The Donald Does Europe
The president headed to Europe, tweeting all the way, like a modern cavalier on his way to do battle with the forces of corruption and bad governance:
The European Union makes it impossible for our farmers and workers and companies to do business in Europe (U.S. has a $151 Billion trade deficit), and then they want us to happily defend them through NATO, and nicely pay for it. Just doesn't work!
Naturally, the bureaucrats' backs were up. (Kind of like Strzok's when he claimed absurdly that the many texts and emails in which he revealed that outrageously anti-Trump biases were not evidence of bias.)
European Council president Donald Tusk spouted, "Dear America, appreciate your allies, after all you don't have that many." The president:
... accused the EU of being "terrible" to the United States on trade.
"We lost $151 billion last year dealing with the European Union," Trump told reporters, referring to the U.S. trade deficit with the 28-nation bloc. "So they can call me all sorts of names. And if I were them, I'd call me names also, because it's not going to happen any longer."
Trump was responding to a question about comments Wednesday from Tusk, who criticized the "capricious assertiveness of the U.S. administration" and asked: "With friends like that, who needs enemies?"
"Well, I could reverse that," Trump shot back today. "Look, the European Union has been terrible to the United States on trade. They've been terrible to our workers."
Tusk's remarks followed Trump's withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal and his threats to impose new tariffs on European steel and aluminum.
Trump said his criticism of the EU sprang from the 2.5 percent tariff that European carmakers face on exports to the United States, compared with the 10 percent tariff that the EU imposes on U.S.-made autos.
The NATO meeting was similarly contentious; with the cameras rolling, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg fired his best shot and got a stunning return volley:
PRESIDENT TRUMP: But how can you be together when a country is getting the energy from the person you want protection against or from the group you want protection?
SECRETARY GENERAL STOLTENBERG: Because we understand that when we stand together, also in dealing with Russia, we are stronger. I think what we have seen is that –
PRESIDENT TRUMP: No, you're just making Russia richer, You're not dealing with Russia, You're making Russia richer.
The European Union Commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, showed up at the NATO dinner obviously drunk and teetering, propped up by other delegates as he staggered in.
The meeting highlighted the U.S.'s outsized role in funding NATO while the members exercise tariff-driven trade advantages against their benefactor Uncle Sam's taxpayers. The truth is that it's more than money that's at issue regarding European defenses. Pumping ever more money into social welfare benefits, Europe has largely ignored the needs of their military and on occasions when they do send some troops on a NATO mission, the troops need to be outfitted up by U.S. forces. The troops – in particular the German troops, the largest NATO country army – as reports from Iraq confirmed, were dangerously undertrained, poorly supplied, and not up to the task.
And the irony of the situation was not lost when the president pointed out that we were spending so much to defend Europe from Russia when Germany, with a push in 2005 from its former chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder (now chief European lobbyist for Putin), authorized a pipeline from Russia that made his country and Europe more dependent upon Russia, a dependency the Russians have not failed to exploit when it suits their aims.
How is it ... that Schroeder's cheerful embrace of lobbying for Russia has barely made a ripple on this side of the pond? The cynical answer is that most of those screaming the loudest about Russia today don't think of Putin as sinister because of his lack of criticism of Trump; they think of Trump as sinister because of his lack of criticism of Putin. Indeed, Russia shot down a passenger airliner over Ukraine in 2014 and it was out of the news within a week.
But their cynicism doesn't change the fact that Russia is generally hostile to American policies under presidents of either party, and Vladimir Putin would love to see the NATO alliance collapse. Their military actions in Georgia and Crimea demonstrate that when the Russians think they can get away with naked aggression, they'll try it.
In that light, the reluctance of some NATO members to honor their agreements, and spend the required 2 percent of GDP on military spending, is baffling. In 2017, just four member states hit that 2 percent threshold – the United States, (3.57 percent), Greece (2.36 percent), the United Kingdom (2.12 percent), and Estonia (2.08 percent), and we'll give Poland the benefit of the doubt because they hit 1.99 percent.
Tiny Luxembourg ranked last, spending less than one-half of 1 percent on their military. Perhaps Luxembourg's leaders figure that because they're nestled between France, Germany, and Belgium, they can count on their neighbors to slow down any invading Russians.
And as we, in effect, are subsidizing them and sending men and arms in to protect European interests, we get snide critiques in return.
Not given to mincing words, the president made clear this contradiction, batting aside Merkel's defense of Germany's conduct:
"We are protecting Germany, we are protecting France, we are protecting all of these countries and then numerous of the countries go out and make a pipeline deal with Russia where they are paying billions of dollars into the coffers of Russia. I think that is very inappropriate."
He added: "It should never have been allowed to happen. Germany is totally controlled by Russia because they will be getting 60-70% of their energy from Russia and a new pipeline.
