Donald Trump recently attended the summit meeting of NATO leaders. While there, he embarrassed his country, showed his ignorance of history and diplomacy, and set in motion the possible dissolution of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. He made the world a much more dangerous place for everyone.
Here is just part of an op-ed in The Washington Post by Robert Kagan:
NATO has never been a self-operating machine that simply chugs ahead so long as it is left alone. Like the liberal world order of which it is the core, it requires constant tending, above all by the United States. And because it is a voluntary alliance of democratic peoples, it survives on a foundation of public support. That foundation has been cracking in recent years. This week was an opportunity to shore it up. Instead, Trump took a sledgehammer to it.
Never mind the final communique that Trump deigned to sign, or his reassurance at the end that the alliance was “very unified, very strong, no problem,” and or his claim that “I believe in NATO.” In his press comments alongside NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, in his tweets and in his private comments to European leaders, Trump made clear that he does not believe in NATO. In fact, he used this summit to lay out for the American people why NATO was not only “obsolete,” as he once said, but also a rotten deal for them.
Consider the question of allied military spending. As many pointed out, Trump could have come to Brussels and taken credit for the increased commitments that the Allies have made — and of course he did force Stoltenberg to give him credit. But then he moved the goal posts. He insisted the 2 percent of gross domestic product mark must be reached not by 2024, as agreed by the alliance (including the United States), but by January — something he knows is impossible. Then he went further, insisting that the allies spend 4 percent of their GDP on defense, higher even than his own defense budget.
These are not negotiating tactics. They are the tactics of someone who does not want a deal. In the private meeting, Trump is reported to have warned the allies that if they did not meet the 2 percent standard by January the United States would “go it alone.” To Stoltenberg he publicly warned that the United States was “not going to put up with it.” Whether he has any intention of making good on such threats scarcely matters. In his tweets, he asked, “What good is NATO” if Germany was paying Russia for gas? Why should the United States pay billions to “subsidize Europe” while it was losing “Big on Trade”? Those comments were not aimed at Europe. They were designed to discredit the alliance in the eyes of his faithful throng back home.
But even Trump must know the likely response in Europe. The insults and humiliations he inflicted on allied leaders will not be forgotten or forgiven. They will make it impossible for European leaders to win public support for the spending Trump disingenuously claims to want. What German leader after such a tongue-lashing could do Trump’s bidding and hope to survive politically?
Any student of history knows that it is moments like this summit that set in motion chains of events that are difficult to stop. The democratic alliance that has been the bedrock of the American-led liberal world order is unraveling. At some point, and probably sooner than we expect, the global peace that that alliance and that order undergirded will unravel, too. Despite our human desire to hope for the best, things will not be okay. The world crisis is upon us.