|In the torrent of explosive revelations contained in the book by the former National Security Adviser John Bolton, there is one quote that appears to be almost an afterthought but that in reality is terrifying not just for the European allies but for all those Americans who grew up with the understanding that the United States and Europe are bound by a common destiny. No such thing is possible if President Trump were to be reelected. In a meeting with his military chiefs, the president lashed out at them and announced his intention to withdraw troops from the Middle East, from Africa and Europe. “I want out of everything,” Bolton quotes the president as saying.It is a delirious statement that should be a matter of serious concern for all those Americans whose fathers and grandfathers fought to liberate Europe and then make it a lynchpin of American security through NATO and a host of other multilateral agreements.A number of events have severely tested the purpose and unity of the defense alliance but the greatest danger comes from the absence of a strong American presidential leadership. The Trump administration has acquired the dubious distinction of having cut its moors from a plethora of international agreements, including the Paris climate accord, the Trans Pacific Partnership, the Iran deal, UNESCO, NAFTA (partly replaced by the U.S.-Mexico trade agreement), the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Agreement, the U.N. Human Rights Council, UNRWA (the U.N. aid program for Palestinian refugees), the World Health Organization, the Open Skies Treaty and finally, the expected exit from the last major arms treaty with Russia, START.The threat of American disengagement from NATO is by far the most dangerous specter in the sphere of international power politics, particularly at a time when divisions inside the alliance are widening. Europe has been dealt a huge blow by the coronavirus pandemic and is desperately trying to save its economy, not unlike the United States. Not only that, Europe is engaged in the huge task of upholding its democratic values in the face of right-wing challenges from Eastern European member countries. No less important is the effort to restore the European Union’s defense strength. This is not a move independent from the United States but deeply dependent on American cooperation, something that under Trump is now fading away.|
The latest knifing of NATO’s cooperation and solidarity came with the informal announcement by the president that he was going to withdraw up to 10,000 troops from Germany, a decision that caught off guard not only the Pentagon and the State Department, but Germany. NATO leaders were also kept in the dark. The repercussions can already be seen not only in Germany, where Trump’s policies are fueling anti-American sentiment, but in the other member countries that will be impacted by the weakening of NATO solidarity. In this course of events, the winner is Russia’s Putin who pursues the effort to weaken Western solidarity and its military cohesion. What is sad, and difficult to understand, is that the U.S. president, who was anointed long ago as the leader of the Free World, has only one petty response, that Germany does not pay enough for its defense. “We are protecting Germany and the Germans are delinquent. That does not make sense,” he stated. It almost sounds as the U.S. is acting like Mafia, demanding protection money. It looks as if for Trump NATO is like a trade organization, a conclusion that is supported by the link between troop reduction in Germany and the personal problems that Trump seems to have with German Chancellor Merkel. The German leader aroused Trump’s ire when she declined to attend the G7 meeting in the U.S., a traditional get together where the president was determined to invite Russian President Putin, without the adherence of the allies. Americans would do well to keep in mind this fundamental truth that their president does not countenance: NATO and Europe are essential to U.S. interests not just as a defense ally and an economic partner, but also as the infrastructure that support U.S. global military operations. The European allies, like the possible majority of American voters, can only hope for a change in the White House. Were that not to happen, the writing is on the wall: NATO, that many see as in a coma, is expendable.