By Didas Gasana
On June 24, 2016, I opined on this page that the greatest story of this century shall be an erosion of an international order as we know it today. Raising the stakes then was the possibility of Donald Trump in the White House, Nigel Farage or Borris Johnson at 10 Downing Street, Marie Le Pen at Elysee Palace and Vladmir putin at the Kremlin. I argued that this scenario shall only have one winner- Vladmir Putin- The Vlad!
I argued that Putin shall be the ultimate winner because Russia has a score to settle with the EU and the US. Putin, a former head of the much dreaded KGB and a former KGB officer in Germany at the height of cold war, is playing a chess board whose ultimate aim is to restore Russian glory by weakening western democracies. That is why he invests a lot in destabilizing the EU, NATO and allegedly, interfered in the US elections.
Now, while France’s far right under Le Pen failed, there is no doubt that Great Britain, as it stands now, is Regretting Britain. The idiot who hatched Brexit and the moron who sold the idea have since gone under cover.
The danger, as predicted is from Donald Trump. And nothing epitomised this trend more than the just concluded NATO summit in Belgium. Brian Klass, a political scientist professor at London School of Economics and a PHD holder from Oxford University summarizes Trump’s game plan as such: ‘Create crisis with reckless rhetoric and dangerous escalation, claim ‘win’ prematurely, leave and watch deal disintegrate.
Asked today after NATO meet if he will stop military exercises in the Baltic States if Putin requests, Trump responded, ‘perhaps we’ll talk about that’. Such a statement reveals more of a man lacking both clarity and a shared vision of mutual pacts whose collective advantage benefits all members. Indeed, Adam Schiff, A republican representing California’s 28th congressional district and a ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, had to control the damage. ‘Our Baltic allies are under constant threat, and NATO’s military exercises are a vital deterrent. Little would undermine NATO more than the idea that the security of NATO members is a subject of negotiation with Putin.’ He adds; ‘even Vladmir Putin can’t believe this. He is fantasized about an American President praising the Kremlin while attacking the EU, US allies, and above all, destroying NATO from within’.
For all intents and purposes, countering Russia is NATO’s core mandate yet Donald Trump appears playing Russia’s fifth columnist. Let me remind that in its history, only once has article 5 of the treaty establishing NATO been invoked. Art 5 states that an attack on one NATO member is an attack on all NATO members and, consequently, all NATO members shall defend the attacked member. This article was only invoked on September 12, 2001, and guess by who? By the US after the terror attack on Twin Towers and the Pentagon.
Lacking the historical context and content with his sense of flawed fame, Donald Trump’s first attack was aimed at Germany, later UK, and later defense expenditure. Gladly, the first counter reaction came from his own. “These summits really have only one deliverable: the one thing that must be delivered is unity,” Doug Lute, U.S. ambassador to NATO from 2013 to 2017, told The Daily Beast. “Anything that erodes unity, like these early shots at Germany, is very destructive, and an opening for anyone whose aim is to divide the alliance, like Vladimir Putin. Russia has a long term strategic goal of dividing NATO. We shouldn’t help, shouldn’t assist, in Putin achieving that goal.”
François Heisbourg, one of the Europe’s most respected defense analysts, noted that Trump has been dissing NATO for decades, but now as president his views count. He says that the G7 meeting last month was, behind the scenes, even worse than most headlines made it seem, Trump talked about the E.U. essentially as a rival rather like China, only weaker, and in private as well as public likened NATO to NAFTA: by his lights a bad deal for America.
“Trump has a vision of the world in which everything is bilateral and the United States can monetize its power,” said Heisbourg. “Turning NATO into a protection racket, that is the best fate that he promises us.” The great difference between Trump and his Russian counterpart, Heisbourg says, is that “Trump’s tactics are dreadful, whereas Putin’s tend to be exquisite.”
This doesn’t mean NATO is dead no matter how Putin and Trump may want it. Over the past four years, there has been no letup in the almost frantic NATO preparation for possible conflict on the European continent. Four months after being caught flatfooted by the Russian seizure of Crimea, NATO approved the base-line Readiness Action Plan at the 2014 Wales summit. The plan included a continuous air, land, and maritime presence across the NATO frontier with Russia. Among other initiatives, the alliance increased the size and readiness of the NATO Response Force and established a subcomponent called the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force, composed of about 5,000 troops provided by a rotation of allies with maritime, special operations, and aviation units that can deploy to a crisis within two or three days. In addition, the Wales summit established eight multinational NATO Force Integration Units in the east to help train troops and receive reinforcements in a crisis.
Most notably, it was at Wales that NATO allies signed on to the Defense Investment Pledge, an agreement “to reverse the trend of declining defense budgets, to make the most effective use of our funds and to further a more balanced sharing of costs and responsibilities.”
