Trump Trashes NATO, Demands Increases In Defense Spending

The NATO Summit is going about as well as can be expected.

The NATO Summit in Brussels started out with the President of the United States trashing the NATO alliance in general and our close ally Germany in particular:

BRUSSELS — President Trump on Wednesday issued an ambitious call for vastly more defense spending at NATO, pushing for a doubling of their defense spending commitments hours after he delivered a blistering tirade against Germany and other allies.

The demand during a closed-door meeting of NATO leaders would radically increase the amount of money channeled toward military purposes in the Western alliance — and even the United States is currently falling well short of Trump’s new goal.

Although Trump joined fellow NATO leaders in approving a sweeping set of plans to bolster defenses against Russia and terrorism, the U.S. president has complained that Europe has been taking advantage of U.S. military support for the continent. He urged his counterparts to substantially raise targets that they are already missing.

The move would raise billions more for defense. But not even the United States — which spends more money on defense than any other nation in the world — meets Trump’s new goal of annual spending of 4 percent of nations’ gross domestic product. Washington spent 3.6 percent last year.

“During the president’s remarks today at the NATO summit he suggested that countries not only meet their commitment of 2 percent of their GDP on defense spending, but that they increase it to 4 percent. The president raised this same issue when he was at NATO last year,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.

“President Trump wants to see our allies share more of the burden and at a very minimum meet their already stated obligations,” she said.

Asked at a news conference about Trump’s demands on defense spending, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg  suggested that the focus should be on getting every member country to reach the current goal of 2 percent. Only eight of 29 NATO countries are on track to meet the 2 percent goal this year.

(…)

As the day began, Trump wasted no time going on the offensive as he began a week of high-stakes diplomacy on both sides of the former Cold War divide.

The series of meetings — beginning with NATO and capped by a summit with Putin — has been largely framed around Trump’s claims that Washington bears an unfair burden to help protect its allies.

“Germany, as far as I’m concerned, is captive to Russia because it’s getting so much of its energy from Russia,” Trump told NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in a fiery on-camera exchange that was among the harshest in the history of the post-World War II alliance.

“We have to talk about the billions and billions of dollars that’s being paid to the country we’re supposed to be protecting you against,” Trump said, referring to European purchases of Russian natural gas.

Trump has complained bitterly about Europe’s lagging defense spending, saying that NATO nations were taking advantage of U.S. military largesse at the same time they were offering unfair trade terms to U.S. businesses.

A favorite target of his ire has been Germany, which has not met its NATO spending commitments and is beginning construction on a second natural gas pipeline to Russia. Germany and other European NATO partners argue, however, that they have boosted contributions to the military alliance and plan to kick in even more in coming years. Germany’s leadership has said the pipeline is a private business decision and they have been reluctant to interfere.

The accusation of Russian influence may have been particularly biting to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who grew up in Communist-controlled East Germany.

“I myself experienced that a part of Germany that was controlled by the Soviet Union, and I am very happy today that we are united in freedom as the Federal Republic of Germany,” Merkel told reporters as she entered NATO. ”We decide our own policies and make our own decisions.”

In remarks inside the closed-door meeting, she went even further in her tough pushback against Trump, according to two officials who were present and spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private remarks. In firm, unemotional language, Merkel told the other 28 leaders how Putin once served as a KGB officer and spy in her own country, making clear that she had little tolerance for being told her nation was controlled by the Kremlin.

(…)

“We’re supposed to protect Germany but they’re getting their energy from Russia,” Trump told Stoltenberg, as aides on both the U.S. and NATO side of a long table shifted in their seats and sat stonefaced. Chief of Staff John F. Kelly jerked his head away as U.S. Ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison looked up at the ceiling. “So explain that,” Trump said. “And it can’t be explained, and you know that.”

Trump’s criticism set off immediate anxiety in Germany. Munich’s Süddeutsche Zeitung headlined its story: ”It is not only bad, it is catastrophic.”

More from The New York Times:

BRUSSELS — President Trump wasted no time. NATO’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, could barely finish the protocol greetings at Wednesday’s breakfast when Mr. Trump launched into a clearly preplanned attack on Germany, its level of military spending and dependence on Russia for natural gas.

In a harsh rebuke at the opening of the NATO summit meeting, Mr. Trump called Germany “totally controlled” and “captive to Russia” because of energy dependency and for a new pipeline, Nordstream II, that would double the amount of gas Russia can send directly to Germany while bypassing Ukraine and Poland.

“Germany, as far as I’m concerned, is captive to Russia because it’s getting so much of its energy from Russia,” Mr. Trump told the startled Mr. Stoltenberg. “We have to talk about the billions and billions of dollars that’s being paid to the country we’re supposed to be protecting you against.”

“I think it’s something that NATO has to look at,” Mr. Trump said.

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, politically weakened at home, reacted mildly but pointedly to Mr. Trump’s remarks, having grown up in Soviet-occupied East Germany. “I myself experienced a part of Germany that was controlled by the Soviet Union, and I am very happy today that we are united in freedom as the Federal Republic of Germany,” she said as she entered the NATO building. “We decide our own policies and make our own decisions, and that’s very good.”

Germany’s foreign minister, Heiko Maas, gave a much sharper response, writing on Twitter that saying, “We are no captives — neither of Russia nor of the United States.”

In the private meeting that followed, participants said, Mr. Trump repeated his demand that the NATO allies rapidly increase their military expenditures to the NATO guideline of 2 percent of gross domestic product. Under the current plan, they have until 2024 to reach that level.

He also surprised the participants by suggesting that the alliance should commit to lifting future spending to 4 percent of G.D.P., the Lithuanian president, Dalia Grybauskaite, said in a brief interview. She said the tone of the meeting was calm and conciliatory.

The United States currently spends only 3.5 percent of G.D.P. on its military.

