By Dave Stockton
Donald Trump claimed victory over his European allies at the Nato heads of government conference in Brussels on July 11-12. Though he avoided reducing it to the total shambles of the June G7 Summit in Canada, he once again showed his scorn for the multilateral diplomacy that hitherto disguised US dominance over Western Europe. Instead, bullying words and brutal ultimatums are his way of (man)handling America’s closest allies.
He had prepared them for this by tweeting his contempt for Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel, on her most sensitive issue, one that nearly brought down her government; immigration.
“The people of Germany are turning against their leadership as migration is rocking the already tenuous Berlin coalition. Crime in Germany is way up. Big mistake made all over Europe in allowing millions of people in who have so strongly and violently changed their culture!” (18 June)
No one should have been surprised since Trump’s new ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, had said earlier in the year that he saw one of his tasks as helping to “empower other conservatives throughout Europe”. Hardly the accepted role for an ambassador. But then neither he nor His Master observe such conventions. In an interview with Breitbart, the voice of America’s Alt Right, the same diplomat opined, “ I think there is a groundswell of conservative policies that are taking hold because of the failed policies of the left.”
In the preparation for the Nato Summit, Trump kept up the barrage against Germany:
“What good is NATO if Germany is paying Russia billions of dollars for gas and energy? Why are there only 5 out of 29 countries that have met their commitment? The U.S. is paying for Europe’s protection, then loses billions on Trade. Must pay 2% of GDP IMMEDIATELY, not by 2025.”
Then, on the final day, he threw another spanner in the works, first by arriving 30 minutes late to a meeting with the leaders of Ukraine and Georgia to discuss “Russian aggression”, and then demanding that the issue of non-fulfillment of defence spending be discussed yet again.
His “allies” were obliged to bundle the Georgian and Ukrainian supplicants out of the room and accept yet another telling off from the petulant president. It is reliably reported that he threatened the US would “go it alone”, that is, abandon Nato, if they did not cough up.
Later, he refused to deny that he had threatened this. Indeed, he effectively confirmed it by claiming he could “probably” withdraw without needing Congressional approval (a lie). Of course he added this would not now be necessary since the Europeans had agreed to pay more and added, with stupendous cynicism, “Nato is much stronger now than it was two days ago”.
He also claimed the Europeans had agreed to reach the 2 per cent of GDP target, faster than previously promised and to increase financial commitments thereafter. However, French President Emmanuel Macron immediately stated that no such thing had been agreed.
It is true that only five of the 29 Nato members have reached the target of spending at least 2 per cent of GDP on defence, whereas the US spends 3.5 and the UK just over 2 per cent. In the course of the meeting, Trump upped the ante saying they should all be spending 4 per cent of GDP and the US was now setting out to do just that.
Trump is actually only bringing out into the open the great “protection racket” the USA has operated since 1949. For forty years, US troops were present in Europe in huge numbers, over 50 percent of overseas deployment. The US still has 62,000 troops in Europe. Obviously, with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the withdrawal of Russian forces from Eastern Euope, US troop numbers were massively reduced.
As for the supposed threat posed by Vladimir Putin, it is true that Russia is modernising its military and asserting its interests in its “near abroad”, the Caucusus and Ukraine.
But the background to this is that Russia is trying to make up for the relentless advance of Nato around its borders. The US-led alliance, far from their carrying out a withdrawal to match the Soviet one, let alone dissolving itself, pushed its membership eastwards in the 1990s and early 2000s, joining up Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Slovenia. Now, in Brussels, North Macedonia has just applied to join. This was in breach of a verbal assurance to the trusting Gorbachev that there would be no Nato expansion if he withdrew from Germany.
As for Russian aggression, although it is also an imperialist power, capable of bloody and criminal acts, as witnessed in Syria, it is one that had been on the defensive for nearly two decades. When a fake revolution, spearheaded by fascist militias, drove out a corrupt (but elected) pro-Russian oligarch in Kiev, replacing him with a corrupt pro-American oligarch, it was no surprise that Putin decided enough was enough. He siezed largely Russian-speaking Crimea because it was the location for Russia’s Baltic fleet, which Ukrainian nationalists had foolishly talked of evicting. The US and Nato then launched a new Cold war of sanctions and rearmament.
In some of the commentaries on the Nato summit, British critics of Trump have warned that if he discredits Nato it would be an open invitation for Jeremy Corbyn to propose leaving Nato. In 2016, during his campaign for election as Labour leader he voiced his opposition to the 2 per cent of GDP target for defence spending and his opposition to Trident Renewal. But his advisors persuaded him to put these “on the back burner” when faced with threats of revolt from Labour MPs.
Corbyn has never repeated his old views on leaving Nato and no explicit commitment to it was included in Labour’s 2017 manifesto. Labour’s defence spokespersons have declared, whenever asked, the party’s undying loyalty to the Alliance.
However it is true enough that most of Corbyn’s supporters (and therefore probably a majority of the party’s members) would be very happy to see a withdrawal from it in Labour’s policies. But organisations of the left, such as Momentum, will do nothing to embarrass Corbyn.
Those on the left who dare to stick up for their principles should use the crisis into which Trump has plunged the whole “Western Alliance” to demand that the party stands clearly and unequivocally for Britain leaving Nato, cancelling and dismantling Trident and the whole nuclear arsenal and withdrawing British troops and bases from around the world.