Only Putin is happy with Trump’s NATO Bull-in-China-Shop Catastrophe

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment)

Back in 2016 the talking heads on tv kept expecting candidate Trump, who made headlines almost daily saying racist and offensive things, to “transition.” Their theory was that he was acting out for his base in the GOP primaries but then would dial it back in the general election.

Months into his presidency, and he’s the same Donald Trump, a bull in the china shop of global diplomacy.

The disaster for US relations (which is already hurting the US economy through a fall in tourism and investment from abroad) went from the personal to the substantive.

Then there was that awkward moment when he refused to affirm the US commitment under article 5 of NATO to come to the defense of members of the alliance. NATO invoked article 5 and sent tens of thousands of troops to Afghanistan for a decade after 9/11, but Trump isn’t about gratitude or appreciation of others.

The omission was significant because after Vladimir Putin’s unilateral annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and then interference in East Ukraine, European countries are depending on the US to see that the Russian Federation does not go any further.

I know that Crimea belonged to Russia until Khrushchev lightly transferred it inside the Soviet Union to Ukraine in the early 50s, and that there were legitimate Russian concerns about where Ukrainian politics were going and how they would have an impact on the 2 million Russian-heritage Ukrainians in the east. And I know that NATO made a huge error in being aggressive toward the supine Russian Federation and seeking to expand right up to its doorstep, contrary to what the US promised Premier Mikhael Gorbachev. But also in today’s world you can’t do things like annex and intervene unilaterally and by fiat, with no semblance of the rule of law. Crimea should have a referendum under UN auspices and the Minsk process should end in normalization and restoration of rule of law. And if you know the history of Poland, which Russia at some points arranged not to exist at all, you understand the fears, and the significance of Trump’s refusal to allay them.

Or the further awkward moment (does he have any other kind?) when lectured other NATO members about putting more money into the organization and complained about how much their HQ in Brussels must have cost. I think Europe can afford a building in Brussels.

There was that shove he gave the prime minister of Montenegro in his rush to get in front of the cameras, for all the world like a five year old in the kindergarten lunch line.

Minority Report with Same Seder: “Trump ACTUALLY SHOVES Montenegro Prime Minister At NATO”

Or there was the interview he gave in the German press where he displayed that he wasn’t paying attention at the Wharton School when he took macro-economics 101.

The Germans are very, very bad,” he was reported to have said by Der Spiegel. “Look at the millions of cars they sell in the US. Terrible. We will stop this.”

Uh, it isn’t actually bad for the world economy for Germany to sell cars to Americans. Americans got to be the world’s biggest economy by selling cars to other people. More trade is good. American consumers get German engineering.

Consider this little item from WaPo, which says that GM now sells more cars in China than in the US: “The company sold a record 3.9 million cars in China last year, with its Chevrolet, Buick and Cadillac brands proving especially popular.” Protectionism of Trump’s sort could potentially cause the countries of the world to slap punitive tariffs on US goods, driving the world, and the US, into a Great Depression that would make 2008 look like a spring picnic.

GM had been on the verge of breaking even in its European operations last year, WaPo says, when Brexit happened and introduced such uncertainties into the market that the GM executives just decided to sell Opel etc. and turn to Asia.

Trump very publicly supported Brexit, which means he encouraged developments that harmed US manufacturing.

That is, insular white nationalism of the sort that drove the British exit from the European Union has already hurt the bottom line of American manufacturers.

As for the US auto market, it is saturated and GM can’t hope for growth there.

You know what is going to be a growth sector for the automobile industry? Electric cars, to which the Paris Accords are going to give a huuje boost.

Trump is encouraging through deregulation dirty petroleum cars that put out toxic carbon dioxide, which endangers people’s lives. In the meantime, Asian powers like China and India rush to dominate the auto market of the future, electric. It is the Chevy Bolt that gives hope for GM’s future, not protectionist tariffs.

Who has oil to sell, to fuel the dirty cars? Russia and Saudi Arabia, Trump’s (and Rex Tillerson’s) authoritarian buddies.

If a Kremlin covert ops team had actually found a way to program a US president’s visit to NATO and the G7, they couldn’t have done a better job of disruption than Trump did just by being Trump.

23 Responses

  1. If Russia wanted to cause chaos in America, all he had to do was not drop bombs over New York or Washington DC, but interfere in our elections and make sure a dishonest narcissistic man, with absolutely no experience, became President, and then sit back and laugh. As Americans we must all be embarrassed that we sent this ugly American to represent us in Brussels. He made an idiot of himself, publicly chided NATO members, and pushed his way to pose for pictures (just like Netanyahu in Paris). All cringe worthy.
    He is making our allies our enemies, and our enemies our friends. Who is going to stop him now?

