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The NATO summit was held in Brussels on July 11-12. Leaders of the 29 member countries discussed the security situation, the prospects for expanding the alliance. The heads of states and governments agreed to strengthen NATO's capabilities in deterrence and defense policy to counter threats from Russia. At the summit, it was decided to invite Macedonia to negotiations on joining NATO, after the Balkan state will be renamed the Republic of Northern Macedonia. The sides discussed the prospects of Ukraine and Georgia on joining NATO and Russian aggression. President of the United States Donald Trump showed some criticism and demands against the European allies. It is not without reason that during the press conference the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg emphasized that throughout the history of NATO, the member countries had many disagreements that they always managed to overcome. It's only the American president that raises the issue of Euro-Atlantic security in a harsh way and lets the Europeans understand that the United States is no longer going to pull the lion's share of NATO commitments.
Financial disagreement between NATO countries
As at last year's NATO summit, the owner of the Oval Office chastised his military and political allies on the money issue. During a meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Trump stated that other member states should increase defense spending. He demanded that Europeans and Canadians increase military spending by 4% of GDP in order to offset the costs of the Pentagon (last year it was about 2% of GDP). Trump expects $ 33 billion in additional funding from the allies. The American president is interested in unloading the US budget, and his rhetoric fully fits into the political program "Make America great again." Republicans cut spending on foreign policy initiatives. Trump's administration cut funding for the US State Department. There were intentions to cut the financing of UN peacekeeping operations, the UN Children's Fund and the UN development program by 50% to save $ 54 billion for defense needs. Now the turn of NATO has come.
After a period of reduction in military spending in 2010-2015 the United States began to increase again the deductions for defense in connection with Russia's aggression in Ukraine, its interference in the armed conflict in Syria on the side of the President Bashar Assad, the need to combat ISIS and the activation of the North Korean nuclear missile program. From 2015 to 2017 US military spending grew by almost 4%. The US contribution to the defense is not comparable with the investments of other NATO member countries, which since the Cold War relied on US military assistance in ensuring national security. Last year, NATO member countries together spent 917 billion dollars on defense. Of these, the share of US spending was 67.3% ($ 618 billion). If the US spends 3.57% of GDP on defense, then the contributions of most other member countries to the military budget are less than 2%. Trump is indignant because of Germany, which, as the most economically developed country in the European Union, spends less on the army (1.24% of GDP) than Montenegro (1.58% of GDP) that joined NATO last year. In addition to the United States, Britain, Greece, and Estonia spend more than 2% of GDP on defense.
Also, the United States bears the cost of military aid to European allies on NATO. In 2017, Americans spent more than $ 4.6 billion on the supply of military equipment, military exercises, and some operations, measures to enhance the defense of Europeans, the maintenance of common institutions, headquarters buildings and NATO personnel. This is not counting the $ 20.3 billion spent on the maintenance of the European Command of the United States and the NATO Operation "Atlantic Decisiveness", which goal is to increase the military presence of member countries in Central and Eastern Europe in order to contain Russia's aggression. In the European countries, there are 70 thousand American soldiers. Trump is interested in shifting some of the costs associated with NATO to the shoulders of Europe and Canada and therefore requires them to increase the deductions for defense. In addition, the increase in defense spending in European countries means also orders for US defense corporations, whose interests are lobbied by the president.
Despite the fact that the leaders of NATO member countries, like last year, promised to increase defense spending and reallocate obligations within the organization, most of them continue to rely on the goals outlined at the 2014 summit, including a gradual increase in defense contributions to 2% of GDP until 2024. Stoltenberg told Trump that the European Union and Canada will increase military spending by $ 266 billion by this time. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said her country is doing enough for NATO, taking part in the organizations in Afghanistan. EU President Donald Tusk stressed that the EU spends more money on defense than Russia, and it is the best ally for the States. Europeans let Trump know that they are doing a favor to the US, participating in NATO initiatives, and therefore are not going to dramatically increase defense spending. Republican Senator Bob Corker expressed his fear that with his rhetoric, the US president will achieve a split within NATO and deterioration of relations with military-political allies. However, the administration of Trump, apparently, will continue to reduce spending on NATO, regardless of the consequences. This year, the US reduced military aid to European allies by $ 30 million.
