Is Trump embracing Brazil to teach Germany a lesson?
President Trump held his first joint press conference with Brazil's awesome new conservative president, Jair Bolsonaro, and threw out the bombshell idea of making Brazil a full member of NATO.
It was a head-turner, because up until now, the functionality of the U.S.-Brazil relationship has always revolved around assorted trade spats, and now the disintegration of Venezuela, which is situated between the two giants.
Now there's Trump's talk of making Brazil a NATO member — and it didn't sound like mere associate membership, as Colombia won in 2018, that he had in mind. It sounded like membership-membership, as Whoopi Goldberg would say.
Was that a proposal for a realignment we just heard? Was that a message to Germany?
Bringing Brazil in would certainly represent a change in NATO's size and focus, and Brazil throwing its weight around in the alliance would be a game-changer, rendering Germany and other NATO deadbeats kind of irrelevant. Trump did suggest he would discuss it with the other NATO allies in the presser here, so it wasn't entirely a fox-in-the-European-henhouse type of remark, but everyone knows that Trump is no big fan of NATO, so instead of breaking it up, he's going to override it. Was Trump leaning on Europe to let it know that if it didn't want to support NATO, there were other nations that could be brought in?
The presser was full of cordial words and many compliments, but it was halting, and I didn't see much chemistry or warmth or any smiles or even much eye contact until around the 21st minute. President Trump was clearly reading from a paper script, not engaging in his normal freewheeling, impromptu style. So he's obviously being careful about something.
Bolsonaro was pretty much the same way, giving a non-answer to a question from a reporter about the establishment of U.S. military bases on Brazil's northern border, something that even the most conservative of us aren't exactly bucking for, but maybe a necessity on a NATO plan, and at the same time something that could rankle Brazil if Bolsonaro said "yes." So he, too, was being careful, and his remarks were just as scripted.
Most of the media questions were pretty serious and topic-focused. Nobody disgraced himself much on that front.
With Brazil in NATO, the borders of what's known as the "west" would expand significantly, and the junk influence from China and Russia in the region would become less important. Brazil could even earn its entry by hosing out Venezuela, bringing some global respect for the worth of its fighting troops if it is successful. What's more, the aircraft manufacturers, such as Embraer and Boeing, which have become linked, could become a military-technology powerhouse. Brazil isn't a charity case — it actually brings stuff to the table. Besides technology, as a NATO member, Brazil might actually bring money and commitment.
So more specifically, was Trump's proposal a message to Germany? Notice the state of U.S. relations with NATO's anchor partner, whose security has always been the main NATO focus.
According to DW, the German news agency:
Wolfgang Kubicki, the deputy chairman of the opposition Free Democrats (FDP), said Richard Grenell's repeated interference in German sovereignty should prompt Foreign Minister Heiko Maas to immediately declare Grenell persona non grata.
"Any US diplomat who acts like a high commissioner of an occupying power must learn that our tolerance also knows its limits," said Kubicki, who is also one of five deputy speakers of Germany's Bundestag parliament.
Grenell had on Tuesday criticized Germany's military spending plans within NATO as insufficient, prompting Kubicki to accuse the envoy of "interfering" repeatedly in political issues of a sovereign country.
Grenell's criticism of Germany's defense spending came weeks after he demanded that Berlin halt Nord Stream 2, a gas pipeline being laid across the Baltic Sea to deliver gas from Russia to Germany, and threatened firms involved in the project with sanctions.
Breitbart has a much more detailed story showing the extent of Germany's failure to live up to its NATO commitments, making its petulant defensiveness look even worse.
The Trump-Bolsonaro meeting seems to have signaled a big realignment of some kind — that NATO proposition was definitely a bolt out of the blue, and quite possibly a message to Germany to shape up or get dwarfed.
At a minimum, the meeting signaled that the U.S. has suddenly gotten a bigfoot new ally, one of the vaunted BRICs, actually, blowing apart the establishment-lefty view that the BRICs are striking out on their own and rising together. (In the past, we'd see pictures like this to demonstrate the hype). Actually, Brazil has much more to gain in a tag-team relationship with the U.S. than it does hanging around with messed-up countries such as Russia, or nasty, economically battered tyrannies such as China. The only thing such giants have in common with Brazil is size, and, well, the U.S. has lots of size, too. Why should Brazil bother with those places just because euro-focused Goldman Sachs thinks they belong together? Throw Brazil into NATO instead, and watch things change.