By charging that Germany is in thrall to Moscow, Mr. Trump appeared to be attempting to deflect criticism that he is too accommodating toward President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, who he meets on Monday in Helsinki, Finland, suggested Derek Chollet, a former assistant secretary of defense who is now with the German Marshall Fund in Washington.

“This is like throwing a match on kindling, since Germany was anticipating something like this after the Group of 7” meeting in Canada, where Mr. Trump was similarly mocking, but in private, Mr. Chollet said. “Trump went out of his way in his first meeting to send this unprovoked attack.”

In his comments this morning, Trump voiced in public concerns that, admittedly, previous Administrations had raised privately with Germany and other European nations regarding their dependence on Russia for energy. This was an issue that became more apparent in the wake of the 2014 annexation of Ukraine and the sanctions that followed from both the United States and its allies in Europe and around the world. At the time, there was some concern that Russia would attempt to retaliate but cutting off gas and oil exports to Germany and other European nations, something that would have had a rather obvious negative economic impact in Europe and around the world. As many analysts noted at the time, though, the likelihood of this actually happening was fairly low given the fact that these energy deals are far more beneficial to Russia than they are to Eastern and Western Europe and that, in the event of such a cutoff of Russian energy deliveries, Germany and its neighbors would be able find other sources such that any disruption to their economies would be temporary at best. In any case, while the Bush 43 and Obama Administration’s have pushed the Germans and other Europeans to reduce their dependence on Russian energy sources, they have not done so publicly and they’ve certainly never claimed, falsely, that Germany was effectively under the control of Russia, which is a particularly stupid things to say when the nation is led by a Chancellor who grew up in East Germany and has spoken quite often about life under a regime under the control of Moscow.

In his remarks this morning, Trump claimed that Germany gets “60 to 70% of its energy” from Russia. As the BBC noted in a fact check this morning, though, that claim is utterly false:

The claim: Germany imports 60% to 70% of its energy from Russia.

Reality Check verdict: Germany relies on Russia for most of its imports of natural gas. But gas makes up less than 20% of Germany’s energy mix for power production.

At a Nato summit, US President Donald Trump criticised Germany for importing so much of its gas from Russia while expecting the US to pay to protect it from Russia.

“Germany is totally controlled by Russia because they will be getting from 60% to 70% of their energy from Russia and a new pipeline,” he said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has responded by saying that having had experience of a time when part of Germany was controlled by the Soviet Union, she is now confident that the whole country is independent.

Mr Trump is right that Germany relies on Russia for most of its gas imports. Eurostat estimates that Russia is responsible for between 50% and 75% of Germany’s gas imports.

The commodities brokerage Marex Spectron told Reality Check that about 60% of Germany’s gas was imported from Russia, with most of the rest coming from Norway.

But that does not mean that 60% of Germany’s energy comes from Russia – Germany’s energy mix for power production is about 40% coal, more than 30% renewables, less than 20% gas and 10% nuclear, according to Marex Spectron.

In other words, Russian natural gas accounts for 20% of Germany’s current energy mix, although that percentage is likely to increase at least somewhat as the nation continues to phase out its reliance on nuclear energy while working toward increasing the use of renewable energy sources in the years to come. Additionally, as the German government noted in its response to the President’s remarks this morning, the gas pipeline that Trump refers to is a completely private venture and the German government has generally be reluctant to interfere in such ventures in the past. Finally, as I noted above, regardless of the percentage of Germany’s energy that Russia provides, it is clear from the numbers that Russia is far more reliant on Germany as a customer for its energy products than Germany is reliant on Russia as an energy source.

As for the President’s comments about the failure of most NATO members to meet the 2% defense spending goal and his apparent demand that the goal be increased to 4%, a measure that even the United States would not meet at this point, there really isn’t much more to add to what I’ve already said:

In any case, at the 2014 NATO Summit in Wales, it was agreed among the members that each member would seek to spend at least 2% of their respective Gross Domestic Product on defense, at least some part of which would be intended to be utilized as part of the alliance in the event that it was necessary. It’s important to recognize that this agreement was reached only four years ago and that it was understood at the time that it would take many members some time to reach the 2% goal due to domestic political and other considerations. Additionally, it was recognized that some NATO members, such as Iceland, would find it hard to meet this goal given the fact that they have no military, and thus no defense budget to speak of. In those cases, it was understood that these smaller member nations would contribute to the alliance in other ways. In Iceland’s case, for example, the island nation serves as an important mid-Atlantic location for alliance air assets and as a port for American and other naval forces. The President, however, continues to either not understand what the NATO alliance is all about and what was agreed to at the aforementioned 2014 summit meeting. Contrary to the manner in which the President continues to frame the issue, the 2% spending goal is not part of the NATO Treaty nor is it some kind of “dues” that each member owes to either the alliance or to the United States.

Furthermore, it was agreed at that 2014 summit that the membership of NATO would have until 2024 to reach the 2% goal. So far, most nations have made at least some progress in this regard, but it’s important to note that, unlike the manner in which the President has characterized it, it simply is not the case that this is a goal for nations to reach, not a requirement for membership. It’s not a requirement of the NATO Treaty itself and there is no provision in the agreement that was signed in 2014 for any kind of “punishment” for nations that are unable to reach the 2% goal by the deadline. Given that, bringing the issue up now is premature and demanding that the goal be doubled to 4% even before we’ve reached the end of the proposed compliance period serves no purpose other than to further poison our relationship with our NATO allies. Of course, that’s probably exactly what the President intended.