US gas interests
At the NATO summit, Trump raised the issue of the EU's dependence on natural gas supplies from Russia, bringing a flood of criticism towards Germany, which is taking part in the implementation of the Russian project for the Nord Stream-2 gas pipeline. He called Germany a "captive", which is completely under Russian control, as the German leadership pays billions of dollars to buy Russian energy while expecting protection from the United States. Trump also drew attention to the fact that other European member countries of NATO have contracts with Russia for the supply of energy resources. The situation is indeed paradoxical. Despite the operation "Atlantic decisiveness", participation in anti-Russian sanctions, the European states did not stop buying natural gas and oil in Russia, the sale of which is one of the main sources of replenishment of the Kremlin budget.
Europe is the main market for Russian natural gas. In 2017, Gazprom sold 193 billion cubic meters of gas to European countries, having increased its market share in Europe from 35% to 36%. The share of Russian gas is 35% in Germany's imports of blue fuel. In the process of implementation are the projects of the Nord Stream-2 and Turkish Stream gas pipelines, which will allow Russia to reduce its dependence on Ukraine's gas transportation system. It seems that Trump is trying to force Europeans to buy less gas in Russia and abandon Russian gas pipelines.
It acts in the interests of American natural gas producers. From 2017 to 2050, the US intends to increase the extraction of natural gas in its territory from 734.5 billion to 1.2 trillion cubic feet per year (or from 73.6 billion to 118 billion cubic feet per day). For comparison, in 2017, Gazprom produced 471 billion cubic meters of natural gas. To overcome the trade deficit, the US is interested in increasing the export of liquefied natural gas to various regions, including Europe. In 2017, the US exported more than 1.87 million cubic meters (66.1 million cubic feet) of liquefied natural gas in tankers to Spain, Portugal, Poland, Italy, the United Kingdom, and Malta.
In the US, the Sabina Pass gas terminal on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico operates. It allows exporting 99 million cubic meters of liquefied natural gas per day. Until 2019-20 the States plan to put into operation five more such terminals with a capacity of over 75 million cubic meters of liquefied natural gas per day. This will increase the export of American gas in tankers from the current 20 million cubic meters/ year (706 million cubic feet) to 63 billion cubic meters per year. The United States will never be able to replace Russia in the gas market of Europe, as they do not have the ability to supply large volumes of natural gas through pipelines to local consumers. Yet Trump is preparing the ground in order to free a niche for US producers in the European gas market by reducing Russia's share. For the sake of this, he just drew attention at the NATO summit on the problem of energy dependence on Russia, which today is perceived by the alliance as a threat.
It seems that Trump specifically raised the gas issue at the NATO summit in order to create an excuse for blackmailing his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin at the upcoming meeting in Finland. Trump made it clear to Putin that if he did not show tractability on the Syrian issue, would refuse to assist the withdrawal of Iranian troops from the southern regions of the Arab Republic, then the US would do everything in its power to force Europeans to buy less Russian gas, up to the introduction of restrictive measures, new duties in European countries that buy the most natural gas in Russia.
Conclusions for Ukraine
The NATO summit, at which President Petro Poroshenko was invited, suggests that in the near future the alliance's doors will remain closed to us. No one raised the issue of giving Ukraine a "NATO Membership Action Plan", which is the starting point for the process of joining the alliance. Ukraine could not overcome the difficulties with Hungary over the new law on education. Budapest continues to block the Program of Enhanced Cooperation Opportunities with NATO, Ukraine's participation in trust funds for demining and neutralizing explosive devices, and for logistics.
On the margins of the summit, Poroshenko met with Trump and discussed with him the prospects for cooperation in the defense sphere, the problem of the Nord Stream-2. According to US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, the States support Ukraine's membership in NATO in the long run, but for the time being it is too early to talk about it, since it is necessary to bring the Ukrainian army's combat readiness in line with NATO standards. To date, Ukraine spends 5% of GDP on defense. Poroshenko said that by 2020 Ukraine will fully comply with NATO standards. Despite the existing disagreements, the member states unanimously condemned Russia's aggression in Ukraine. They called on Russia to comply with Minsk agreements, stop supporting illegal armed groups, military intervention in Donetsk and Luhansk regions and withdraw Russian-terrorist forces from Ukraine. At the summit was signed a declaration, which recognizes Ukraine's desire to join the alliance, as well as territorial integrity and sovereignty of our country.
However, in the present conditions, Ukraine's accession to NATO is not beneficial to the West. In this case, the alliance will become a direct participant in the armed conflict between Russia and Ukraine, and in accordance with the NATO Charter, Americans and Europeans will have to provide military assistance to Ukraine and take part in repelling Russian aggression and liberating the occupied territories. This is the principle of collective defense, on which the alliance is based. But at the same time, it is advantageous for Ukraine to pull itself up to NATO standards, if Kyiv expects to be in its ranks in the future.