emptywheel_02

Will Trump’s Skepticism about NATO Bring EU Closer Together?

Before most of us were awake, NATO’s Secretary-General made what I consider an ill-considered statement reminding President-elect Trump that NATO is a treaty commitment.

“NATO’s security guarantee is a treaty commitment and all allies have made a solemn commitment to defend each other and this is something which is absolute and unconditioned,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told a news conference.

[snip]

Stoltenberg, a former prime minister whose own country Norway borders Russia, sought to remind the new president-elect that the only time NATO had activated its so-called Article 5 commitment, was in the defense of the United States — following the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington in 2001.

He also said NATO allies were a big part of the U.S.-led strategy to stabilize Afghanistan and rid it of militants hostile to the West, with a long-standing NATO presence in the country since the 2001 attacks.

NATO “is important both for collective defense in Europe and to provide help and play a role in the fight against international terrorism”, Stoltenberg said.

I say this was ill-considered because I think NATO needs to think seriously about Turkey’s role in the alliance, particularly given Erdogan’s crackdown and incursions into Iraq. Sure, NATO may find exceptions for Turkey that it wouldn’t for the US. But it is a complex time.

This may be unpopular. But I actually think President-elect Trump’s skepticism about NATO may have some upside.

I say that, first of all, because NATO has increasingly played a force multiplying effect on stupid American wars. That is actually the one area where Trump has been positive of NATO — asking them to do more in our stupid wars in the Middle East. But it’s one area where European countries have doubts. So maybe Trump will make it harder to use NATO to legitimize US invasions.

NATO also serves as the pole of the US-Europe relationship that gives the US the key leadership role, a way to bypass the EU itself to push dubious policy. Curiously, NATO is what Theresa May pointed to as the cement of the post-Brexit relationship. But what if Europe decides they need to develop their own capacities, and with them gain more independence from the US?

Sure, most of these discussions will be about perceived Russia aggression in Eastern Europe. It’s unclear how much Trump’s soft side for Putin will affect events in Eastern Europe (and whether Trump will be smart enough not to get completely rolled by Putin).

But NATO has increasingly become an offensive alliance, not a defensive one. Maybe it’s time to rein in that part of it?

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

18 replies
  1. bloopie2 says:

    John Kerry said a while back that an unchecked Islamic State could result in many millions more refugees for Europe, with all kind of bad consequences in Europe as to welfare, nationalism, etc. — which would then adversely affect the US.  I think that was a (partial) justification for the war against ISIS.  Is he correct?  Is this, in fact, initially a European problem?  Or are we all simply fighting terrorists in the Middle East?  And is that an offensive, or defensive, action?

    • b says:

      The Obama administration has supported ISIS from the get go, as have its Gulf partners who paid (and pay) for it.  Obama himself said in a Friedman interview that he let ISIS expand intentionally to get rid of Maliki, even though Maliki just won an election.

      To think that NATO (which includes ISIS supporter Turkey!) would seriously fight ISIS, and even more its al-Qaeda protegees , is a bit lunatic.

      The EU should tell Turkey “one more immigrant passing through and Turkey will lose ALL EU privileges.” If Russia could make the Turkish economy scream, the EU, with much more economic leverage, could bankrupt it within months.

       

  2. GKJames says:

    Interesting thought. But it presupposes that, between now and Inauguration Day, the Deep State won’t be assiduously working on Trump’s less-than-formed worldview. It’ll be reminding him that Washington’s — and NATO’s — primary focus in Europe continues to be Russia. Related to that is the need for the US to make sure that NATO partners stay onside vis-a-vis Russia, an arrangement that would be jeopardized if each country felt the need to make its own accommodation with Moscow because Washington hinted at materially changing the set-up. Trump talk about putting daylight between the US and the rest of NATO will probably end up being just that, especially when he’s reminded that that’s exactly what Russia wants.

    It it may be Russia’s behavior more than Washington’s which leads to NATO partners’ waning enthusiasm for US wars beyond Europe, as those countries, consistent with NATO’s original mission, focus on more immediate and relevant threats closer to home … and consistent with their respective publics.

  3. bloopie2 says:

     
    Anyone want to lay odds that, four years from now, we will be significantly closer than we are today to solutions to Russia/Ukraine, migration/refugees from Africa and the Middle East to Europe, the Greek economy, European unity/disunity, etc., etc.?  I’ll gladly take the other side of that bet.  Trump, Clinton, NATO, EU, whatever—the course of human events is beyond control.  We citizens should spend our time fighting the domestic state, instead—we might have an impact there.

  4. Peterr says:

    Stoltenberg is trying to box Trump in, appealing to his honor. “Honor your deal, the way we held up our end. You wouldn’t want to break a solemn commitment, would you?” It’s a time-honored tactic employed by foreign ministries everywhere for centuries.

    Stoltenberg is clearly not familiar with Donald Trump’s approach to negotiations: deals are made to be broken, so you can get better deals. “Honor this new deal. You wouldn’t want me to declare bankruptcy and then you get nothing, would you?”