Yet with all these commitments, Donald Trump has repeatedly called into question NATO’s strategic value and berates America’s closest allies. Already, he has sent hostile letters to the leaders of several NATO member-states demanding they do more to pay their own way (Notwithstanding that his figures of US monetary contribution to NATO are religiously flawed). In the East, an aggressive Russia has used conventional and nonconventional weapons to invade sovereign states and undermine European and American security. In continental Europe, migrant and refugee flows not seen since World War II are roiling internal politics within frontline and destination states.
Also significant democratic backsliding among NATO member states. The cast of illiberal characters—who are leading the charge in the wrong direction—includes the recently reelected and empowered Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP), Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s Law and Justice (PiS) Party in Poland, and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and the ruling Fidesz Party. Each has proven more than willing to repress free media, dismantle checks and balances, demonize political opposition, clamp down on civil society, and diminish the rule of law. America’s democratic system and norms under President Trump are also under duress; as a result, Freedom House downgraded US’ score on the basis of weakening political rights and civil liberties.
Despite these alarming developments, NATO leaders have relegated democratic backsliding to the backburner. Opponents of making the case for democracy within NATO might argue that pushing Ankara, Warsaw, and Budapest too hard on their commitments to good governance will exacerbate already tense divisions in the alliance. Others might say that Russia would be the prime beneficiary of a contentious democracy discussion at NATO.
Yet, former US ambassador to Israel, Daniel Shapiro, argues we don’t understand the full gravity of Trump’s actions and how they are more likely that not set to set the world ablaze. ‘I don’t think we are fully grappling with the possibility that we could be on the on the cusp of a completely new era, a fundamental reshaping of the international order,’ he writes.
As Daniel rightly argues, Trump clearly wants to pull the US out of NATO. He doesn’t believe in the alliance (or any alliances); he thinks US allies take advantage of the US; he complains that NATO is worse than NAFTA; he seeks purely transactional relations with our closest partners.
Should other NATO members meet their 2% of GDP defense spending targets? Absolutely. Trump is on solid ground to push for it. But to consistently trash allies, undervalue their contributions to the global security, threaten to withdraw US troops — that’s him wanting out.
Perhaps most damaging is that his rhetoric is building up hostility to NATO among his supporters. It’s a huge breach in the consensus American support for the alliance that has undergirded Western security for 70 years, and it won’t disappear when Trump does.
What’s more, his passionate desire for friendship with Putin is emboldening Russia & risks doing further damage to European security. If he recognizes Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea, if he seeks to tone down sanctions on Russia over its aggression vs Ukraine, watch out.
He has sabotaged the NATO summit the way he did the G-7. Don’t be surprised if he actually makes a move toward exiting NATO. Think he won’t? On what basis? Because his staff restrains him? Because of his strategic understanding? Please.
If Trump gets to the point of exiting NATO, given his blatant lies after the summit that France President Macron had to dismiss, then we are entering a new era without these international organizing structures. Because for all of NATO’s challenges, no sane person or American political leader has or would contemplate such a reckless move.
But it could happen. Trump doesn’t know the history or strategy, doesn’t listen to experts, personalizes everything & makes it transactional, & loves the drama of the outrageous move that dominates cable TV coverage. For him, pulling out of NATO is all gain, no cost.
I repeat: we are potentially on the verge of a wildly dangerous cascade of events that will devastate our interests, weaken our leadership, abandon our allies, embolden our adversaries, and make the world a darker and more brutal place.
We have done no planning for this course of action. No one thinks it is a good idea. But one man, whose knowledge and values are wanting, whose motivation is suspect, and whose supporters follow him blindly, could take us there.
Trump lacks both historical context and the imagination to envision the consequences of his actions on the world stage. He’s also accustomed to others fixing his string of failures. Those who unleashed him will find they have no ability to control him. Terrifying. In the next episode; I will take you through what Sweden and Europe need to do.
Till then, please read the following illuminating books:
-Planned collapse of Americanism, Trump’s biggest challenge, by Edward G. Glinka.
-Killing the Deep State, the fight to save President Trump, by Jerome R Corsi, PHD.
-Facts and Fears, Hard Truths From a Life in Intelligence, by James R Clapper.
-From Cold War to Hot peace, An American Ambassador to Russia, by Michael McFaul.
-The Plot to Destroy Democracy, How Putin and his Spies are Undermining and Dismantling the West, by Malcolm Nance.
-To End a Presidency, The power of Impeachment, by Laurence Tribe and Joshua Matz.
-A World in Dissaray, American Foreign Policy and the crisis of Old order, by Richard Hass.