This week in one apparently wanton yank, he ripped one of those cords by announcing
Bavaria’s state governor Markus Soeder, whose region hosts several US bases, also criticized Trump: “Unfortunately this seriously damages German-American relations. A military benefit cannot be seen. It weakens NATO and the U.S.A. itself.”
Little surprise, then, that the Kremlin is gleefully exploiting Europe’s consternation, with spokesperson Dmitry Peskov telling CNN: “We never hid that [we think] the less American solders there are on the European continent the calmer it is in Europe.”
Trump is the gift that keeps on giving for the Kremlin: his unpredictability, while often a pain, for them is continual grist for their propaganda mill.
It has taken America’s 45th president almost four self-serving and destructive years to reach this point, but in pulling the trigger on withdrawing troops from Germany, one-third of the total stationed in the country, he has
The reality is Trump has bullied German Chancellor Angela Merkel from the get-go, and not just on Germany’s sub-par defence spending commitment of 1.38% of GDP, but about exports of BMW cars and trade in general. At their first meeting in the White House in spring 2017 the President barely looked Merkel in the eye, refusing to shake her hand; at a NATO summit in 2018 he berated her over breakfast. And now this.
Ironically Trump’s generals are moving the US military’s Europe command, EUCOM, from Germany to Brussels, home of NATO, to “improve EUCOM’s operational flexibility,” according to EUCOM’s Commander Tom Wolters — despite Belgium’s glaring NATO contribution deficit; at 0.93% it is lower even than Germany’s.
Whatever Trump’s motive, be it petulance or indeed a strategic pivot to Asia, as Esper has explained in recent weeks, the reality leaves allies rattled and runs counter to the US’s long-term benefit; now those European countries must look to themselves for defense — not for a quick fix, but as a major strategic shift.
Germany’s Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said it was a “pity” Trump was pulling troops from Germany, adding, “I want us to finally advance more quickly towards a common European security and defence policy.”
While that’s not every European leader’s cup of tea, or iced latte, the one thing the EU has managed to do in recent weeks is show that it can compromise and overcome huge internal differences of opinion, as it did during four days and nights, agreeing its next seven-year budget and an even thornier Covid-19 bail-out plan
Trump hasn’t caused a common European defense agreement to spring up overnight but he has compressed the wait until there is one, and none of this is good for America right now.
As Trump looks for friends to bolster his sanctions on China and Iran, a less tethered and more fretful Europe will be looking to secure relationships that fit its national security and trade interests. And those may not always align with America’s.
He is simultaneously enabling Russian President Vladimir Putin, a strategic foe who is already on the offensive, while disabling allies vital in that same fight. It is a double own goal, typical of a US President who insists on playing by his own rules.
If the Covid-19 pandemic, which appears to be running the clock down on his presidency, can’t teach him that sometimes convention does have the answers, there is little likelihood he’ll reverse course on the 12,000 troops.
Perhaps a new American president will be elected this November with enough time and persuasive powers to repair the rift Trump has caused with his country’s allies. It won’t be easy, as Trump’s trust deficit is compounded by all those who stood by his side.
From this side of the Atlantic it appears Trump is casting off for a voyage into uncharted waters, ignoring well-publicized stormy weather warnings.