    Stoltenberg forgets that there is no honor among thieves.

  5. Evangelista says:

    Stoltenberg’s statement, “…all allies have made a solemn commitment to defend each other…” covers the NATO member states’ agreements to each other. It is unlikely that Trump will have any difficulty with that, or that any NATO member will have any reason for qualms in regard to the United States’ NATO agreement commitment.

    Where difficulties might arise for NATO member nations will be in areas of extension of NATO beyond the limits of the NATO agreement. It has become a United States “custom” to fund NATO member nations’ NATO required military capabilities in return for member nation “loyalties” to what are supposed to be ‘United States’ military aims and purposes.

    The recent and current ‘build-up’ of military forces on Russia’s western border has been one of these kinds of “for the ‘United States’s’ purposes” operations.

    The ‘United States’ in single quotes here references not the United States Donald Trump has been elected President of, it references the ‘United States’ that is a client-state of International Elite “Globalists”. Those “Globalists”, who control mainstream U.S. media, have been the primary forces behind the antii-Trump campaigning of the recent election.

    The “Globalist Elite” are the primary force behind the Ukraine debacle. They created it and have rallied the support for it, committing the United States and drawing European NATO member nations in, to exert economic and military pressures against Russia. In doing these things those of the U. S. and Europe acting at the Elite’s behest have been abusing the NATO agreement and misusing NATO committed resources. They are operating outside the bounds of the NATO agreement, which is a defensive agreement, wherefore aggressive war-making and aggressive warlike posturing and acting are not NATO obligations, for any NATO member nation.

    From what Trump has stated It is reasonable to expect that he will withdraw the ‘bribes’ the U.S. has supplied to NATO members, at Elite behest, to ‘obligate’ the receiving members to participate in Elite-purpose aiding aggressions, and that Trump will order United States participation in NATO back to within NATO’s defensive obligation guidelines. It is likely that most NATO members will happily draw back to within those guidelines, too. It is likely that some European puppeticians will be unhappy, as most such in the U.S. already are.

    “Globalists” will, of course, characterize such action, in Europe, as ‘cozying up to Putin’, since it will de-fund the NATO bullying build-up on Russia’s border (where it is Russia whose building up is defensive) and leave the “Globalists” effort to acquire ownership of the Ukraine, and Ukrainian resources,without the belligerent-threat resources it has been depending on.

    • lefty665 says:

      Very nice. If Trump simply ceases the US neocon driven NATO operated anti-Russian bellicosity and NATO relaxes into a defensive posture it will fulfill our treaty commitments, facilitate his avowed rationalization of relations with Russia, and let him dun NATO members to pick up their share of the tab.  Pretty good potential outcomes from simply doing less.

      Purging the neocons from the US establishment must also happen, starting with Carter, Brennan, and Powers. That will be harder, and it won’t help if he brings Bolton back.

      • Evangelista says:

         

        “Purging the neocons from the US establishment…will be harder…”

        I don’t know…  :Headline:  “Tens of Thousands Take To Streets To Protest Trump Election”…  Just redirect them:  “It’s The Neocons Did It
        To Us!  THEY lost us the election!  Grab the ropes!  Let’s get ’em!!”

        A Traditional American Solution, from the Nineteenth Century…  A way for Dems to join the “Rollback America!” movement?

        Or maybe we can be civilized and just let the neocons wilt under a relentless Trumpean sun…  Let Global Warming do something useful for a change…?

      • lefty665 says:

        Point being scatological slurs don’t further the conversation.

        I have profound concerns about how Trump will conduct himself, as I did with Clinton.  But, getting us out of the insane, neocon, wars of aggression and thawing the new cold war we’ve been in since 2001 may be the best possible outcome we can hope for from Trump.

        Far as I’m concerned it behooves us all to do what we can to help that process along.  Spreading crap and McCarthyistic red baiting impedes the conversation.

        Get over it, your heartthrob lost, and for good cause (same would have been true for Trump), but that’s a conversation for another blog topic.

  6. rugger9 says:

    Well, until it is repealed, the NATO treaty still has the force of law in the USA (It’s in the Constitution), so the reminder is appropriate since at least the Senate would have to reconsider and reject the treaty.  What to do about Turkey is a whole post by itself.  When Erdogan goes after Greece will be an interesting betting pool.  The fact Turkey appears to be aligning with Russia would seem to be grounds to boot Turkey out of NATO (if that can be done) which may require a new treaty anyway.

  7. lefty665 says:

    No one has questioned the treaty obligation to defend fellow NATO states when they are attacked, so the “reminder”  appears to be supercilious lecturing .  However, requiring member states to pay their own way and quit aggressive saber rattling on Russia’s borders are both clearly permissible within our Constitutional treaty obligations.

