NATO Trumped

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Written by Patrick Armstrong; Originally appeared on strategic-culture.org

Those of us who regard NATO as one of the primary sources of international instability thanks to its wars of destruction in the MENA and provocation of Russia were looking forward with delighted anticipation to Trump’s appearance at the NATO summit. We were not disappointed. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when Trump came late to the meeting where Ukraine and Georgia were banging on about the Russian threat, started ranting about spending and blew up the decorous charade. Ukraine and Georgia were then dismissed and a special meeting was convened. (A side effect of his “creative destruction” was that the Ukrainian President delivered his speech to a practically empty room). He started his assault before the meeting, opening Twitter fire on Germany, returning to the attack in his breakfast meeting with NATO’s GenSek:

Germany is totally controlled by Russia because they will be getting from 60% to 70% of their energy from Russia, and a new pipeline, and you tell me if that’s appropriate because I think it’s not and I think it’s a very bad thing for Nato.

Good fun for some of us but a stunner to the Panjandrumocracy: “meltdown“, “tantrum“, “latest diplomatic blowup“, “making bullying great again” and so on.

NATO Trumped

AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski

As ever, Trump’s statements were extreme and his numbers might not stand up to examination but most commenters (typically) left out the context. Which was a piece by German Chancellor Merkel herself in which she called for NATO to focus on the threats from Russia: “the alliance has to show determination to protect us”.

This gave Trump the opening to pose these questions (posed in his own way, of course, in a strategy that most people – despite the example of North Korea – have still not grasped).

1. You tell us that NATO ought to concentrate on the Russian threat. If Russia is a threat, why are you buying gas from it?

2. You tell us that Russia is a reliable energy supplier. If Russia is a reliable supplier, why are you telling us it’s a threat?

3. I hope you’re not saying Russia is a threat and its gas is cheap but the USA will save you.

Good questions to be sure; questions that crystallise the contradiction of NATO. If Russia is such a big military threat to them – as NATO communiqués incessantly say it is – then why aren’t the Europeans, presumably first on Moscow’s cross hairs, doing more to meet that threat? And, if, as their doing so little about their defence suggests, they don’t fear Russia, then why do they say that they do? From the latest NATO communiqué: meeting Russia’s aggressive actions, including the threat and use of force to attain political goals, challenge the Alliance and are undermining Euro-Atlantic security and the rules-based international order.

I always like to count words in these cliché-ridden screeds: it gives a metric of importance and saves force-marching my eyeballs through 12,000 words of self-satisfied pap. In the countries where NATO forces are actually deployed, the communiqué mentions Afghanistan twice, Kosovo six times and Iraq 14 times. NATO destroyed Libya but it only gets six references; it’s doing its best to repeat the performance in Syria (nine). But Russia leads with 54 mentions, none of them complimentary. Why even NATO’s favourite mush words, “values” (16) and “stability” (26), appear fewer times. Ukraine, on the other hand, has 25 appearances, all in what could be called the phantasmagorical verbal mood: “We welcome significant reform progress”. So, in NATOland, Russia’s back. By contrast, the Riga Summit communiqué in 2006 mentioned Afghanistan 17 times, Iraq eight times and Russia ten times (“values” and “stability” scored 15 each). But NATO was still looking for a purpose then:

It recognizes that for the foreseeable future, the principal threats to the Alliance are terrorism and proliferation, as well as failing states, regional crises, misuse of new technologies and disruption of the flow of vital resources.

The logic of NATO’s very existence creates the contradiction. NATO, having lost its raison d’être when the Warsaw Pact and the USSR disappeared, having floundered around in out-of-area operations and the “War on Terror”, has returned to “the Russian threat”. (But in a bureaucracy nothing ever actually stops: this week’s meeting approved a NATO training (!) mission in Iraq Year 15 and more British troops in Kabul Year 16.) Without the “Russian Threat” there would be no reason for NATO to exist, and certainly no big arms contracts, and all the warm butterscotch sauce of “common values” or “projecting stability” could not keep it together. Because, the brutal truth is that military alliances are kept together, not by common values, but by common enemies.

