Merkel: Europe Can No Longer Count On The United States

President Trump's decision to violate the terms of the nuclear deal with Iran could be a turning point in relations between the United States and its most important allies, and not in a good way.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has some harsh words on the state of the relationship between the United States and Europe in the age of Trump:

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Europe can no longer count on the U.S. for military protection and must “take its destiny into its own hands.”

Merkel’s comments on Thursday reprise a theme she first sounded last year in response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s “America First” foreign policy and his hectoring of European NATO allies for allegedly spending too little on defense. It’s her latest retort to Trump, who this week withdrew the U.S. from a nuclear accord with Iran that European powers say they will uphold.

“It’s no longer the case that the United States will simply just protect us,” Merkel said to applause in a speech honoring French President Emmanuel Macron, who sat behind her at a prize ceremony in Aachen, Germany. “Rather, Europe needs to take its fate into its own hands. That’s the task for the future.”

Many major global conflicts are happening “at Europe’s doorstep,” said Merkel, who expressed concern about the risk of war between Israel and Iran over Syria. While European Union countries have made progress on defense cooperation, the effort remains “in its infancy,” she said.

These comments, of course, come just days after the President took his latest action to stick a thumb in the eye of our European allies with his decision to pull the United States out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). This action occurred notwithstanding the fact that our top allies had urged the President to reconsider what seemed like an inevitable decision on Trump’s part. Earlier this year, Merkel, along with British Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron had issued a statement of support for the JCPOA. made clear that they did not support the position taken by the Trump Administration regarding the nuclear deal with Iran. As a result, the three leaders continued to rebuff American efforts to renegotiate the deal while at the same time at least trying to negotiate in good faith the terms of a side agreement that would make Trump happy but keep the core of the JCPOA intact.  As the time worse down to the May 12th deadline that the Administration had set before announcing the President’s intentions, both Macron and Merkel both came to the United States for the express purpose of trying to convince Trump to keep the United States in the deal. Additionally, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who has said in the past that he agrees with some of Trump’s criticisms of the deal, wrote an Op-Ed in The New York Times arguing that the United States should stay in the agreement. Those arguments fell on deaf ears, though, a fact seemingly acknowledged by President Macron at the end of his visit last month when he said that Trump was likely to pull out of the deal for “domestic reasons.” In the meantime, Macron and Merkel, along with British Prime Minister Theresa May continued to work behind the scenes to try to find a way to save the JCPOA, but those efforts were clearly in vain. Now that Trump has made his decision, the Europeans find themselves left to pick up the pieces.

Writing in The New York Times, Steven Erlanger notes that, once again, Europe finds itself being used as Trump’s doormat:

It is by now a familiar, humiliating pattern. European leaders cajole, argue and beg, trying to persuade President Trump to change his mind on a vital issue for the trans-Atlantic alliance. Mr. Trump appears to enjoy the show, dangling them, before ultimately choosing not to listen.

Instead, he demands compliance, seemingly bent on providing just the split with powerful and important allies that China, Iran and Russia would like to exploit.

Such is the case with the efforts to preserve the 2015 Iran nuclear pact. Both the French president, Emmanuel Macron, and the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, made the pilgrimage to Washington to urge Mr. Trump not to scrap the agreement. Their failure is very similar to what happened with the Paris climate accord, and to what is happening now with unilateral American sanctions imposed on steel and aluminum imports, and to Mr. Trump’s decision to move the United States Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

And with each breach, it becomes clearer that trans-Atlantic relations are in trouble, and that the options are not good for the United States’ closest European allies.

However angry and humiliated, those allies do not seem ready to confront Mr. Trump, wishing to believe that he and his aides can be influenced over time. To some, it is reminiscent of what Samuel Johnson said of second marriages: a triumph of hope over experience.

But there are signs that patience is wearing thin, and that many are searching for solutions as Mr. Trump, in the name of “America First,” creates a vacuum of trans-Atlantic leadership that the Europeans have so far seemed incapable or unwilling to fill.

“The allies are certainly sick of this but don’t seem to have an alternative,” said Jeremy Shapiro, a former career State Department official now at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

“The Europeans are invested down a path of trying to please the president, not out of belief but more hope against hope that they will convince him,” he added. “And they only pursue this at such a level of embarrassment because they don’t have an alternative.”