As I’ve noted before, rhetoric like what we’ve seen from the President today is yet another demonstration that he has no understanding whatsoever of why the NATO alliance exists, the reasons why it was created, or the value it has provided to the United States since its creation seven decades ago. The primary benefit, of course, is the fact that it has kept the peace in Europe for seventy years, something that is rather significant given the fact that the continent was the site of two of history’s bloodiest wars in the course of just thirty-one years from 1914 to 1945 as well as numerous significant conflicts in the centuries before that inevitably brought other major powers in on one side or the other. During the Cold War, of course, it served as a bulwark against the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact and, since the collapse of the Soviet Union it has helped to end, although admittedly not avoid, bloody conflicts in the former Yugoslavia. Additionally, the alliance has benefited the United States by providing us with access to air, land, and sea bases that have proven useful in helping to move men and material to various parts of the world in times of crisis such as during the Persian Gulf War, the Iraq War, and, of course, the War in Afghanistan. Finally, as has been pointed out numerous times, the NATO Treaty’s collective defense provisions have been invoked only once, and that was done by the United States in the wake of the September 11th attacks. In response, our NATO allies responded as they committed themselves to do, with many nations provided personnel, material, and financial support to the fight against al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations and their soldiers have fought alongside American troops in Afghanistan and elsewhere for the past seventeen years. Instead of acknowledging all of that, this President wants to toss it all aside while embracing dictators in Russia, China, Turkey, Egypt, The Philippines, and, of course, North Korea. That sound you hear is every President from Truman to Reagan and every Secretary of State from George Marshall forward spinning in their graves while the rest of us just watch in horror as an American President dismantles seventy years of successful foreign policy. Whoever succeeds this man is going to have quite a job cut out for them.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Donald Trump, Europe, Military Affairs, 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. PJ says:

    That sound you hear is every President from Truman to Reagan and every Secretary of State from George Marshall forward spinning in their graves while the rest of us just watch in horror as an American President dismantles seventy years of successful foreign policy. Whoever succeeds this man is going to have quite a job cut out for them.

    The President is not the only one to blame, Republicans in Congress is watching all this happening and doing nothing.

    Trump will be gone in two or six years, as long as he doesn’t end democracy entirely, but a lot of the Republicans in Congress who watched and did nothing might be around a lot longer than that.

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  2. al Ameda says:

    Contrary to the manner in which the President continues to frame the issue, the 2% spending goal is not part of the NATO Treaty nor is it some kind of “dues” that each member owes to either the alliance or to the United States.

    His base eats this up the way a dog eats his own crap:
    No need for facts, a demonstration of verbal force and ‘telling like it is’ posturing keeps them happy. Get ready for the predictable tweet declaring victory, and his base plus the conservative commentariat telling the rest of us, ‘finally, a president stands up for America!!’

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  3. teve tory says:

    Donald J. Trump

    @realDonaldTrump
    Despite what you have heard from the FAKE NEWS, I had a GREAT meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Nevertheless, Germany owes…..

    9:15 AM – Mar 18, 2017
    90.1K
    54.5K people are talking about this
    Twitter Ads info and privacy

    Donald J. Trump

    @realDonaldTrump
    …vast sums of money to NATO & the United States must be paid more for the powerful, and very expensive, defense it provides to Germany!

    9:23 AM – Mar 18, 2017

    No, Germany doesn’t owe money to NATO, you huge dumbass. That’s not how it works.

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  4. Bob@Youngstown says:

    Question – Does all military spending by a country “count” toward attaining the 2% GDP goal?
    For example: Germany decides to spend an additional 500 million to buy new uniforms for it’s soldiers.

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  5. teve tory says:

    Germany spends 1.2% of GDP on their military. The US spends 3.61% of GDP on its military.

    We should be more like Germany.

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  6. Kathy says:

    @Bob@Youngstown:

    Question – Does all military spending by a country “count” toward attaining the 2% GDP goal?

    Yes. That’s why demanding a 4% of GDP is utterly insane. There’s not enough to spend it on. Most European countries don’t need large aircraft carriers (and none have any), or troops in the Pacific, or fleets of long-range intercontinental bombers.

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  7. Steve V says:

    I’m telling you, this man is making us all stupider.

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  8. Inhumans99 says:

    @Steve V: Speak for yourself my friend, i can cut through his BS just fine.

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  9. drj says:

    During the president’s remarks today at the NATO summit he suggested that countries not only meet their commitment of 2 percent of their GDP on defense spending, but that they increase it to 4 percent.

    And even if other NATO countries would commit to 4%, Trump will demand 6%.

    Trump is gunning for a breakup of NATO.

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  10. Kathy says:

    Peace in Europe is not to be dismissed so easily as Comrade Dennison would believe. Or taken for granted.

    Plenty of people are familiar with the history of WWII, and I dare say even clear back to the end of WWI and the interwar period. Fewer know much about the immediate postwar period. If it didn’t feature great battles or displays of martial might, it contained some of the highest-level diplomacy and statesmanship in history; both in Europe and Japan.

    Consider the Allies fought the Axis powers to an unconditional surrender, yet all three nations, Germany, Japan and Italy, wound up, in a relatively short time, as allies of the countries which had vanquished them. Not as subjects, not as conquered peoples, not even as vanquished nations in thrall to punishing reparations, but as valued allies and equals. This is unprecedented in the history of the world.

    Oh, there have been cases of voluntary submission to a powerful conqueror who is kinder, or easier in its over-lordship, than a previous one. Like the Persians were preferable to the Hebrews than the Babylonians (Cyrus the Great is referred to in the Bible as “Messiah”); or, as counterpoint, the Egyptians preferred Alexander the Great to the Persians.

    If we’d had a f***g moron with authoritarian tendencies like Trump in charge back then, we’d likely not have seen things like the Marshall Plan or NATO, not even to keep the Soviets off Western Europe. We’d have seen WWIII by now, if not WWIV.

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  11. Pylon says:

    @Kathy:
    Yes. That’s why demanding a 4% of GDP is utterly insane. There’s not enough to spend it on. Most European countries don’t need large aircraft carriers (and none have any), or troops in the Pacific, or fleets of long-range intercontinental bombers.

    And since only France and the UK have nuclear arsenals, there’s a huge expenditure most NATO countries don’t have and can’t develop under the NPT treaty (nor does any country, including the US, want them to have).

