Civil Service Essay — Trump roils NATO, Brussels meet is going to be rocky
Trump roils NATO, endangering its slidarity
Given the recent rather chaotic proceedings at the G-7 meeting, success of the upcoming NATO summit in Brussels appears doubtful. The U.S. President’s sceptical attitude towards functioning of the organisation formed for collective safety of the West is not concealed. In a recent campaign rally in Montana, Trump received a ringing endorsement from the audience while excoriating NATO’s European members for not paying up their shares towards the organization’s budget. In many of his tweets and public statements, he has lavished praise on some autocrats the world reviles, and criticized international agencies formed for maintaining peace in the world. Such outbursts have given rise to consternation and anger in political circles. No doubt, Trump’s mercurial temperament makes him to make such off-the-cuff remarks.
However, some White House officials, in an attempt to dispel the concerns of other NATO nations, have reaffirmed America’s commitment to the idea of NATO. They have also assured American action against Russia for its disruptive actions in the Ukraine besides the recent instances of use of banned lethal chemicals against people in the U.K considered inimical to Russian interests. The spokespersons have also assured action against Russia for its alleged meddling in U.S elections, an issue that continues to irk many Americans.
Trump’s unpredictable behaviour has made it difficult to predict his move on major global issues, especially when he speaks in any international platform. Till now, his stated views were taken on a lighter note by the U.S. allies who assumed that his policy swings can’t much undermine the foundations of NATO. After all, the guiding principles behind NATO are too entrenched in the West to be shaken by Trump’s reluctance to back the multilateral transatlantic organization wholeheartedly.
Moreover, there was a presumption among these nations that once Trump’s term is over, it will be business as usual. But now there seems to be a shift in the perspective, as the EU leaders have found to their dismay that Trump’s aversion to NATO is going to stay. The differences between the official U.S stance vis-à-vis the European thinking on certain issues like financing of the organization also existed during the Obama regime too. Obama also made some conspicuous moves to downsize America’s excessive obsession with Europe. To the bewilderment of the NATO’s EU leaders, Obama made his foreign policy more Asia-centric, shifting the U.S. focus away from Europe. However, the matter remained within the close doors of NATO, and didn’t cause a public debate. On the contrary, Trump has chosen to air his misgivings about NATO’s budget in the public in a very vocal and undiplomatic way, often questioning the rationale of NATO. He has demanded that EU members must pay their due shares forthwith and not pass on the load to the U.S. Now, it is becoming increasingly clear that even after Trump presidency, the cohesion between America and its European partners would not return to that of the pre-Trump years. Trump’s impulsive policy swift has dented NATO’s trans-Atlantic solidarity too severely.
It is evident from history that the U.S. was reluctant to join the World War II. The unprovoked Japanese bombing of the Pearl Harbour in 1941 and Germany’s unstoppable military campaign in Europe virtually dragged a sulking United States to the War. NATO came into existence in 1949 after the War at American behest and under iAmerica’s stewardship. The looming danger of a strident Soviet Russia under Communist rule added to the urgency of the NATO. Europe lay in ruins then, and it badly needed America’s financial muscle and leadership to re-build itself. Subsequently, the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991 brought the Cold War to an abrupt end, and NATO suddenly seemed to become irrelevant. But, the wise leaders of Europe and America chose not to disband it. The organization came to good use in quelling the fratricidal war in the Balkans, and later in Afghanistan. It also helped to check Russia’s military ambitions in western Europe.
It is common knowledge that militarily, present day Russia is a pale shadow of its earlier avatar – the mighty Soviet Union. In the aftermath of the melt-down of the Soviet empire, the world looked at the U.S. as the sole super power and the unquestionable leader. America assumed this role readily, and NATO became an essential vehicle for projecting American power worldwide. NATO got back its moorings again.
The present day regime in Washington seems to take an America-First, and America-Alone policy in all its dealings with the world. Such inward-looking regressive policy was practiced only once in the U.S. history, under the presidency of Andrew Jackson. Jackson refused to imbibe democratic values and adopted an ultra-nationalistic policy posture. America became elitist and self-serving. Quite disturbingly, Trump seems to have taken a leaf out of Andrew Jackson’s books and made America looking at itself rather than at the world. Interestingly, Trump even has a portrait of Andrew Jackson in his oval office.
It has to be conceded that Trump’s views resonate in the minds of a very large number of Americans. The trend was evident when Trump beat Hillary Clinton in the presidential race. Many had vainly thought that the weight of the Oval office would mellow his belligerency, and he would adopt a moderate path with passage of time. Almost all political analysts had thought that the historic bond between Europe and the U.S. would endure, weathering the pre-election blitz of Trump. The idea that NATO would either weaken or disintegrate was discounted by most political pundits. But, the opposite seems to be unfolding.
Among the upper echelons of the U.S. administration’s foreign policy establishment, there are visible contradictions about the stand America should take in the month-long NATO summit meeting. Such divergence within the establishment unsettles many, both in the U.S. and Europe. Whatever may be the outcome of this NATO meeting, the damage to the organization’s solidarity is real and going to last for years to come. This is ominous for global stability and peace. Regrettably, there is no one to stop Trump in his tracks.