    • No. He’s not making your ‘enemies’ into friends. They’ll remain rivals of the USA. Whether or not Trump’s impeached.

      But I agree with the rest of your post.

      As for who will stop him? Hopefully it’ll be law enforcement that does that.

  2. Wasn’t it “The Germans are evil, very evil”? Hasn’t he made his remark on the very day when Angela Merkel had met with Barack Obama in Berlin, publicly at the Brandenburg Gate, on the occasion of the Protestant church biannual meeting? Trump the loser, sick of being compared with Obama who he hates. Trump, a man who calls Philippine’s murderous president Rodrigo Duarte and congratulates him for effectively dealing with drug problems. Duarte hates Obama too. He had called him son of a wh**re. Putin, Erdogan, Duarte, KSA’s Salman, bin Salman, that’s Trump’s company. Too bad.

  3. Trump said of German car makers…“Look at the millions of cars they sell in the US. Terrible. We will stop this.”

    I live in South Carolina. Greenville, SC…just ranked as one of the 5 best cities to live in the US…is home to a vast BMW manufacturing facility. Greenville is also Trump country and is home to Bob Jones University, which is to the right of Liberty University, and a beneficiary of BMW’s financial impact on the region.

    My guess is that senators Graham, Scott and our Fog Horn Leg Horn governor, McMasters might take issue with our former game show host president’s Bronx swagger towards one of the states largest employers.

    Then I wonder…what if Russia was the manufacturer instead of Germany?

    • If the car factory were Russian you’d have Ladas. You know what they say about Ladas — the reason they have a heated rear window is to keep the driver’s hands warm. (Pushing the car in winter.)

  4. What I am going to say may sound heretical to many people in the United States and even to some on this side of the pond, but I think one of Trump’s few correct assertions during the campaign was that NATO was obsolete. He has since changed his mind, without stating why last year he felt that it was obsolete and this year he feels that it is not. I believe that what he said last year made a great deal of sense.

    NATO belonged to a world that has vanished. It was formed in 1949 with ten European countries, plus the United States and Canada, allegedly to prevent the expansion of the former Soviet Union. In response, the Soviet Union created the Warsaw Pact in reaction to West Germany’s integration into NATO, and the world was divided between the East and the West. As a result, we had a bipolar world, one dominated by Russia and her satellites and the other by America and her allies (dare we say satellites). It is possible to argue that the balance of power during the Cold War was what prevented the world from a catastrophe, but that balance does not exist any more.

    With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Warsaw Pact ceased to exist and by definition the mission of NATO that had been created to contain the Soviet Union also came to an end. Instead NATO now has 28 members, including many former members of the Warsaw Pact.

    The collapse of the Soviet Union led to a unipolar world, with the United States as the only hyper-power with “full spectrum dominance”. Not only did the United States not dismantle NATO, she dragged it into Afghanistan, making a complete nonsense of its mission and even its title. Now, they even want to drag it into the Middle East and link it with a provocative and dangerous Arab or Sunni NATO. In other words, NATO is now an organization in search of a mission.

    With the rise of China, India, Russia and other powerful states, we are now living in a multipolar world, something that America refuses to accept. The use of NATO to further U.S.’s unilateral ambitions is wrong and counterproductive. What the catastrophic wars over the past few decades at the cost of trillions of dollars have shown is that America cannot act as the sole global policeman. These wars have not given the world or even the West either security, stability or peace. Furthermore, NATO is a nuclear-based alliance, which rejects the no first use of nuclear weapons. A nuclear conflagration could put an end to human civilization.

    Therefore, I believe that in America’s own interest it is better if should could gradually dismantle her empire and its military wing, NATO, while she is still in the driving seat and to push for a system of collective, global security, and strengthening the United Nations whose most important mission is to put an end to the “scourge of war”. We should start learning about conflict resolution and peace-making rather than always wielding the big stick.

    • Correct. Right on the money. You might also have mentioned that Crimea requested annexation by Russia several times prior to the US fomenting o coup in Ukraine, but Russia refused to honor these requests until the Ukrainian coup was followed by a referendum in which Crimeans overwhelmingly voted to rejoin Russia and Russia finally accepted their request. Russia is not the aggressor here, we are. Shame on Juan the historian for not keeping up with current events and uncritically accepting American propaganda.