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  12. Pylon says:

    For example: Germany decides to spend an additional 500 million to buy new uniforms for it’s soldiers.

    Idea: Germany can declare all refugees to be foreign honorary military personnel (with no obligations to perform services, and no rights to any benefits) and allocate all food and clothing spending under “defence”.

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  13. teve tory says:

    In fairness to trump, the US is giving Way more money to the pentagon than before, while europeans are just buying stupid stuff like health care and maternity leaves.

    The F-35 program alone is expected to cost over $1 trillion. We’re getting a deal on them cause they don’t work. Why isn’t europe buying more shit like that?

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  14. grumpy realist says:

    Maybe the other NATO countries will get pissed off enough to throw the US out of NATO.

    Heck, they could out-compete us militarily if they decided to take half of their military budget and put it towards new technologies. Don’t assume the next war will be be planes and bombs–cyberspace, attacks over the net, what Russia is doing with social media–then add in what you can do with drones/nanotechnology/biotech.

    We’re the dumb ones, insisting that the only way to defend ourselves is by blowing things up.

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  15. Kathy says:

    @Pylon:

    And since only France and the UK have nuclear arsenals, there’s a huge expenditure most NATO countries don’t have and can’t develop under the NPT treaty (nor does any country, including the US, want them to have).

    This is a very important point. Without the collective defense principle, there is no reliable nuclear umbrella. So if NATO collapsed, or the US pulled out, then either France and/or Britain extend their nukes to use as an umbrella for Europe, or countries like Germany, Italy, Poland, the Netherlands, etc. will develop their own.

    It’s not easy to develop nukes. But the difficulty lies almost entirely in making the fissile material (enriched uranium or plutonium) and the fusion material (tritium). the bad news is once you have the means to obtain them, making more just takes time.

    Add the tensions within Europe like Brexit, rising populism and authoritarianism, and you really, really, really get nervous about a score of developed countries deploying even tactical nukes.

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  16. JohnSF says:

    @Kathy:
    Exactly.
    (Though to quibble, both France and UK have a large carrier operational or being made so, and UK at least intends to commission another one)

    As I commented under an earlier post for core EuroNATO 2% is doable (in fact for France and UK 2% would be a reduction).
    Higher would be possible economically, but almost very difficult politically, impossible if seen as meeting an arbitrary demand of President Trump.

    But what in the name of gawd’s holy trousers are we meant to spend it on?
    4% across EuroNATO would be approaching US levels of military spending, levels you don’t require unless you want/need to be a full-spectrum global Superpower. Far more than required to deter Russia &/or to dominate adjacent regions.

    The only circumstances I could see causing such a policy revolution would be a US abandonment of NATO and a continued adversarial stance by Russia.

    Does the USA want to evoke even a potential global security competitor in Europe?
    Even if not a competitor, Europe at such power levels would IMHO likely demand a much bigger say in global security questions e.g. the Middle East.

    These demands are either monumentally stupid, or deliberate “impossibilism”, and I’m not sure which is the worse to contemplate.

    Where is the Senate at this point?
    I really can’t imagine any previous president of the modern era going so far without provoking a senatorial intervention of some sort.

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  17. An Interested Party says:

    Typical of this asshole is the projection…he’s Putin’s bitch so of course he accuses Germany of being controlled by Russia…

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  18. Kathy says:

    @JohnSF:

    But what in the name of gawd’s holy trousers are we meant to spend it on?

    Exactly.

    This is as good a time as any to praise Europe for developing soft power as an alternative to military adventurism. Something the US should learn from. It’s slow, but it leaves far fewer messes behind (see Iraq).

    Where is the Senate at this point?

    Exposing its collective throat to the Cheeto, showing how easy it would be to cut it.

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  19. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Doug
    “…is yet another demonstration that he has no understanding whatsoever of why the NATO alliance exists, the reasons why it was created, or the value it has provided to the United States…”

    Doesn’t matter, as he is doing the bidding of his handler, with whom he will be meeting with soon.

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  20. Mike in Arlington says:

    What surprises me about Trump is that he doesn’t care/understand/want to understand the value we get out of being NATO’s largest contributor/spender. We have enormous influence and the ability to set an agenda for defense and foreign policy in Europe, and it’s all from our contributions to being Europe’s benefactor. And Trump is trying to trash that, to what end? I can’t work it out for the life of me.

    What I think I have worked out is that Trump more or less lives in the past, specifically the 70s and 80s, and he hasn’t quite adjusted to the new reality. He doesn’t realize that Russia isn’t a powerful country (apart from its nuclear arsenal), nor does he seem to realize that crime isn’t rampant and growing like it once was. I really think that he thinks if he can defuse tensions with Russia, he’ll be hailed as some great hero when in reality he won’t because Russia is no longer the threat we thought they were during the cold war. And this is doubly true if he does this at the expense of our allies in Europe.

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  21. Guarneri says:

    Gee, it sure is a horrible idea that Germany should buy US or Canadian gas, not Russian, enriching Russia. I mean, it’s not like we pay 70% of NATOs bills or something.

    Looks like it’s Angela Merkel who is Putin’s bitch.

    You guys crack me up.

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  22. NW Steve says:

    @Guarneri: @Guarneri:

    Gee, it sure is a horrible idea that Germany should buy US or Canadian gas, not Russian, enriching Russia.

    Could you please provide a link for the plans for a gas pipeline from North America to Europe. I had missed that one.

    And surely you aren’t suggesting that it would be a good thing for Europe to Buy Canadian. We all know how evil those Canadians are …

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  23. TM01 says:

    never claimed, falsely, that Germany was effectively under the control of Russia,

    That’s because it’s Trump who is under control of the Russians.

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  24. TM01 says:

    @NW Steve:

    Could you please provide a link for the plans for a gas pipeline from North America to Europe. I had missed that one.

    It runs parallel to the pipeline from Saudi Arabia to the US.