But, no question about it, it’s Washington that bears the major responsibility: Washington pushes NATO expansion, adding monomaniacal anti-Russian members; Washington foments colour revolutions; Washington blew up Ukraine and tried to snatch the Sevastopol naval base; Washington “twists arms“; Washington demands European sanctions and Magnitskiy Acts; Washington’s failed wars in the MENA suck in NATO members; Washington dropped the ABM Treaty inspiring Russia to create its super weapons. The truth is that, whatever might have happened otherwise, Washington drove NATO in the anti-Russia direction.

But Donald Trump is not that Washington: he is the anti-Washington. He tosses bombs into gatherings of complacent apparatchiks: if you believe what you’re saying, act on it; if you don’t act on it, stop saying it. Then he threw the spending bomb. For years there has been a vague commitment that NATO members should spend 2% of their GDP on defence; the commitment appears to have been formalised in 2014. (14) But the members aren’t paying much attention. Few have achieved it and the downward trend, begun at the end of the Cold War, has continued. Regardless of whether “2%” makes any sense or how it is calculated, Trump was right to remind NATO members that they themselves agreed to it. Again Trump raises the pointed question: why don’t you act as if you believe what you’re saying?

Indicators of European NATO members’ actual readiness and combat capability are stunning; the latest being “Only 4 of Germany’s 128 Eurofighter jets combat ready — report“; “Ground force: Half of France’s military planes ‘unfit to fly’“. “Britain’s ‘withered’ forces not fit to repel all-out attack“. “Europe’s Readiness Problem“. Obviously they’re not expecting a Russian attack any time soon. NATO is, as I have argued here, a paper tiger. It is questionable whether NATO members can conduct any operation without the USA providing satellite navigation and observation, air defence suppression, airborne command and control, inflight tankers, heavy lift and ammunition resupply to name a few deficiencies. So, either the Europeans are not worried; or, as Trump likes to say, they are free riders.

Six months ago I suggested that Trump may be trying to get out of what I called the “Gordian knot of entanglements“.

President Trump can avoid new entanglements but he has inherited so many and they are, all of them, growing denser and thicker by the minute. Consider the famous story of the Gordian Knot: rather than trying to untie the fabulously complicated knot, Alexander drew his sword and cut it. How can Trump cut The Gordian Knot of American imperial entanglements? By getting others to untie it.

He stamps out of NATO leaving them quaking: if you say Russia is the enemy, why do you act as if it isn’t; and if you act as if it isn’t, why do you say it is? And firing, over his shoulder, the threat: 2% by next January.

I believe it is a threat and a very neat one too:

If you don’t get up to 2% (or is it 4%?) and quickly too; I warned you. Goodbye.

If you do get your spending up, then you don’t need us. Goodbye.

Another strand of the knot gone.

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  • Bob Starsky

    poland is even worse, not even able to defend themselves from invasion by czech/slovaks or ukraine. polish army is just a way to steal taxpayers money. their weapons are from 70s and soldiers dont even have enough uniforms :D there is very stron anty russian and pro usraeli propaganda tho

    • Bob

      Sounds like morphing into perfect EU-NATO member – focused on political narratives about alleged external enemies – whilst running under funded military with declining operational hardware.

  • S Melanson

    I really enjoyed reading this article. Of great interest to me is the premise of the article being that Trump is a wrecking ball for US entanglements in a global web of commitments:

    ‘Trump is not that Washington, he is the anti-Washington… six months ago I suggested that Trump may be trying to get out of what I called the Gordian Knot of Entanglements.’

    Having similar thinking, six weeks ago I posted that Trump is intentionally blowing up existing US relationships and commitments. Below I reproduce that post:

    ————————
    To me, Trump is sane, rational and intelligent. I make no comment on his moral character, God will be the judge of that. I also believe there is method to Trump’s madness but to understand his madness, we need to understand his goals.