As Erlanger goes on to note, the President’s decision to attempt to undo the JCPOA may be the impetus that causes the Europeans to take action to go down a road that can only tend to draw it further away from the United States, at least as long as Donald Trump is in the White House. Even before the President made his announcement on Tuesday, Macron, Merkel, and May have been in contact with Iranian officials, either directly or their respective foreign policy teams, in an effort to keep the situation calm, reassure Tehran that Europe remained committed to abiding by the JCPOA, and ensure that Iran itself doesn’t react to the American decision by deciding to pull out of the agreement itself as some Iranian hardliners have advocated. Based on the immediate reaction from Tehran, and notwithstanding some of the more radical statements that have emanated from there obviously meant for propaganda purposes, those efforts appear to be succeeding at least in the short term.

Regarding the broader implications of Trump’s actions not only regarding the JCPOA but regarding the whole panoply of actions Trump has taken, Steve Simon and Jonathan Stevenson suggest that Europe does have an option:

What can Europe do to get Mr. Trump’s attention? President Hassan Rouhani of Iran has indicated that his country will continue to adhere to the terms of the deal for the time being and deal with other parties to it in hopes of securing its benefits. This confers on the European Union, Britain and France — all of which are parties — some leverage. Acknowledging Iran’s compliance and continuing to do business with Iran without imposing sanctions would mitigate the effect of the White House’s sanctions and make it easier for advocates of the deal in Tehran to make their case.

The administration’s challenge — the American ambassador to Germany has already said that German companies doing business in Iran should wind down operations now — might prompt Europe to go further. The European Union could, for instance, announce the withdrawal of member-states’ ambassadors from the United States. Isn’t this what states do when diplomatic partners breach solemn agreements, expose them to security risks and threaten to wreak havoc on their economies? That is, after all, what the administration is threatening to do by courting the risk of a Middle Eastern war and applying secondary sanctions to European companies. Depending on the American response, European capitals might even follow up with expulsion of American ambassadors.

It would be hard to fault these moves as irresponsible, given that they would not impair vital security functions like intelligence-sharing and law enforcement coordination. They would, however, symbolize a stark diplomatic breach that could extend to other areas in which the Trump administration needs allied support. Thus, the White House would face the first hard choice in this whole process: a full-blown crisis in trans-Atlantic relations. If the administration’s next move were to impose secondary sanctions on Europe, the Europeans could slap its own penalties on American multinational corporations, which in turn would place additional pressure on the White House.

For the European Union to target the United States commercially for attempting to adversely affect legitimate trade relationships would be radical. But it would arise in response to correspondingly egregious American behavior. By virtue of the 1944 Bretton Woods Agreement, European allies conferred economic leadership on the United States. Now the United States, in breaching the Iran deal and reimposing sanctions, has turned the very weapon that those allies bestowed on it against them.

(…)

Europe is at odds with the United States on an agreement to which it is a party, concerning a matter of wide-ranging strategic and regional importance. If this doesn’t end the European Union’s doormat foreign policy, we might as well start referring to it as the 28 colonies ruled from across the ocean. This is not an outcome the United States should welcome. As Britain learned in 1939, it’s a lot better to have allies than colonies.

What Simon and Stevenson propose would indeed be a radical step by Europe, and it would require a degree of unity of action and rhetoric that we haven’t typically seen from a European Union that at times seems to exist in name only. At the same time, though, there are plenty of arguments against this course of action and several reasons why European leaders might feel dissuaded from confronting Trump in this aggressive a manner. Perhaps if there weren’t so many pots boiling around the world, from Ukraine to Syria to the Korean Peninsula, they might feel freer to act. With all that on the plate, though, and President Trump headed for one of the most potentially consequential summit meetings since the end of the Cold War, it’s unclear that the Europeans would be willing to hit the panic button in such an obvious manner.

Additionally, there’s no telling how Trump may react to actions such as these. As Simon and Stevenson admit, it’s unlikely that he is going to reverse himself on the JCPOA, for example, and poking a stick in his eye could end with Trump taking similar retaliatory action against the E.U., thus further poisoning an already strained relationship. It also seems clear that actions such as those recommended here would most likely help Trump on the domestic front here in the United States. Trump’s hardcore supporters, for example, aren’t likely to be dissuaded in that support by Europe confronting their President like this. It’s also likely that it would cause even reluctant Republican and Independent voters who have supported Trump in the past to rally to his side due to the fact that he, and the United States, are arguably being attacked by those darn foreigners. Thanks to that likely increase in domestic support, Trump is likely to think he’s doing the right thing even as he continues to engage in policies that further isolate the United States from its traditional allies and makes it harder for us to rally the world the next time it becomes necessary, which could be sooner rather than later.

