There was no such decadent sentiment that reigns now in NATO. A new problem has been added to the former problems: Trump is thinking about leaving the Alliance. German experts believe that it is necessary to exert maximum efforts and keep the US in Europe, because only they can effectively contain Russia. Paris and Berlin have no chance to replace Washington. The only leader who now has a reason for joy is Vladimir Putin.
Such a decadent mood that prevails now, on the eve of the 70th anniversary of the creation of NATO, has not been in this organization over the past decades. A new problem has been added to the previous problems: the reports that the USA are thinking about leaving the Alliance are being confirmed.
‘Last year, President Trump proposed a step equivalent to the destruction of NATO: the United States withdraws from the Alliance,’ – from this phrase from the article by Julian Barnes and Helen Cooper in the New York Times for all participants transatlantic relations and observers had to move the hair on the head (if they, of course, had not yet managed to pull them out, nervously watching the steps of the American leader in the past two years).
Anxiety about the future of the Alliance is growing
A detailed, cited source and written by authors who have long been involved in the topic of NATO and the White House, an article in one of the most respected (though not by Trump itself) American publications was intended to impress and effect was achieved. Since January 14, this publication has become one of the most discussed texts on the topic of the situation in the high circles of the US leadership and the relationship of the American authorities with Europe and NATO. I am writing “one of”, since recently there has been a great deal of material with comments on the topic of modern security policy in Washington and its criticism.
They create an extremely unfavorable atmosphere, raise doubts, reduce the level of trust in the Alliance and make its future more obscure on the eve of a number of upcoming events: meetings of defense ministers of NATO member countries, the Munich Security Conference and the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the creation of this organization . Many probably began to wonder whether this anniversary would be the last.
An article in the New York Times does not tell anything new about the mood of the American president. He has repeatedly stated his claims to the Alliance in the form in which it functions now. It is known that Trump would like to redistribute obligations in a new way and make his allies “pay more”. He is repelled by the belief that Europe treats America unfairly and even tries to use it, robbing American taxpayers.
I myself called NATO an obsolete institution and wondered about the expediency of sending American soldiers to a fictional war that the “extremely militant Montenegro” could supposedly unleash, however, I didn’t raise the topic of US withdrawal from the Alliance.
‘As senior administration officials told us, in 2018, Trump several times privately said that he wanted to withdraw from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization,’ the authors of the article in the New York Times write. This means that although the topic did not extend beyond the White House, it was discussed within its walls. One of these discussions unfolded on the eve of last year’s incredibly complicated NATO summit in Brussels. Trump then told his closest associates that he sees no reason to remain a member of an organization that, in his opinion, is abusing American resources.
Trump’s threats don’t work
At that moment, the president managed to persuade not to give his opinion publicly. The summit was held in a tense situation, but the words about the withdrawal of the Americans from NATO were not heard at it. On the contrary, Trump finally decided that he managed to take the upper hand: he received data on the increase in the defense expenditures of the Alliance and could appropriate the laurels of the author of this success. However, he partially had the right to this, because although European countries themselves have already begun to come to the conclusion that more money should be allocated for defense, it was the threats of the US that made them not to delay the decision. American policy made the strongest impression on small and relatively weak countries, such as Poland or Romania. In the new course of the Washington administration, they see more chances than threats.
In July 2018, Secretary of Defense James Mattis and National Security Advisor to the President John Bolton convinced Trump that the topic of US withdrawal from NATO was so shocking to the European allies that in the end America would suffer the most. But this, apparently, did not prevent discussion in the corridors of the White House.
There are new signals that indicate that Trump’s attitude towards the Alliance has not changed. Quite the contrary: he can use commemorative events for new attacks on the organization. According to the New York Times, on the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Washington Treaty, not large-scale celebrations with the participation of state leaders will take place, but only a meeting of foreign ministers. It is said that more magnificent events are scheduled for the end of the year, but who knows that during this time will have time to happen.
In July, a summit is to be held in Brussels, where there will be no shortage of difficult topics that cause disputes among allies. First of all, the discussions will be connected with Trump’s isolationist doctrine, the implementation of which threatens to turn into the exit of the Americans from Syria, the reduction of the US presence in Afghanistan, the severance of the INF Treaty and God only knows what else.
The springtime speech of the new head of American diplomacy, Michael Pompeo (Michael Pompeo), was a harbinger of this at the mini-summit of the heads of diplomacy of NATO member countries. In February, the heads of the defense departments will hold a regular meeting, where the US will be represented by a new man: the acting head of the Pentagon, Patrick Shanahan, who took the place of James Mattis, who had unexpectedly retired.
The departure of the former secretary of defense was a shock not only for the United States, but also for NATO. Mattis was a supporter of the traditional approach to American obligations and alliances, and in his farewell statement he made it clear that the president treats these topics quite differently. Consequently, in the coming year, the allies may have to see the true face of Trump, and this will not be the most pleasant picture.
The darkest scenario comes to life
It is not surprising that the article in the New York Times did not surprise the ‘atlantists’ on both sides of the ocean, but only heightened their concern. Some experts remind that they have long been warned about this, and some are pessimistic that the most gloomy scenario comes to life. Most analysts state that the only world leader who now has a reason for joy is Vladimir Putin. Former Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt (Carl Bidt) says that once Trump thinks about withdrawing from NATO, it can’t be worse. German expert Ulrich Speck (Ulrich Speck) devoted a few comments to the above article, of which the most important can be called, perhaps, the one where it says that Germany should make maximum efforts and keep the US in Europe, because only they can effectively contain Russia. Such a statement contradicts the widespread opinion in Poland, which states that Berlin and Paris are the main opponents of the presence of Americans on our continent. Speck says that Paris has no chance of replacing Washington, and you should not even have any illusions on this score.
In many American comments, the thought sounds that although the president claims that he holds a tough position with regard to Russia, his words and deeds are in line with the aspirations of the Kremlin. Relations with Moscow and Putin have lately increasingly cast a shadow on Trump’s image. The media found out that the FBI launched an investigation, trying to find out whether the American president is acting in the interests of Moscow. Trump even had to answer the question posed in this way, since American journalists (even from publications that approve of the presidential course) could not disregard such accusations. Moreover, it turned out that Trump did not even talk about the details of the negotiations with Putin to his closest associates: he took the notes from his translator.
The atmosphere continues to heat up, especially since the special prosecutor who is investigating Moscow’s interference in the American elections, as they say, will present its report in the coming months. The press is wondering if there will be enough materials in this document to at least start the impeachment procedure. In this context, reports that Trump is considering whether the United States should withdraw from NATO are particularly alarming.
Will this anniversary of NATO be the last?
All this is just a press release. From them to the seemingly so incredible perspective, and even more so to the realization of threats in life is far away. Trump is a person subject to impulses, and perhaps this can explain the discussions that started in the White House. On the other hand, the accusations against NATO were already heard during the election campaign, and now the president has just begun to fulfill his promises. The topic of building a wall on the border with Mexico shows that he is ready to put them into practice, regardless of the consequences, even at the cost of a record long suspension of the work of the federal government. Who knows if he will not decide on an unimaginable step in relation to the Alliance. Trump takes great risks. Departure from NATO will be perceived as a blow to US fundamental security interests and could lead to massive resignations at the Pentagon, the defense ministry, and the army.
Even Trump has to reckon with the generals, although, of course, he never ceases to test their strength. However, the very thoughts about US withdrawal from NATO (especially since these ideas come from the American president) weaken the Alliance and complicate relations between the allies. And this is the worst gift for the 70th birthday.