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  25. Guarneri says:

    @NW Steve:

    You may have heard of this marvelous invention called liquified natural gas, and boats.

    BTW – Since Mueller is digging a dry well (heh), he ought to investigate Schroeder, a sr exec in the company managing the pipeline construction. One can only wonder what his Swiss bank account looks like, eh?

    Look, you candy arses. Both Bush and Obama claimed to want what Trump does. They just had no balls; so they did nothing except give speeches. Trump is finally standing up for American interests. This is how adults speak with their business partners: frankly and no nicey-nice platitudes. Else you are just jerkin off.

    Lots of that around here.

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  26. Bob@Youngstown says:

    @Guarneri:

    nicey-nice platitudes

    those are reserved for Putin

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  27. JohnSF says:

    @Guarneri:

    we pay 70% of NATOs bills

    That is not how it works.
    USA defence budget in 2017 was 67.32% of the total defence expenditure of all NATO members.
    That is a total spend, not a “NATO bill”.
    NATO is not a restaurant and does not have “bills”.

    European NATO states currently spend c. $300 billion on defence, roughly three times the expenditure of Russia.
    Russia is presently a threat to Europe primarily because of its USSR legacy of nuclear weapons systems and locally predominant armoured/artillery/air formations coupled to terrifying levels of recklessness.

    US defence expenditure includes a lot of items that are arguably marginal to NATO but important to the USA e.g. carrier fleets in the Pacific, amphibious task forces etc.
    Should those be counted as part of the highly hypothetical “NATO bill”?
    And if they are do we get to count Japan and South Korea as members of NATO?

    (We can probably leave aside the hilariously overpriced procurement projects the Pentagon seems addicted to. After all, there are some almost as gold-plated and diamond-encrusted in Europe)

    You want a European military superpower?
    As I have commented before: “Be careful what you wish for, you may receive it.”
    And: “Do not call up what you cannot put down.”

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  28. Jc says:

    These countries gave lives of their sons and daughters for OUR wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now they have to listen to an angry child with fake bone spurs, whose only service was to himself, tell them to spend more?

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  29. M. Bouffant says:

    @Guarneri: Adults don’t speak frankly to their business partners (P.S.: Not “business” at all, nation-states; different thing entirely.) on the street in front of their offices where everyone can hear.

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  30. Scott F. says:

    @M. Bouffant:

    Trump is speaking on the street where Guarini and other Trumpaloons can hear him and marvel at how ballsy he is. Adults tend to be unimpressed with that kind of talk.

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  31. Grewgills says:

    In other words, Russian natural gas accounts for 20% of Germany’s current energy mix…

    Perhaps a bit of a quibble, but as stated in the article you quoted, less than 20% of Germany’s energy mix is gas and 50-75% of that is Russian. At most that has Russian gas supplying less than 15% of Germany’s energy needs.

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  32. TM01 says:

    A few things to note:
    1. Germany wouldn’t need Russian energy if they hadn’t abandoned nuclear energy in pursuit of their goofy Green initiative. That doesn’t produce enough energy, so… Russia.
    2. Even Obama was opposed to the latest pipeline going to Western Europe from Russia. One reason? It allows Russia to continue supplying energy to Germany and France, leaving Russia free to cut off supplies to places like Ukraine. Again. So President Trump is siding with Eastern Europe over Western.
    3. Merkel would do well to actually remember what living under Russian control is like. Stop feeding Russia to let them take over Eastern Europe again. They’ve cut off gas supplies to Europe in the past. Why wouldn’t they do it again? Especially if cutting it off won’t affect the larger NATO countries.
    4. How to spend money? Maybe they could spend money on a missile defense program. Like the one Obama cancelled that GWB had promised to Poland, thereby destroying the Word of the United States I might add.
    5.

    Where is the Senate at this point? I really can’t imagine any previous president of the modern era going so far without provoking a senatorial intervention of some sort.

    Last I heard the Senate has no say in foreign policy, and the President’s Word is all that is needed to enter into Huge Multinational Agreements. Like JCPOA.
    So first, Obama went A LOT farther than anything Trump has done here in Europe. And second, when appropriate, the Senate will stand up and say something.
    6. Europe should be paying more. At the end of WWII when we had, pretty much literally, the only economy in the world, sure, it made sense that we foot most of the bill. But now? They should pay more, and do so sooner. Maybe not 4%, but hey, it’s called negotiation: start high and work down to what you actually want.
    7. Holy frak. You people with the Russian Trump Thing are bloody insane. Trump is too soft on Russia: stooge! Trump is too hard on Russia: puppet! Think for once.
    Putin: “Hey, I know! Let’s secretly support the guy who has no chance of winning, further pissing off the person who already hates us and has already encouraged protests against me as SoS, and who is soon going to be the most powerful person in the world! Yeah! Let’s give her another reason to try and overthrow me! Super Genius!”

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  33. An Interested Party says:

    So Russian interference in the 2016 election was meant to help…Hillary Clinton? Is that why all the damaging information that was stolen and released was on the Democratic side? It’s no secret that it was in Putin’s best interests that Trump would win the election, not Clinton…but yes, keep acting like that’s all fake news…Trump supporters seem to enjoy being in the dark…

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  34. SenyorDave says:

    @TM01: Maybe not 4%, but hey, it’s called negotiation: start high and work down to what you actually want.

    Isn’t part of negotiation treating your your negotiating partners with some degree of respect? And not lying?

    President Donald Trump on Wednesday claimed that Germany was “controlled” by Russia because “60 to 70% of their energy” comes from the country.

    The more accurate figure is about 10%.

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  35. Guarneri says:

    And in other news, a CNN anchor was arrested at a strip club………

    https://fox8.com/2018/07/12/lawyer-stormy-daniels-arrested-at-ohio-strip-club/

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  36. wr says:

    @Guarneri: ” This is how adults speak with their business partners: frankly and no nicey-nice platitudes.”