"You tell me if that's appropriate because I think it's not. On top of that Germany is just paying just a little bit over 1% [of GDP on Nato defence contributions] whereas the United States is paying 4.2% of a much larger GDP. So I think that's inappropriate also."
His comments were linked to his push for other European countries – particularly Germany – to pay more for Nato's defence needs.
"I think it is unfair," Trump said. Other US presidents had raised the matter of European defence spending levels in the past but he was intent on dealing with it, he continued. "We can't put up with it."
Germany's plan to increase its defence expenditure to the Nato target of 2% of GDP by 2030 was not good enough, Trump said. "They could do it tomorrow," he added.
The frank talk about the absurdity of the Cold War strategy is nothing new – since 1988, people as disparate as Patricia Shroeder and Richard Perle have been making it.
Nevertheless, the president's critics would like to pretend that the policy isn't nuts even apart from the non-payments of pledged amounts into NATO, the Russian gas pipeline, and the disastrous state of the militaries of these allies.
They ignore, among other things, our NATO allies' deals with Iran.
The NATO countries are, indeed, among America's closest allies, but some of them appear more interested in oil, natural gas, and trade with Iran than in the Fulda Gap. Some of our "closest allies" have been working overtime to undermine America. If Mr. Trump is irritated with them, there is a reason.
Iran is preparing to take $300 million in cash out of German banks to get ahead of impending U.S. banking sanctions. While American intelligence officials are concerned that the money will finance terrorism, the German government says it has "no evidence" to that effect. According to the German newspaper Bild, "Iran ... says that they need the money 'to pass it on to Iranian individuals who, when travelling abroad, are dependent on euros in cash due to their lack of access to accepted credit cards.'" The German government appears to think that one million Iranian tourists might need $300 each – or perhaps 300 tourists might need $1 million each.
The plan to send dollars to Tehran is in line with European negotiations, led by Germany and France, to help Iran mitigate the economic fallout of the American withdrawal from the JCPOA – the Iran deal. The E.U. has also begun to update its "blocking statute," the rule that will prevent European companies from complying with impending Iran sanctions.
Germany is willing to run a multi-billion-euro trade deficit with Iran to keep the doors open, even as a 2018 German intelligence report confirms that Iran is currently seeking nuclear technology in there.
Not that the president isn't swimming upstream against a lot of domestic opposition to policy transparency and honesty.
Breitbart rolls them out. Here are some of my favorites from the article.
John Kerry, who secretly dealt with the North Vietnamese without authority:
Former Secretary of State John Kerry described Trump's Wednesday comments at a NATO breakfast meeting in Brussels, Belgium, as "counterproductive," "disgraceful," and "destructive." He also said Trump is "[setting] America back" and "destroying [America's] reputation in the world."
My thoughts on President Trump's remarks in Brussels this morning: pic.twitter.com/x0k3k0lOkA
—John Kerry (@JohnKerry) July 11, 2018
Obama's designated liar, Susan Rice:
Susan Rice (@AmbassadorRice) December 10, 2017
Today, we abdicated America's global leadership for the foreseeable future. And, we sold out our kids, grandkids & allies. Nice job, guys!
— Susan Rice (@AmbassadorRice) June 2, 2017
In any event, despite the wailing and gnashing of teeth by those stuck in some post-World War II time warp who have decided to remain blinkered about what's been going on and continue to stick us with an undue burden, NATO members have agreed to pony up more, according to the President. (Naysayers say they've seen no evidence of that, but I expect we will.)
Just before the scheduled meeting between Trump and Putin, Special Counsel Mueller indicted 12 people he claims are Russian military officers who reportedly hacked the DNC's unsecured servers. I suppose he didn't learn his lesson the first time he pulled such a publicity stunt. There he aimed for a propaganda victory against defendants he had no jurisdiction over, one of whom wasn't even in existence during the period in question. He never anticipated one would hire very competent counsel who entered an appearance and demanded in discovery proceedings to see the evidence.
It will be fun to see if one of them in this second junk case hires counsel to come in and during discovery procedures demands to see the DNC server, which as far as I know the DNC has refused to turn over to Comey, Mueller, or anyone else.
Even that cannot be so wonderful for the Democrats, for in announcing the latest fantasy indictments, Mueller's boss, Rod Rosenstein, said, "There is no allegation in this indictment that Americans knew that they were corresponding with Russians ... there is no allegation that any American committed a crime."
It's all Alice in Wonderland stuff, isn't it? Democrats and anti-Trumpers think it's perfectly fine for European leaders to put their own national interests first while criticizing the president for promoting and defending ours while calling out our allies' hypocrisy. For them, it's fine for the special counsel to waste time and money by indicting foreign nationals, over whom he lacks jurisdiction, for hacking unsecured communications made in violation of national security regulations, while he's never going after the perpetrators here, including Hillary Clinton, who made such hacking possible and likely.