    Neocon and liberal hawk saber rattling, NATO expansion, wars of aggression, and McCarthy like red baiting are some of the best reasons to take hope from Hillary’s defeat. Our survival may depend on Trump’s success in changing course. We would be well advised to try to play a thoughtful and constructive role.  Yammering about throwing Turkey out of NATO for talking to the Russians is neither.

     

    • GKJames says:

      This amusingly presupposes that the Deep State will let that happen. Just as it rolled Obama (and every president before him), so it will roll Trump. Further, there’s a widely and firmly held belief — always a risk because of its allergy to fact — that Clinton was out to get the Russians. This triggered phony WWIII rhetoric among Republicans (presumably because they feared Clinton’s undercutting their long-standing monopoly on “Red-baiting”). Reality has always been stubbornly more nuanced. There is in fact a legitimate debate to be had as to how to deal with a resurgent nationalism in Russia, and Putin’s insistence on messing with his smaller neighbors. More generally, your argument’s less with Clinton than with the entire US foreign policy apparatus and the broad public consensus on which it operates, namely, that Washington has the right as well as the competence to determine outcomes in other countries. This has long been what it means to be American; Trump will be no different.

      As for member states paying their own way, be careful what you wish for. Washington long ago made the deal  — with itself, basically — that the current arrangement is the surest way of preventing smaller NATO members from seeking their own respective accommodations with Moscow, thereby driving a geopolitical wedge between them and the US. The idea that countless prior administrations were naive “losers,” terrible negotiators, or too altruistic is fanciful.

      • lefty665 says:

        If we buy into “deep state” omnipotence there would be no point in anyone doing anything, so that cynicism is a non starter.

        Hillary is a neocon, and that’s fact. She’s a warmonger, she’s never seen a war, big or small, that she didn’t like. Her continued blather about a no fly zone in Syria is a perfect scenario to get us into a shooting war with the Russians. It would not take much for that to escalate. WWIII rhetoric is not either phony or Repub. The idea of nuclear weapons is lack of nuance, megatons of non-nuance.

        You are right that our entire foreign policy establishment has had its head up its ass since about March 20, 2003, but wrong on public consensus. Currently that is a product of incessant USG propaganda and msm jingoistic pandering. If that changes, the consensus will change too. That is the potential Trump brings. We came out of Iraq because the public tired of the slaughter, cost and lack of victory. That the Iraqis would not grant our soldiers immunity for war crimes sealed the deal. Hillary lost the 2008 primary because of her vote for that war. Our public taste is for quick painless victories, American exceptionalism is not impervious to American blood, cost and slow.

        Recruitment of eastern European NATO members was sketchy at best and in flat contradiction of assurances we gave the Russians that we would not expand NATO. We could have a more stable Europe if NATO members danced less to our virulent anti Russian tune and worked more at living as neighbors. If all it takes is picking up less of the tab to have them go their own ways that’s a twofer. The baltics would not be a strategic loss if they were friendly with Russia. NATOs raison d’etre was defense against the Warsaw Pact. You may have noticed that has long expired.

        We will see what happens with Trump. That chapter is not yet written, and the potential is that discussions here might have some small impact on how it goes.  This may be the change election we thought we were getting in 2008. A lot of it won’t be change for the better, but a profound change in our foreign policy could be a lifesaver.

        Thank you for your pompous superciliousness. It was good for a laugh and as an example of what is wrong with the way we view the world.

         

  8. rugger9 says:

    Given that NATO was created to respond the Warsaw Pact (the USSR and its surrogates) it may be time to revisit this topic since many former WP nations (like Poland and the Czech Republic) are NATO, as are the Baltic states whose annexation by the USSR in 1939 (part of the Molotov-Ribbentrop treaty) was never recognized by the USA.  However, Putin’s Russia is the USSR in its essentials without the Marxist ideology and every bit as dangerous.

    I’m not sure what NATO saber rattling you refer to, however, since it is Putin that actually has been invading the Ukraine. Please think. If you’re referring to the Baltics it’s because Putin’s making the same noises about them as Germany once did about the Sudetenland and we are obligated to defend them.

  9. mz_chief says:

    Take a look at an indication of Germany’s real financial position:

    “At December 31, 2015, the notional related to the positive and negative replacement values of derivatives and off balance sheet commitments were € 255 billion, € 606 billion and € 31 billion respectively.” ( http://wallstreetonparade.com/2016/10/germanys-deutsche-bank-again-in-trouble-received-a-u-s-bailout-twice-as-big-as-lehman-brothers/ )

    So destroying Greece was not enough and now Trump’s election ( http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election-germany-idUSKBN1340R3 ) is messing up Germany’s apparent follow-on economic recuperation plan of World War III with Russia (https://www.rt.com/news/333248-us-germany-ammunition-supply/ and https://www.sott.net/article/333508-More-provocation-US-sends-largest-ammo-shipment-in-20yrs-to-Germany-amid-ongoing-European-buildup/ )? It’s way past time to decommission the banksters and NATO.

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