    Trump says Make America Great AGAIN. Well say what you may, whether you love America or despise America, the United States is a great country by almost any measure. So does this mean Trump will tear down America and then rebuild a new and greater America? Yes, I do think that is what he means.

    Trump has shown disdain for his allies, the treaties and alliances and longstanding relationships between countries and governmental and trans-governmental organizations. All of it, all that is globalist – the old globalists that is. Trump is draining the swamp, to make room for his own swamp. This is one set of elites replacing another. And the vision of the new ‘mandarins’ that will run the US is very different from what went before. And so, Trump is basically torching Us longstanding relationships on the world stage as they do not serve the interests of the new masters.

    What will emerge from the carnage is a question yet to be firmly answered. Will the US return to a more isolationist position on the world stage as it was prior to WWII? Possibly, but One thing seems fairly certain is that the US will retreat to some degree as elites are recognizing the US is overextended and this is not sustainable. This will most definitely be a welcome development. Let us hope for the best and think positively.

    • Bob

      This is similar article of interest – ‘Trump and the NATO Bureaucracy’ – that slices through all the US and EU MSM driven hysteria over NATO summit:

      http://www.voltairenet.org/article202015.html

      • S Melanson

        Thanks for the link, good article.

    • James

      Trump is so back and forth on matters that he is completely unreliable to base any real conclusions on. What he seems to be, as every national leader does, is be a balance for the influential groups underneath. But because of the extreme differences in opinions and the struggle between them, Trump ends up looking like a schizophrenic character with a big voice but with no real direction. He is definitely not someone to take seriously, but instead to hear what agenda’s are being pushed in the background.

      • S Melanson

        You are not alone in that assessment. I point out that regarding Trump, you have concluded that one cannot come to any conclusion lol ;)

        I agree there is a bifurcated policy agenda as two powerful elite groups struggle for dominance. But I think Trump is part of one group which is attempting to displace the current occupiers of the centres of power.

        If Trump is about bringing some balance, he has not exactly been fulfilling that role given he has been shaking things up and throwing allies off balance.

        Trump is a bit of an enigma to me as I feel there is something I still don’t get about who he is and his intentions.

        • James

          Like I said before, it’s hard to draw conclusions and make deals with somebody who constantly flip/flops. I certainly wouldn’t want to be in his shoes as it would be very hard to save face and look sane in front a worldwide audience and diplomats who you want respect from. To me, he’s only a tool to be used as a smokescreen to the decisions made by the elite of society, not democratic polls, and what we are witnessing is an arm-wrestling match that Trump has to keep an arms-length from, otherwise he will have the same fate as JFK.

          • zman

            You’re pretty close. I think the only thing Trump need fear is discord among his backers, which could end badly fore him (as a message sent, collateral damage).

        • In negotiations, keeping your foe unaware of what you will do is smart strategy. Seems that James wants a President to be a cardboard cutout of Ward Cleaver.

        • zman

          I enjoy reading your posts, they are informative and rational thoughts. Trump is a sort of enigma today, but no real mystery. Most people that comment on him have only followed him for the last couple years, since his entry into politics (or seeing his TV show). For those who have followed his antics for the last 35-40 years, there is no real mystery at all. Trump is, first and foremost a conman doing front work for those that he represents (like any politician). Once you understand that, his actions are fairly transparent. He represents a new gang on the street, so to speak. Not that they are really ‘new’, but new to the drivers seat. This ‘gang’ is the international mafias whom he has been in bed with since his first business failure nearly made a pauper out of him. He learned the tactic of using OPM (other peoples money) from them. These mafias are even more integrated than since Lansky. All we are seeing today is the dismantling of the international order run by multinational corporations/banks and their being supplanted by the international mafias. His fortune and how he got it (real or merely claimed) is indicative of his bent. Most believe his casinos/real estate brought him riches, when in reality his ‘riches’ were attained by money laundering illegal funds through feigned bankruptcies and mob controlled union contracts. His ‘bankruptcy’ tactics are to increase the Mafiosos take…sorta like skimming off the top, making creditors merely happy to get something, instead of nothing. All the international agreements he is attacking are control mechanisms that are hindrances to his allies. In the end all one has to do is look at his money-men, the same as any other criminal. The real question to me is; which of the mafias will be running things in the end if he succeeds? The Russian mafia, who he has extensive relations with, the Israeli mafia, his biggest backers or the American mafia, who he started with. More than likely it will be all of them, sitting at a table like a board of directors. The trick for them is to institute control of their own from the chaos that will emerge, similar to the original NWO/MIC plans. As any good conman would do, he continues his diatribe to keep up his facade of MAGA…which is the door he entered through. If he confuses people, great. Remember the Mossads motto. It fits.