    As David Mamet has pointed out in one of his excellent books on writing, dialogue is not about asking for what you want — it’s the tool you use to get what you want.

    Stomping around, making demands and threats, and acting like a five year-old may indeed impress the truly dim. But it in no way will impress one’s negotiating partner and in fact will only serve to drive them away.

    I figured anyone who made it out of middle school would have learned that along the way. Perhaps that’s too big a bar for our loveable buyer of companies to have cleared in his life.

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  37. Kathy says:

    @JohnSF:

    USA defence budget in 2017 was 67.32% of the total defence expenditure of all NATO members.

    European NATO states currently spend c. $300 billion on defence, roughly three times the expenditure of Russia.

    It’s worth noting, too, that America’s defense budget, around $600 billion, is not all spent “on NATO.”

    Most NATO countries have militaries solely for their own defense, and for commitments to the Alliance. A few, like France and Britain, have overseas possessions and/or commitments with other countries, so they spend more than countries like Germany.

    The US, as has been said repeatedly, has interests and commitments all over the world. It also has a lot more active personnel and a large nuclear deterrent (each ICBM costs several million dollars, for example, and they’re expensive to maintain).

    US Expenditures on NATO specific forces, bases, etc. probably amounts to a fraction of what the European NATO allies spend on defense. Perhaps $30-$50 billion.

    That’s a lot of money. But aside from keeping first the Soviets and now the Russians in check, it also buys the US preeminence in military power and global affairs over all of Western Europe.

    Lastly, as I’ve also said before, Comrade Dennison wants to increase US military spending. So what is his problem? Besides, that is, being a congenital moron.

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  38. Kathy says:

    There is one little detail being overlooked in all this kerfuffle: Surely someone the Cheeto trusts and believes, assuming any are left, must have explained to him how NATO works and why the NATO countries don’t owe the US any money regarding NATO.

    So why does he still insist on misrepresenting the situation?

    One possibility is that his base eats it up. Therefore this idiot is content to kill off one of the most successful alliances in history, merely to score popularity points.

    But her emails, amirite?

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  39. If Trump were a Russian asset, how would he behave differently? I can’t come up with anything.

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  40. KM says:

    @Kathy:

    Surely someone the Cheeto trusts and believes, assuming any are left, must have explained to him how NATO works and why the NATO countries don’t owe the US any money regarding NATO.

    You’re assuming he retained the information, let alone understood it. There’s been numerous reports of Trump being relayed information and he just blithely kept on with his original “point”. Once the idea gets in his head, that’s it and reality be damned. It might be he’s simply incapable of accepting something that’s not what he wants to hear (I leave the why up to your speculation).

    I honestly don’t think he’s intentionally trying to weaken or destroy NATO. I think he’s a stupid, stubborn man who cannot admit he’s wrong and has had great success in life turning that flaw into cash with other stupid, stubborn people. He’s an elderly man with no intention to change himself and doesn’t what damage he causes. Even a worse-case scenario where NATO dissolves and we lose access to all bases and assets in Europe won’t change a deadbeat’s conviction someone else is being a deadbeat.

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  41. Bob@Youngstown says:

    @TM01:

    Maybe they could spend money on a missile defense program. Like the one Obama cancelled that GWB had promised to Poland

    And where would NATO countries look to to supply missile defense sysytems?

    I’ve long suspected that Trump (and other hawks) are more motivated by the business interests of the military contractors than by security interests. Why order fighter planes that the Pentagon doesn’t want? Why bully European allies to try to get them to purchase stuff they don’t need.

    Follow the money

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  42. Kathy says:

    @KM:

    I honestly don’t think he’s intentionally trying to weaken or destroy NATO.

    I agree. And that only makes it worse.

    Someone who sets out to destroy an alliance, or weaken it, knows the value of such an alliance and has plans for either functioning without it, reshaping it, or setting up a different one.

    The grand Cheeto is destroying NATO only because his bs resonates with his base, with no thought of how to proceed without it afterwards.

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  43. Franklin says:

    @Robert Prather: He might try to hide it?

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  44. Kathy says:

    I came across an article in The Atlantic trying to be reassuring about the current crisis involving NATO.

    Yes, there have been crises within NATO int he past, There will be crises within NATO in the future, too. But past ones, and one hopes future ones, were about policy disagreements, admittedly involving high stakes, and were mostly conducted diplomatically and respectfully.

    The Cheeto crisis is about Benito playing to his base and making unreasonable demands, based on misleading data and willfully misrepresented information.

    What one lives through tends to feel worse than what one reads about. Even taking that into account, this latest crisis is more worrying. simply because disagreement is to be expected among one’s allies, but contempt and hostility bolstered by lies are not.

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  45. JohnSF says:

    @Bob@Youngstown:

    Follow the money

    Hah!
    If we’re going to be spending c.$50 billion for a full-on theatre ABM system we’ll be R&D’ing and building that ourselves, thank’ee.
    Defence contractors in Europe got to eat too 🙂

    More seriously, a Euro-ABM might be a nice shiny to have longer term, but it’s of marginal use against the scale of the Russian missile threat.

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  46. Warren Peese says:

    And by undermining the US relationship with NATO, Trump is doing exactly what Putin wants. Pathetic.

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  47. Bob@Youngstown says:

    @JohnSF: Remind me where Poland was to get the ABM system that GWB had promised? Was it Polish contractors?

    But I agree with you on it’s usefulness.

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  48. teve tory says:

    OT: some shitty cops harassed Stormy Daniels last night and arrested her, but prosecutor Joe Gibson isn’t going along with it. All the charges have been dropped.

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  49. JohnSF says:

    @Bob@Youngstown:
    Yes, the EIS/ABMDS in Poland was (and is) a US system. So is the proposed development of ALTBMD based on US Aegis equipped ships.
    But then they’re essentially American owned, operated, and paid for.
    And spec’ed to handle e.g. a couple of missiles from Iran, not to be capable of blocking a Russian warstrike.
    European costs are on the orders of billions per year.
    Once you start talking tens of billions a year the politics get a lot more intense.

