This week, U.S. President Donald Trump is in Europe, having first stopped at a NATO summit. Trump brought his antagonism of American allies along with him to that summit, taking it as some sort of personal insult that many NATO member countries don’t spend at least 2 percent of their GDP on defense.
He turned his antagonism into a threat on social media this Wednesday, writing:
‘What good is NATO if Germany is paying Russia billions of dollars for gas and energy? Why are there only 5 out of 29 countries that have met their commitment? The U.S. is paying for Europe’s protection, then loses billions on Trade. Must pay 2% of GDP IMMEDIATELY, not by 2025.’
The threat that Trump communicates here is open ended; he’s being domineering without immediately following up that behavior with a potential course of action. He has not announced a U.S. withdrawal from NATO — but is that an option he considers viable? Remember, tweets from Trump are social media posts, yes, but they are also public statements of the president of the United States. They’re not meaningless.
The above cited tweet that he posted early Wednesday afternoon eastern U.S. time is just one expression of a longstanding sentiment on his part. He’s tweeted about it, and when given the opportunity, he’s raised the issue in person. Early Wednesday, Trump took to “lecturing” the secretary general of NATO itself in person about the need he perceives for NATO member countries to up their defense spending, as The New York Times put it.
His persistence doesn’t ensure that there are no big fat holes in his argument, however.
To begin with, it’s ironic that he acts as though he is some defender of Western civilization against outright totalitarianism when he makes friends with dictators regularly. He went after Germany for maintaining a connection to Russia through trade, but he’s the one who has been pushing for the normalization of relations with Russia and a subsequent erasure of shadowy activity that’s been carried out by the Kremlin. He’s done the same thing in the case of North Korea, touting a “special bond” he feels he’s formed with the nation’s leader — a man who is, basically, a serial killer and mass murderer.
In other words, the finger pointing Trump is doing really doesn’t work.
The point of any and all of this when it comes to NATO is not holding U.S. allies’ feet to the fire until they comply with Donald Trump’s wishes. The point is to build and maintain strong connections with allies so that humanist democracy can spread and be defended when the need arises.
Trump doesn’t seem to get that.
No pre-existing agreement even mandates that NATO member countries spend 2 percent of their GDP on defense in 2018! The agreement directs countries to do so by 2024. Trump prefers to just ignore that in his rhetoric, though, and rush off to hobnob with Russian President Vladimir Putin while in Europe this time around. He signed onto a pre-drafted joint agreement alongside other heads of state representing NATO countries, but he’s still left his nation and world on a precarious ledge, wondering where he will throw sticks of dynamite next.
Check out Twitter’s response to some of Trump’s latest antagonism below.
Featured Image via Yuri Gripas/Bloomberg via Getty Images