Obama disrespects NATO chief, raising questions about his commitment to the alliance
On January 20, 2017, we're going to pinch ourselves to make sure we're not dreaming that the most irresponsible president of the postwar era is finally out of the Oval Office.
The new NATO chief, former Norway prime minister Jens Stoltenberg, is in Washington this week for meetings with defense officials to discuss strategy. Several weeks ago, his people requested a meeting with President Obama – a courtesy given to every NATO secretary general in the past.
Obama didn't turn Stoltenberg down. He didn't even bother to reply. As Josh Rogin points out in Bloomberg, this lapse of respect at a time like this is incredible:
President Barack Obama has yet to meet with the new head of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and won't see Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg this week, even though he is in Washington for three days. Stoltenberg’s office requested a meeting with Obama well in advance of the visit, but never heard anything from the White House, two sources close to the NATO chief told me.
The leaders of almost all the other 28 NATO member countries have made time for Stoltenberg since he took over the world's largest military alliance in October. Stoltenberg, twice the prime minister of Norway, met Monday with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Ottawa to discuss the threat of the Islamic State and the crisis in Ukraine, two issues near the top of Obama's agenda.
Kurt Volker, who served as the U.S. permanent representative to NATO under both President George W. Bush and Obama, said the president broke a long tradition. “The Bush administration held a firm line that if the NATO secretary general came to town, he would be seen by the president ... so as not to diminish his stature or authority,” he told me.
America's commitment to defend its NATO allies is its biggest treaty obligation, said Volker, adding that European security is at its most perilous moment since the Cold War. Russia has moved troops and weapons into eastern Ukraine, annexed Crimea, placed nuclear-capable missiles in striking distance of NATO allies, flown strategic-bomber mock runs in the North Atlantic, practiced attack approaches on the UK and Sweden, and this week threatened to aim nuclear missiles at Denmark’s warships.
“It is hard for me to believe that the president of the United States has not found the time to meet with the current secretary general of NATO given the magnitude of what this implies, and the responsibilities of his office,” Volker said.
Bernadette Meehan, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council, declined to say why Obama didn’t respond to Stoltenberg’s request. “We don’t have any meetings to announce at this time,” she told me in a statement. Sources told me that Stoltenberg was able to arrange a last-minute meeting with Defense Secretary Ashton Carter.
I don't think there's any doubt that if Obama had his way, there would be no NATO, and the U.S. role in Europe's defense would be minimal. Liberals have been saying for 60 years that the alliance only provokes Russia. More recently, the left sees NATO as a relic of the Cold War. Regardless of the reason, Obama is leaving Europe in the lurch at a time when they most need the U.S.
Putin is no doubt delighted at the snub. Russia has been trying to drive a wedge between Europe and the U.S. since NATO was established. Now, Obama has done that for them.
Besides, Obama is too busy establishing his legacy by negotiating a treaty with our new partners in peace, Iran, to be bothered with trivialities like the future of Europe.