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  50. JohnSF says:

    @TM01:

    1:
    I would agree that the German decision to run down nuclear power was a mistake.

    But natural gas would be required in any case.
    Germany currently uses c. 90 billion cm gas per year, the same as it did in 2000.
    Of this about one eighth is used for electricity generation, about 87 terawatt hours out of c.655 TWh total (compared to 76.3 for nuclear, 218 renewables, and 240 coal and lignite) which would be needed anyway for surge demand over baseload.
    Surge demand requirements have increased due to nature of renewables.

    But the bulk of gas (7/8) is required for domestic heating and cooking, and secondarily for industry, not electricity.

    Of this gas c.35% comes from Russia; and at present LPG imports by sea are not cost-competitive with pipeline supply.

    2:
    The Nordstream2 pipeline is controversial, but it does have a business case: the current pipelines are at capacity, and N2 also is better placed for potential new gasfields in Arctic Russia and Scandinavia

    I’d personally argue for delay for political reasons. (And I wouldn’t trust G. Schroder further than I can spit.) But you won’t get the German’s to shift policy this way.

    3:
    Insurance policy for gas interruption is sensible. Doable by interconnecting N2 and the extant lines and re-engineering for reverse flows, more LPG terminals for backup etc.

    4:
    Theatre ABM is nice and shiny, but not capable in short to medium term of defending against a serious Russian missile assault. Nice to have but not a magic bullet.
    And if we do cough up multiple tens of billions for one, I don’t think we’ll be buying American. Politically impossible; lots of European defence firms like a payday too.

    5:
    Senate no say in foreign polcy? Really? Possibly not co-equal with the exective in this role, but tell that to the ghost of Arthur H. Vandeberg.

    6:
    Europe should be paying more.
    Maybe.
    I’d agree, to some extent, others wouldn’t, but this is NOT the way to get it. It is polically counterproductive to a massive extent.

    But comparing the total European and US defence spends is misleading: the US spends on very expensive components of global power at a level way beyond any requirements of the European regional security which is the primary function of NATO.

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  51. Gustopher says:

    I would like to applaud the self-control of our European partners in NATO.

    There is no way I would have not said “The man is an idiot!” Loudly. In front of cameras.

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  52. dazedandconfused says:

    @Gustopher:
    Hate to say it, but Trump did have a point. If the Euros as a whole have no problem with making themselves at least semi-dependent on Russian energy, the hysterical calls of Russia being a clear and present danger are at least semi-BS.

    Where Trump is screwing up, IMO, is he has no coherent end-game that MAGA in this. We get the EU to increase it’s military industrial base and we get more competition for our own arms industry. Our reckless increase of debt means we NEED foreigners to buy into it, we NEED to maintain the status of the US/Saudi petro-dollar as the world’s currency, a condition we take utterly for granted at our own peril.

    If the plan is to save money defending the EU, why not simply cut our basing there? No need to be jerks about it.

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  53. An Interested Party says:

    Hate to say it, but Trump did have a point. If the Euros as a whole have no problem with making themselves at least semi-dependent on Russian energy, the hysterical calls of Russia being a clear and present danger are at least semi-BS.

    Well, what certainly isn’t BS, either semi or fully, is that Russia is a clear and present danger to us, as their involvement in the 2016 illustrates…one would think any reasonable president would know this and respond accordingly…

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  54. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    “…one would think any reasonable president would know this and respond accordingly…”

    There seems to be a modification error in that phrase, given the guy 43% of us (closer to 25% in real numbers) elected, but I suppose that may have been the point. In which case, the choir got the message.

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  55. gVOR08 says:

    @Mike in Arlington:

    because Russia is no longer the threat we thought they were during the cold war.

    And we largely see them as a serious threat now only because of Trump’s deference to them.

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  56. dazedandconfused says:

    @An Interested Party:

    Well, what certainly isn’t BS, either semi or fully, is that Russia is a clear and present danger to us, as their involvement in the 2016 illustrates…one would think any reasonable president would know this and respond accordingly…

    I don’t see how their propaganda op equate to a military threat to the EU myself. Whole ‘nother ballgame. You dismiss oil as a strategic necessity without explanation?

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  57. An Interested Party says:

    @dazedandconfused: A propaganda op that could have helped to elect someone who may have ties to Russia and who is trashing the very alliance that is responsible for defending the EU from military threats certainly seems as important and as dangerous as any European country depending on Russia for any of its energy needs…

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  58. TM01 says:

    @JohnSF:

    5:
    Senate no say in foreign polcy?

    Correct.

    According to the Left all that is needed to conduct foreign policy is the word of the President. The President’s Word made JCPOA a permanent, binding agreement, with no need for Senate approval.

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  59. TM01 says:

    Things to spend money on:
    Upgrade the fighters. Enlist more troops.
    http://www.businessinsider.com/germany-military-lack-of-readiness-nato-operations-2018-4

    Hell, it’s almost as if Europe doesn’t really see Russia as a military threat: reducing their military budgets and sending The Enemy pallets of cash.

    Part of increasing their military spending now is to make up for what they’ve been letting lapse.

    And if the NATO collective defense provision has been invoked exactly once, what makes this treaty so gosh darned important nowadays? There have been arguments about reducing our military presence in Europe for decades.

    And how the hell is Trump Putin’s stooge if he’s encouraging Europe to strengthen their militaries and stop feeding them loads of cash?
    Just shut up with that already.

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  60. Kathy says:

    This nugget at 538 would seem to explain a great deal.

    Like so much else these days, NATO has become a partisan issue. Democrats told YouGov that they view NATO favorably by an overwhelming 55-point margin (64 percent to 9 percent), but among Republicans, unfavorable opinions of NATO win out by an 8-point margin: 45 percent to 37 percent. Among Trump voters, 54 percent view NATO unfavorably, while just 33 percent view it favorably.

