscow. “Explain that. It can’t be explained.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel denied the charge that her country was “ruled” by Russia, saying later, “I have experienced myself how a part of Germany was controlled by the Soviet Union. I am very happy that today we are united in freedom, the Federal Republic of Germany. Because of that we can say that we can make our independent policies and make independent decisions. That is very good, especially for people in eastern Germany.”
No one doubts that the German people have a strong recollection of Soviet occupation, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are trying to have it both ways. They want the U.S. to pick up the bill for defending them against Putin…while doing business with Putin freely with the other hand. This kind of sucker’s game might have worked with previous U.S. presidents, but Trump has made it clear: It won’t work with him.