Don’t say you weren’t warned. Ahead of the Nato summit in Brussels today, Donald Trump had spent the last two days tweeting about the iniquity of Nato and the trade deficits between the EU and his country. He had singled out Germany for not contributing enough to Nato’s defence budget, and three times mentioned a $151bn trade deficit figure with Europe.
Sure enough, at this morning’s opening breakfast, he came out all rhetorical guns blazing, and then posted a clip of himself with all rhetorical guns blazing on Twitter.
Bilateral Breakfast with NATO Secretary General in Brussels, Belgium… pic.twitter.com/l0EP3lzhCM
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 11, 2018
So – while Britain debates whether it is morally right to have a giant baby Trump blimp flying over his head as he visits Britain on Friday – Donald Trump is busying himself with blowing up the western alliance, and taking the Germans head on. If only Prime Minister May had a fraction of his chutzpah in her negotiations with Europe.
Everyone can gasp as much as they like, and mutter that this is not how diplomacy is done. The trouble is that, as so often with Trump, what he says is not just shocking and rude: it is indisputably true. Nato has taken America’s support for granted; Nato has demanded American protection and support often without supporting or protecting America. And in touching on Germany’s energy relationship with Russia, he has lit a fuse under perhaps the most explosive European issue there is.
‘We’re supposed to be guarding against Russia and Germany goes out and pays billions and billions of dollars a year to Russia…So we are supposed to protect you against Russia but they’re playing billions dollars to Russia, and I think that’s very inappropriate…Germany is totally controlled by Russia.’
Trump, who is of German descent, seems completely preoccupied with Germany’s misbehaviour on the international stage. And by pointing out the role of Gerhard Schröder, the former German chancellor, now chairman of the Russian energy giant Rosneft, Trump has highlighted the double game Germany has played with Russia and Europe in recent years. He’s also making it clear that his primary objections are not with Nato, per se, but with Germany and with defence payments. It’s going to be quite a summit.