          • S Melanson

            Pretty good summation of where Trump is coming from, it was really helpful. Of course this raises the question of whether the mafia bosses can do a better job running the world? I not only think they could, I think they will. Why I think this i will leave to,a later,post.

            Why did they decide to make this move to topple those in the drivers seat? And what will emerge in its stead? I think the answers to these two questions are interrelated – with what is to emerge from all this still up in the air. But I agree with you that their will be multiple organizations at the table and this fits with the multipolar world push that Putin for one backs. If a single mafia boss dominated, we would have the same problem – power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely. There needs to be a check on ones own power or eventually you destroy yourself and possibly take everyone else with you. I suspect this is driving the sustained assault on US hegemony with considerable effect.

            The concerns with the dangers of a unipolar world are more than simply academic. They are very real. My take on why they made this daring move is in response to the dangerous path the ruling class were leading us down that had on several occasions come close to ending civilization. My guess is the breaking point was reached in 2014 when two existential threats were fortunately resolved in the nick of time.

            Maybe the world will be a safer place. Of course the mafia can be brutal, but compare them to the brutal regime they are replacing. It would be hard to imagine them being worse considering where the former masters were taking us. Perhaps saying former masters is speaking prematurely – hopefully, the transition will not lead to calamity.

      • viktor ziv

        As You wrote; “Trump is so back and forth on matters that he is completely unreliable to base any real conclusions on.” I believe this is the leitmotif of Trumps strategy. Just the same way Croatia confused Argentina in recent soccer world championship scoring ultimate goal.

      • One of the world’s greatest empire’s, the Mongols were very successful using “back and forth” tactics to confound their foes!

    • Feudalism Victory

      TRUMP 2O20

  • Snowglobe

    I do enjoy the tizzies that are thrown when Trump speaks plain common sense.

    “1. You tell us that NATO ought to concentrate on the Russian threat. If Russia is a threat, why are you buying gas from it?

    2. You tell us that Russia is a reliable energy supplier. If Russia is a reliable supplier, why are you telling us it’s a threat?

    3. I hope you’re not saying Russia is a threat and its gas is cheap but the USA will save you.”

    • zman

      1)’Russia is a ‘threat’ because the US NATO bosses demand that they say it is. They buy their gas from Russia because it is cheap and they know Russia is not a threat.

      2)Russia IS a reliable energy supplier, NATO is saying they are a threat because the US continues to tell them to say so.
      3)This is the baloney logic argument Trump is putting forth. In reality, the EU is creating it’s own security force, which will NOT be US controlled, like NATO. They know Russia is not a threat and will dump NATO at first chance. Russia is a reliable source of energy, unlike the LNG the US wants to rape them with. The US is not their ‘saviour’ and they know it. The US just controls the IMF funny money scheme.

      I also enjoy it when people actually believe Trump is on the up and up. Trump says what people want to hear and it’s mission accomplished.

    • Feudalism Victory

      I enjoy the media freaking out as well

  • Feudalism Victory

    Spot on. Trumps needs to MAGA but he needs his “allies” to move away so he can cut the ties.