Trump and Merkel need to be reasonable

Cheriss May/NurPhoto via Getty Image

During his trip to the G7 in Brussels, President Trump angered much of Western and Eastern Europe with his failure to more forcefully embrace the role of the United States in upholding Article 5 of the NATO charter, guaranteeing mutual defense. Trump did state that America would “never forsake the friends that stood by our side.” But that was the sole reference to Article 5. Trump instead spent his time lecturing other NATO members on their failures to pay the committed 2 percent of GDP to defense. “Twenty-three of the 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying and what they’re supposed to be paying for their defense,” 

Trump stated. “This is not fair to the people and taxpayers of the United States. And many of these nations owe massive amounts of money from past years and not paying in those past years.” Trump also reportedly ripped into the Germans because they make nice cars that Americans enjoy driving – even though many of those cars are manufactured in large part in the United States. On Tuesday, he tweeted:

We have a MASSIVE trade deficit with Germany, plus they pay FAR LESS than they should on NATO & military. Very bad for U.S. This will change— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 30, 2017

In response to Trump’s message, German Chancellor Angela Merkel – ignoring verbiage from Trump Defense Secretary James Mattis that recommitted America to Article 5 – stated that Germany and the Europeans were essentially on their own now. She stated, “The times when we could completely rely on others are, to an extent, over. I experienced that in the last few days, and therefore I can only say that we Europeans must really take our fate into our own hands, of course in friendship…also with Russia nd also with all the other countries.” Merkel’s foreign minister said that Trump had “weakened” the west.

The Trump administration and the German government are both acting out of puerile spite and anger at a time when they should be acting in concert to check the threat of Russian ambition. But thanks to domestic political concerns, both countries’ leadership are now engaging in a round of posturing that leaves Russia grinning.

First, the Trump administration’s malfeasance. As Robert Kagan writes, “The greatest check on Chinese and Russian ambitions…has come from the combined military power of the United States and its allies in Europe and Asia.” Yet Trump himself has undermined military alliances with South Korea by complaining about America paying for an anti-ballistic missile defense system and with the Europeans, through his NATO talk. Here is the fact: America’s declining role in the world means a weaker America at home, not the opposite. America’s thriving economy since the end of World War II came, not coincidentally, along with America’s hegemony. For Trump to see NATO as some sort of American favor to the Europeans, without regard for the fact that absent America’s dominance over European foreign policy in the first half of the twentieth century, America inestimable blood and treasure in European clean-up, is myopic. A free world is better for the United States, and sacrificing a few bucks to make that happen – as opposed to cutting loose erstwhile allies to turn against our interests – is a good play.

Then there’s Merkel.

Merkel is obviously campaigning at home. Germany cannot stand up to Russia, nor can it lead a military effort to even curb Russian influence in Eastern Europe. The German military is currently looking to boost its ranks to 198,000 service personnel; Russia has approximately 750,000 troops available, and another 2.5 million in reserve. Putin has over 15,000 tanks, nearly 6,000 self-propelled artillery, nearly 4,000 multiple launch rocket systems, and over 3,400 aircraft. Germany can’t compete with that. So what’s the point of alienating a country they’ll need to call upon for assistance in case of a Russian encroachment on NATO?

All of this testosterone is counterproductive. The world is a more dangerous place when the West refuses to stand together – and Putin is on the other side of that line. Trump should figure that out, and Merkel should remember it.

This article contains statements from a publication by Ben Shapiro of the Daily Wire.

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