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, Europe, National Security, Politicians, US Politics, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. michael reynolds says:

    If it were possible to graph power the graph of American power would show a sharp and accelerating downturn following the decision by 46% of American voters to elect Krusty the Klown because they didn’t like ‘that woman.’

    China, Russia, Israel and Saudi Arabia are the big beneficiaries. Europe and the UK are the losers, with the United States being the biggest loser. China – which paid Trump off with trademark concessions. Russia which kept his businesses afloat and got him elected. Israel which is determined to use us as unpaid mercenaries to fight a catastrophic war. And of course Saudi Arabia and the UAE which are openly corrupt and happy to push some chips across the table to our whore of a president.

    If only Merkel would purchase an apartment in Trump Tower. If only France would open a Trump golf course. Our foreign policy is for sale, with prices set by a cheap, low-rent hustler. Just contact Michael Cohen, make a deposit, and Trump will drop to his knees and gobble.




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  2. teve tory says:

    What’s Putin want? Damage to the alliance between the US and Europe. I bet he’s been laughing for 3 days.




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  3. KM says:

    What I want to know is how how the racist alt-righties who claim to be “European-descended” justify us flipping off their fabled “West” time and again. I get that they feel it’s been polluted by whatever it is they’re hating on currently but these are still our oldest allies and the places many Americans claim as ancestral and cultural motherlands. For instance, France has had our back longer and more thoroughly then any country in the ME can claim. Instead, Trump’s burning the bridges left and right, leaving them twisting the wind and having to seek new allies with places like China. How can you be “proudly pro-Europe” if you continue to sh^t all over them?




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  4. teve tory says:

    How can you be “proudly pro-Europe” if you continue to sh^t all over them?

    By first and foremost being really dumb?




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  5. Kathy says:

    Before withdrawing ambassadors, they can be recalled for “consultations.”

    But, you know, now and then I feel grateful the UK and France have nuclear-tipped ICBMs. It hasn’t come to that, and I hope it never does, but they could be used to deter the US.




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  6. An Interested Party says:

    It usually falls to Democratic presidents to clean up the mess left by their Republican predecessors…once the Deranged Orange is gone, that pattern will simply repeat itself, albeit, at a higher level than normal…




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  7. CSK says:

    Merkel made the mistake of thinking she was dealing with someone who might be quasi-rational. You don’t approach Donald Trump as an adult, expecting a reasoned, substantive discussion that might conclude satisfactorily. He’s an infant–a grossly unattractive one, but an infant–so you cajole and flatter him. Merkel failed to kiss that flabby orange derriere sufficiently.




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  8. pylon says:

    @An Interested Party:

    Another apology tour ;0




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  9. george says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Actually in the long run its in Europe’s best interest to look after itself no matter who is President of the United States. Its long past time it does so – its economy has long since recovered from WW2.

    Of course, its not in America’s interest that Europe becomes independent. Still it has always been inevitable (any look at history shows how ‘Empires’ eventually lose control of the outskirts), and its been happening for decades (it started with the Vietnam war), but Trump of course has sped it along via his usual stupidity.




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  10. Kathy says:

    @michael reynolds:

    If only Merkel would purchase an apartment in Trump Tower. If only France would open a Trump golf course.

    Perhaps Macron ought to have commissioned a group of monks to transcribe the JCPOA in vellum, using gold ink, with rich illustration and gold leaf seals on every page. One copy per language used, all done in the same manner. Then housed them all in a skyscraper called The Iran Deal Tower, with a marble facade and gold fixtures in every floor.

    After seeing that, Trump would undoubtedly have come back thinking “Man, I gotta get me one of them Iran deals like the French have!”




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  11. michael reynolds says:

    @george:

    Of course, its not in America’s interest that Europe becomes independent.

    It’s what Trump doesn’t get: there has always been a strong element of America First even in our seemingly generous foreign policy. We don’t want a Europe that is c-equal, any more than we want a China that is our equal, any more than we want reconciliation between North and South Korea, any more than we want Arab unity. We are the dominant power and it is in our interests to remain so.

    What Trump has delivered thus far is a weakening of NATO, a strengthening of China, and a dilution of the US position in Korea which is intimately bound up with containing China. He’s also pushed Iran still closer to Russia while making us allies of the Sunnis in their eternal conflict with the Shia. Of course all this benefits Putin, a surprise to no one who reads a newspaper. Our word is now without value and we’re turning into yet another corrupt, pay-for-play banana republic.