  5. Re Crimea, you didn’t mention the vital Russian naval facilities. No Russian government would ever let Crimea come under NATO control. Illegal annexation? Yes, but with far more justification than the illigal US invasion of Iraq.

      • No the US did not annex Iraq. But what was the original plan?
        Obviously they would have not dared to officially annex Iraq as millions of US citizens had not been living there for generations. But who could be so trusting as to think that the plan was something other than make Irak the El Salvador (Panama, Haiti, Guatumala, take your pick) of the Middle East.

        • The Russian Federation Unilaterally annexed the territory of a fellow UN member, and permanently incorporated that territory into itself with no international negotiation process that would have legalized these actions. That cannot be excused by what other countries have done, more especially if they have not annexed another country’s territory permanently. If the allegation is that Crimea actually belonged to Russia all along, that should have been negotiated. Lots of such claims could potentially exist. Does Germany actually own Alsace-Lorraine and Gdansk? Does France own Genoa? Does Italy own Tirana? What are legitimate Turkish claims in the Balkans? You can’t settle things like that by military annexation or you get WW III. Stop apologizing for Putin’s thuggishness.

  6. “… But also in today’s world you can’t do things like annex and intervene unilaterally and by fiat, with no semblance of the rule of law.” — how about the US actions in Serbia in the ’90s?

  7. I usually agree with you on most things but I have a really serious problem with this sentence: ” And I know that NATO made a huge error in being aggressive toward the supine Russian Federation and seeking to expand right up to its doorstep, contrary to what the US promised Premier Mikhael Gorbachev.” The countries of Eastern Europe have the right of self-determination just like all other countries, peoples, etc. They lived under Soviet domination since WWII. They had and have the right to choose which alliance to join and for NATO to reject them would have been unconscionable, not to say detrimental to Western Europe which certainly wanted allies to the east. To take Poland as an example, I believe just about 95% of Poles wanted to join the EU and NATO after the end of communism. And you think the EU and NATO should have turned their back on Poland in deference to Russia? Why this special treatment for this imperialist world power (less power than before, but still a power). Sometimes specialists on one part of the world are remarkably blind when they look elsewhere. The same rules that apply to Palestinians, Iraqis, Egyptians, etc. apply to countries and peoples elsewhere in the world.

  8. Excuse me, but in March 2016 Crimeans voted overwhelmingly to rejoin Russia. Western powers (ie, the US) refused to validate the vote but could produce no evidence indicating it was fraudulent. The claim it was held under “military duress” was ludicrous. There were already thousands of soldiers stationed there at Russia’s warm water port. They did nothing during the referendum.

    • Meanwhile, the legitimacy of the violent coup and the “voluntary” resignation of dozens of legislators was never questioned.

  9. Right on Bill! Not only that but the whole Ukrainian crisis is the fault of the EU. The EU went to the Ukraine offering the government there billions of Euros in bailouts. Yet just months before it refused to bail out a much smaller country that was already an EU member, Greece. Nor did the EU have money for the hard pressed Italy, Spain, Portugal and Ireland. There were of course strings attached to this money which were unacceptable to the leadership of the Ukraine at that time. But Ukrainians were desperate and also desired closer ties to the west anyways. So they toppled the government.
    The EU was wrong to offer money to the Ukrainians in the first place. If the EU had money available to give away it should have been given away to those who were already in the EU.
    Those who are now citizens of the EU have nothing to gain from closer ties with the Ukriane. The Ukraine can offer the EU nothing that we do not already get enough of from Poland and the Ukraine.
    This whole crisis was just dreamt up to push the borders of NATO and the EU up to Russias borders and to create tensions with Russia to create bigger profits for the defence industries of Europe and the US.
    It does not matter that many Ukrainians, even a majority, would gladly support such a project. They have no right to become part of a criminal conspiracy. (which is what NATO is)
    Putin has shown great restraint in this conflict. If I had been in his place I would have ordered the Russian Army to invade the entire Ukraine. Well except maybe for that part of the Ukraine that lies west of the Donau River!

  10. The Europeans will be telling Trump jokes for decades. The man acted like a thug. shoving the leader of another country to get to stand in front of the camera first, OMG, where did they find that kid.

    Bet the British are a tad worried about Trump coming over for a “visit”. I’m sure May has regretted her invite. Can hardly wait for Trump to give Charles or Phillip a shove so he can stand next to the Queen. Of course then it might be fun to arrest him……………….

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