    Did republicans and El Cheeto voters view NATO unfavorably before Dennison started ranting against it? It doesn’t matter. It worked for him, so he’ll keep at it.

    Repeating how those weak, unfair Europeans are “taking advantage” of America, gives them the victimhood they crave, and lets them feel superior to the Democrats. It’s a win-win-win-lose. The Dictator in Chief wins, his subjects think they win, Putin wins, and it’s only the world that loses.

    The 538 piece goes on to say there is much skepticism about NATO. I get that. An alliance formed to contain and, if need be, repel the USSR, would seem to have no reason for being after the USSR fell.

    I could get into the long explanation about why this is short-sighted and wrong, but instead I’ll just cite historical precedent: the alliance between the US and UK, among others, to defeat the Axis Powers, kept on going after the Axis was utterly defeated.

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  61. teve tory says:

    @Kathy:

    among Republicans, unfavorable opinions of NATO win out by an 8-point margin: 45 percent to 37 percent. Among Trump voters, 54 percent view NATO unfavorably, while just 33 percent view it favorably.

    holy shit. They really have become the Party of Stupid.

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  62. An Interested Party says:

    And how the hell is Trump Putin’s stooge if he’s encouraging Europe to strengthen their militaries [sic] and stop feeding them loads of cash?

    Trump is Putin’s bitch because he is weakening the NATO alliance, a goal that fits perfectly with what Putin wants…it’s very telling that he seems to have nicer things to say about autocrats and dictators than he does about democracies…

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  63. CSK says:

    @An Interested Party:
    People Trump loves:
    Kim
    Putin
    Duterte
    Erdogan

    People Trump despises:
    Merkel
    May
    Macron
    Trudeau

    By the way, Trump trashed May in The Sun, a Brit tabloid, before meeting with her.

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  64. wr says:

    @TM01: “nd if the NATO collective defense provision has been invoked exactly once, what makes this treaty so gosh darned important nowadays? ”

    By your typically brilliant reasoning, the US should have gotten rid of all our nuclear weapons decades ago since we haven’t had to use them since 1945.

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  65. An Interested Party says:

    By the way, did anyone else catch the GOP $hitshow yesterday…

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  66. JohnSF says:

    @TM01:
    It is correct that Germany could do with increasing it’s defence spending.
    Other Europeans have been saying this to them for some time.

    However:
    – upgrading the Tornado is probably not the best spend, it’s an old airframe reaching end of service life. Better to buy more Typhoon’s sooner. (Or even F-35’s if that money pit with wings ever comes good)
    – getting the Germans to do anything to enhance their military is a hard, long grind. The Germans post-1989 are deeply reluctant to even think seriously about defence issues. It’s irritating sometimes.
    – But I for one really, really like a pacifistically inclined Germany. It makes for a quieter neighbourhood.
    – You do not need a 4% GDP defence spend to get the Germans where they need to be. 2% would get it done. 2% plus would be gravy. 4% would be ludicrously over the top.
    – Hectoring them in public is likely to make the politics of getting required programmes past the Bundestag much more difficult.

    stop feeding them loads of cash

    Ooh! Missed the memo! Where’s my dollars? Me hungry!

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  67. Jen says:

    @An Interested Party: That was a nice overview of yesterday’s hearing. I am very much enjoying Woke Rick Wilson.

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  68. Mikey says:

    @JohnSF:

    Hectoring them in public is likely to make the politics of getting required programmes past the Bundestag much more difficult.

    This. As the spouse of a German, I can tell you with total confidence a hectored German will attain levels of stubbornness most Americans cannot fathom.

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  69. JohnSF says:

    @Mikey:
    Confirm.
    Nephew’s fiancée is German.
    Hectoring is ..umm.. unwise 🙂

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  70. Kathy says:

    @wr:

    By your typically brilliant reasoning, the US should have gotten rid of all our nuclear weapons decades ago since we haven’t had to use them since 1945.

    Good one.

    A logical analysis would conclude the only alliance for collective defense more successful than one which has invoked such defense only once, is the one that has never invoked it at all.

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  71. Jen says:

    @Kathy:

    Did republicans and El Cheeto voters view NATO unfavorably before Dennison started ranting against it? It doesn’t matter. It worked for him, so he’ll keep at it.

    Yes, they did. Going back at least 20 years, back when I worked in Republican politics, there was a subset that was all “UN/black helicopters-slash-New World Order” paranoia. NATO got lumped in there as “a group of European socialists trying to tell the good ol’ U-S-of-A what to do.”

    Bizarre, silly, and unhinged, but they’ve managed to elect someone as loopy as they are so…yep. Here we are.

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  72. TM01 says:

    Here’s an interesting take from Europe:
    https://www.nzz.ch/meinung/wo-trump-recht-hat-ld.1403225

    Trump may be brash, but ultimately he’s right. Germany really has no intention of living up to their 2% spending promise. Trump is right to call them out.

    Your polite ways haven’t worked. Looks like Trump’s was might work.

    Which at the end of day, would be beneficial for all.

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  73. TM01 says:

    @JohnSF:

    – upgrading the Tornado is probably not the best spend, it’s an old airframe reaching end of service life. Better to buy more Typhoon’s sooner. (Or even F-35’s if that money pit with wings ever comes good)

    I’d agree with that. Point still remains that they actually need to spend the money tho to upgrade. Whether it be incremental or new.

    – getting the Germans to do anything to enhance their military is a hard, long grind. The Germans post-1989 are deeply reluctant to even think seriously about defence issues. It’s irritating sometimes.

    Then good for Trump for calling them out like this. If this is what it takes to save NATO, isn’t that a good thing?

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  74. teve tory says:
  75. An Interested Party says:

    If this is what it takes to save NATO, isn’t that a good thing?

    So trashing NATO is the way to save it…how fascinating…

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