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  12. TM01 says:

    Oh FFS.

    you all know this agreement was only good as long as Obama was in office. It was never ratified by Congress. No one ever signed anything. GOP senators at the time warned Obama, Europe, and IRAN that this was not an official, binding treaty and could be ended at any time.

    And Trump ran on getting out of it.

    Stop clutching your damned pearls and acting like no one can ever trust us again.

    Blame your Lord and savior Obama for never submitting this to Congress and having an actual debate over it.




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  13. Tyrell says:

    The German people can no longer count on Chancellor Merkel to secure the German borders from hordes of terrorists flooding in.




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  14. michael reynolds says:

    @TM01:

    How about I blame an obstructionist GOP congress that refused to even contemplate a treaty promulgated by the Black President?

    The notion that we can simply discard the undertakings of previous presidents and that this won’t affect our credibility is absurd. Obviously it damages our credibility and the fact that Trump ran on a stupid idea does not in any way justify carrying out that stupid pledge.

    He also pledged Mexico was going to build us a wall. He pledged he’d lower deficits and cut the budget. He pledged he’d get rid of Obamacare and replace it with something way better. He pledged a huge infrastructure bill. And he pledged to drain the swamp and that he’d hire the best people. He even pledged he wouldn’t go golfing like Obama. He’s violated most of his pledges already, so by what logic should he now do something stupid and damaging to American power?

    This is foreign policy as determined by the loud-mouthed drunk at the end of a bar. It’s rule by Cliff Claven.




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  15. michael reynolds says:

    @Tyrell:
    Oh? Perhaps you can point us to the wave of terrorist attacks in Germany?




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  16. al-Ameda says:

    @TM01:

    Blame your Lord and savior Obama for never submitting this to Congress and having an actual debate over it.

    Are you sure that Mitch McConnell would have countenanced an actual debate?

    But really, you guys are obsessed with Obama and that ‘Lord and savior’ mocking stuff.

    I understand that it pains conservatives to admit it but, Obama left Trump a good economy that was ge getting better: a steady rate of growth, low inflation, and a declining UE rate. In fact, all Trump sales hype aside, as many jobs were created in Obama’s final 15 months as were created in Trump’s first 15 months.




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  17. wr says:

    @al-Ameda: “But really, you guys are obsessed with Obama and that ‘Lord and savior’ mocking stuff.”

    Yes, the same people who pass around pictures of Trump as Jesus and who claim that Christ sent Trump to save us are obsessed with the false idea that people on the left thought of Obama as their “lord and savior.” There is nothing these people criticize that isn’t total projection.




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  18. TM01 says:

    @michael reynolds: too bad you’re too ignorant to ever think that people had actual policy disagreements with Obama. Yelling Racism means you never have to discuss a differing POV on its merits. You don’t even want a debate. Your way or Raaaaacism!

    Pen and a phone, tho. I guess Trump has a pen too.

    Where the hell was all your wailing and gnashing of teeth when Obama cancelled that missile defense program for Poland?

    So much for relying on the word of a president.

    And where was all your Tool of Putin crap back then?

    Do you blame the obstructionist Congress now for not funding the wall or for not confirming more of Trump’s nominees?

    Of course not. Because you’re a useless twit.

    Or would you be ok if Trump just copied Obama even more and started spending money on things not appropriated by Congress? Maybe he can use that pen to change a law all by himself! Kewl, right?

    Gods but you’re so predictable. You’ve got Russia(tm) and Racism(tm) and that’s it.

    It must really suck to KNOW you’re the Smartest Person In The Room and watch as the Big Rube actually fixes the problems you’ve spent decades fretting over.

    Change is hard, eh?




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  19. TM01 says:

    @wr: Sure.

    Because you buffoons on the Left NEVER EVER portrayed Obama with a Halo or with a rainbow coming out of his hand.

    And you NEVER had school children sing songs about the Glory of Obama.

    Projection?

    Look in a mirror.




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  20. teve tory says:

    He also pledged Mexico was going to build us a wall. He pledged he’d lower deficits and cut the budget. He pledged he’d get rid of Obamacare and replace it with something way better. He pledged a huge infrastructure bill. And he pledged to drain the swamp and that he’d hire the best people. He even pledged he wouldn’t go golfing like Obama. He’s violated most of his pledges already, so by what logic should he now do something stupid and damaging to American power?

    And he promised to negotiate down drug prices for hard working americans. Guess what? Surprise now they won’t. I know you’re shocked.




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  21. teve tory says:

    Blame your Lord and savior Obama for never submitting this to Congress and having an actual debate over it.

