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Trump Raises Doubts in NATO Allies

Trump Raises Doubts in NATO Allies

Everything is ready for US President Donald Trump to land on Tuesday in Brussels where he will later participate in the NATO summit. A meeting where the tensions instigated by the White House among the rest of the 28 countries will serve as a reference for the face-to-face meeting scheduled for next Monday in Helsinki between the president and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin.

While the administration of the Republican sought last week to relax the growing nervousness among the members of the transatlantic alliance, Trump himself did not hesitate to instigate anew discord by remembering that the United States pays “between 70 and 90 percent to protect Europe and that’s fine. Of course, they kill us on trade.” In this way, there will be two main themes – the trade deficit of 151,000 million dollars with the European Union and the fact that countries like Germany only pay 1 percent of their GDP to the budget of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Before the meeting at NATO headquarters on July 11–12, the US president reminded European allies of the need to strictly implement the agreement and increase military spending. Last year, the United States accounted for 51.1 percent of the combined GDP of NATO members and 71.7 percent of its defense spending. The largest economy in the world contributed more funds to the Alliance than Germany, France, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom and Canada combined. Leaving aside the United States, only five countries have met spending standards, including Greece, the United Kingdom, Estonia, Poland and Romania.

Even so, the US ambassador to NATO, Kay Bailey Hutchison, said during a press conference that although some countries still have to do more in this regard, more than half of the members are on track to achieve the goal of spend 2 percent of its GDP on defense by 2024. Hutchison used the occasion to make clear that there were no plans to make changes among the 32,000 American troops located in Germany, as part of the Alliance and other missions, as had been rumored. “We will talk about the biggest increase in defense spending by our allies since the Cold War,” said the ambassador, who insisted that all members “are increasing defense spending.”

Indeed, during the weekend, the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, said that the NATO countries were aimed to maintain reasonable relations with Russia. “Of course, we want to have a responsible relationship with Russia,” Merkel said in the statement, adding “that’s the reason why we will continue to have talks in the NATO-Russia Council.” At the same time though, the alliance “has to show determination to protect us,” she said.

The relations between Moscow and the West reached a critical turning point in Ukraine and the accession of Crimea to Russia after the 2014 referendum, in which more than 96 percent of the voters supported this decision. That year, the EU, the USA and several countries responded by imposing sanctions against Russia for its supposed role in the crisis, something that Moscow denied, hence it chose to activate an agri-food embargo to those who imposed restrictive measures against it.

That said, even when Washington has imposed severe reprisals on Russia and has expelled Russian diplomats, Trump at all times refuses to criticize Putin directly, something that some implicitly consider undermining NATO’s confidence. “The alliance faces a new set of challenges. Some analysts warn of a Cold War redux, pointing to Russia’s military incursions into Georgia and Ukraine as well as its efforts to sow political discord in NATO countries,” highlights Jonathan Masters, analyst of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Trump’s lukewarm support of NATO has led some European allies to question the US commitment. Before the Wednesday and Thursday summit, many members of the Alliance suggested that any sign of disunity will only fuel Moscow’s aggressiveness. “The alliance has responded by reinforcing defenses in Europe, but political rifts between members, some opened by the United States, have thrown NATO unity into question,” explains Masters.

Jeremy McCoy is a freelance journalist published in such media outlets as History Today, Activist Post, Veterans Today, Global Research, OffGuardian and Ground Report.