By Jon Dougherty
(TNS) Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, as well as scores of American lawmakers, just sat through three days’ worth of bellyaching from European leaders who have accused President Donald Trump of “abandoning” them and “withdrawing from the world,” when he’s done nothing of the sort.
And yet, maybe it’s time to do just that: Let the Europeans fend for themselves.
As POLITICO reported, many European leaders who attended this year’s annual Munich Security Conference complained about the president’s ongoing ‘America first’ foreign policy as they have for three years, despite the fact that, compliments of the American taxpayer, the United States has put more security resources into the continent since the days of the Cold War.
The news site noted:
If the three-day event, which drew to a close on Sunday, illustrated anything, it was that the divergence between the U.S. and the dominant European powers — Germany and France (the U.K. was MIA) — is greater than ever. Those who thought last year’s tense gathering represented a low point in the relationship left Munich this year chastened.
em>The two sides aren’t just far apart on the big questions facing the West (threats from Russia, Iran, China), they’re in parallel universes.
Most alarming: The biggest disconnect concerns the U.S. commitment to Europe, the very essence of the transatlantic alliance itself.
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>In speech after speech, whether in public or private, European leaders lamented what they perceive as the U.S.’s disengagement from both the region and the world at large.
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier opened the conference — one of the largest annual gatherings of political leaders, military chiefs and top diplomats from around the world — by accusing the Trump administration of “rejecting the idea of the international community.”
“Every country should fend for itself and put its own interests over all others … ‘Great again’ — even at the expense of neighbors and partners,” Steinmeier said, offering a précis of how he views U.S. foreign policy.
French President Emmanuel Macron, speaking at the forum for the first time, echoed Steinmeier the next day, noting that “what Europe wants is not quite the same as the U.S.”
Pompeo and many U.S. lawmakers who attended weren’t having any of that.
“I’m here to tell you the facts,” said an agitated U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday after quoting Steinmeier and similar comments other Western leaders have made in the recent past. “Those statements do not reflect reality.”
Pompeo, a West Point grad who defended Europe as an officer in the U.S. Army in the 1980s, went on to list the myriad of ways the U.S. has bolstered security on the continent, via NATO mostly, in terms of personnel and equipment, all of which costs American taxpayers. He noted that the level of commitment by the U.S. is the highest it has been since the bad, old days of the Cold War.
He also reminded conference attendees that he’s been to Germany alone three times in just the past four months.
Our ‘reward’ for the additional resources? Germany, who as a NATO member is required to dedicate 2 percent of its annual GDP to its military, hasn’t done so for decades and won’t again until…2031. As one U.S. lawmaker remarked, the United States sent men to the moon in half that time.
“Is this an America that rejects responsibility?” Pompeo asked. “Let’s be straight up: The U.S. is out there fighting for sovereignty and our friends.”
“I was a little taken aback by the tone,” said Mike Turner, a Republican congressman from Ohio and a member of the House Armed Services Committee, who has attended the conference for 10 years. He added that he was surprised the U.S. had to defend itself.
Case in point: The U.S. is sending 20,000 troops to the continent in May to conduct the largest military exercises on the continent since the fall of the Berlin Wall.
But then, buried in the story, POLITICO got to the real nub of the issue: Trump Derangement Syndrome, European style:
The reaction to Pompeo reflects the toll Trump’s aggressive, often abusive, rhetoric toward European allies has taken on the relationship. Even when confronted with facts that disprove the narrative of American disengagement, European officials simply don’t believe it. In private, U.S. representatives tell their European counterparts to “ignore the tweets,” but that’s proved to be a tall order.
Translation: European leaders don’t like an outspoken American president who ruffles their feathers when he’s telling them, to their faces, to stop being pikers and start paying their fair share for their own defense — that it’s not just the American taxpayer’s responsibility.
This, at a time of renewed Russian aggression.
CNN noted a year ago that less than one-third of NATO’s members were meeting their financial obligations:
Despite many European countries boosting their defense budgets, only seven of the 29 NATO allies are currently reaching the recommended spending target of 2% of gross domestic product, according to NATO’s annual report, which was published Thursday.
President Donald Trump has long criticized NATO countries over their failure to meet the 2% target and the new data came as US and NATO officials sought to downplay reports that the Trump administration is seeking to ask allies to pay dramatically more for hosting US troops.
Germany, meanwhile, is helping Russia — the supposed ‘enemy’ — build a gas pipeline, in which Moscow will be the supplier. That is, until sanctions imposed by President Trump halted construction in December.
If Germany, France, and other NATO members want to do business with Russia, what sense does it make to continue spending tens of billions of dollars ‘defending’ those countries from..Russia?
And therein lies the rub. Trump and most U.S. lawmakers are content to remain engaged on the European continent, but if Trump’s personality is the ‘dealbreaker,’ then there really isn’t much of a threat to Europe anymore, is there? Or, at least, one that is worrisome enough to overlook the president’s proclivities.
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The Europeans can’t handle a strong, outspoken U.S. leader who is going to tell them like it is. They’d rather deal with doormats like Obama, Bush, and the establishment wings of both parties.
If the leaders of NATO countries are more concerned about Trump’s demeanor than security, then they don’t really believe they’re under much of a threat from Russia or anyone else. Now might be a good time to end this ‘security’ arrangement.
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