    Yeah Obama didn’t submit it to Mitch McConnell’s senate approval because Obama wasn’t a total idiot. Unlike the guy we currently have as president.




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  22. teve tory says:

    At some point republicans will be willing again to put country over party, but they have a lot of defeats to endure before they reach that point.




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  23. TM01 says:

    @teve tory:

    Yeah Obama didn’t submit it to Mitch McConnell’s senate approval because Obama wasn’t a total idiot.

    That doesn’t even make sense.




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  24. teve tory says:

    This is foreign policy as determined by the loud-mouthed drunk at the end of a bar. It’s rule by Cliff Claven.

    There are levels of complexity here: 1) Cliff always seemed to be sober, just pedantic. 2) John Ratzenberger, who played Clavin, seems to be an actual wingnut.




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  25. teve tory says:

    @TM01: It does to the rest of us, if not to you.




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  26. PJ says:

    Idiots like Trump, TM01, and Tyrell should read up on the advantages of soft power. And also about what happens if Europe, China, etc decided that they would prefer to trade commodities in a currency other than the dollar.

    Edit: Who am I kidding, someone should make a coloring book for Trump explaining all this. And they should remember to not use any big boy words.




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  27. al Ameda says:

    @TM01:

    @michael reynolds: too bad you’re too ignorant to ever think that people had actual policy disagreements with Obama. Yelling Racism means you never have to discuss a differing POV on its merits. You don’t even want a debate. Your way or Raaaaacism!

    Racism? You are aware of course that Trump ran a 3 year (yes it was racist) Birther investigation that was intended to deny legitimacy to the Obama presidency. Trump is racist, we’ve known this for about 30 years. He is opportunistic and dog whistles it most of the time, but he’s not afraid to use it to appeal to the his alt.right base.

    Also, I don’t recall anyone seriously discounting legitimate policy disagreements with Obama as ‘raaaaacist.’
    Do you have any serious examples of when someone expressed disagreement with an Obama policy and they were dismissed out of hand as a racist?




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  28. An Interested Party says:

    It must really suck to KNOW you’re the Smartest Person In The Room and watch as the Big Rube actually fixes the problems you’ve spent decades fretting over.

    You’re confused…the rubes in this equation are many of the people who voted for the Orange Blob…and if you really think that this fool is going to fix anything in a positive and substantial way, well…perhaps you are a rube too…




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  29. TM01 says:

    @teve tory:
    I’m quite certain it makes sense in your little echo chamber with each other where you never have to actually defend ot justify things, but just sit around nodding at each other and grunting “trumptard” amongst yourselves.

    Rational people could have debated the Iran deal, where it economically strengthened the hard liner regime, didn’t allow access to military sites, merely delayed their nuclear weapons program (hopefully), didn’t address their missile program or their violation of un resolutions, their exporting of terror, fighting in Syria, launching missiles into Israel, funding Hamas, etc.

    Nope.

    Because a debate in the Senate would have very publicly raised all those concerns, as well as revealed your inability to actually defend the proposed deal.

    Easier to hide your head in the sand, or up your rectum I suppose, telling yourself how Smart Obama is and how dumb everyone else is. And call them all Russian tools and racists.




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  30. Kit says:

    @teve tory:

    It does to the rest of us, if not to you.

    You should have responded with that great quip by Samuel Johnson: Sir, I have found you an argument; I’m not obliged to find you an understanding.




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  31. James Knauer says:

    @TM01: ” And call them all Russian tools and racists.”

    If you don’t want to be called those things, stop sounding like them. Your ongoing angry temper tantrum at “them libruls” doesn’t sound like any kind of “winning.”

    Project much?




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  32. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @TM01: For future reference, the S in “Savior” is capitalized. I also recommend the anagram
    “[RBUH]” (Respect Be Upon Him) after Obama

    Ex. “…Your Lord and Savior Obama [RBUH]….”

    run along now.




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  33. TM01 says:

    @James Knauer:
    MuhRussia MuhRussia MuhRussia!

    It’s like 2nd grade here sometimes.

    You disagree with Obama? You’re a racist!
    Don’t like the Iran deal! Russian tool!

    That’s the best argument you’ve got, I see. Oh well.




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  34. An Interested Party says:

    MuhRussia MuhRussia MuhRussia!

    It’s like 2nd grade here sometimes.

    You disagree with Obama? You’re a racist!
    Don’t like the Iran deal! Russian tool!

    That’s the best argument you’ve got, I see. Oh well.

    Second grade indeed…looks like James Knauer was right about projecting…




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