Such decadent moods that reign now, on the eve of the 70th anniversary of the NATO creation, have not been noticed in this organization over the past decades. New problems appeared: I mean the reports confirming that the USA is thinking about withdrawing from the Alliance.
“Last year, President Trump proposed a step equivalent to the destruction of NATO: the United States’s withdrawal from the Alliance,” wrote The New York Times to scary all participants of transatlantic relations and observers (if they, of course, aren’t scared already, nervously following the steps of the American leader in the last two years).
Anxiety is growing
A detailed article written by the authors who have long been concerned with the theme of NATO and the White House, appeared in one of the most respected (albeit not by Trump itself) American newspaper. It was intended to impress and such an effect was achieved. Since January 14, this publication has become one of the most discussed texts on the topic of the American authorities’ relationships with Europe and NATO.
I am writing as “one of the most”, since a great number of articles on the topic of modern security policy in Washington and its criticism have appeared lately.
They create an extremely unfavorable atmosphere, give rise to doubts, reduce the level of trust in the Alliance and make more and more vague its future on the eve of a number of upcoming events: meetings of defense ministers of NATO member countries, the Munich Security Conference and the celebration of the 70th anniversary of this organization. Many people probably began to wonder whether this anniversary would be the last.
The article does not tell anything new about the mood of the American president. He has repeatedly stated his claims to the Alliance regarding the form in which it functions now. It is known that Trump would like to redistribute obligations in a new way and make his allies "to pay more." He has a belief that Europe treats America unfairly and even tries to use it, robbing American taxpayers.
"As senior administration officials told us, in 2018 Trump privately said several times that he wanted to withdraw from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization," the authors of the article in The New York Times write. This means that although the topic did not extend beyond the White House, it was discussed within its walls. One of these discussions unfolded on the eve of last year’s incredibly complex NATO summit in Brussels.
Trump then told his closest associates that he sees no reason to remain a member of an organization that, in his opinion, is abusing American resources.
Trump's threats don't work
At that moment, the president was persuaded not to give his opinion publicly. The summit was held in a tense situation, but the words about the withdrawal of the Americans from NATO were not heard at it. On the contrary, Trump finally decided that he managed to take the upper hand: he received data on the increase in the Alliance defense expenditures and could name himself the author of this success.
However, he had the right to this, because although European countries themselves have already begun to come to the conclusion that more money should be allocated for defense, it was the threats of the US that made them not to delay the decision. American policy made the strongest impression on small and relatively weak countries, such as Poland or Romania.
They see more chances than threats in the new course of the Washington administration.
In July 2018, Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Presidential National Security Adviser John Bolton convinced Trump that the issue of US withdrawal from NATO would shock European allies so much that in the end America itself would suffer the most. But this, apparently, did not prevent discussion in the corridors of the White House.
There are new signals that indicate that Trump’s attitude towards the Alliance has not changed. Quite on the contrary: he can use commemorative events for new attacks on the organization.
According to The New York Times, no large-scale celebrations with the participation of state leaders will take place on the 70th anniversary of the signing of Washington Treaty, but only a meeting of foreign ministers. It is said that more magnificent events are scheduled for the end of the year, but who knows what will happen during this time.
A summit in Brussels will take place in July, and there will be no shortage of difficult and challenging topics among the allies. First of all, the discussions will be connected with Trump's isolationist doctrine, the implementation of which threatens to lead to the withdrawal of US from Syria, the reduction of the US presence in Afghanistan, the severance of the INF Treaty and God only knows what else.
A harbinger of this was the spring speech of the new head of American diplomacy, Michael Pompeo, at the mini-summit of the heads of diplomacy of NATO member countries. In February, the defense ministers will hold a regular meeting, where the United States will be represented by a new man: the acting head of the Pentagon, Patrick Shanahan, who took the place of unexpectedly resigned James Mattis.
The resign of the former Secretary of Defense was a shock not only for the United States, but also for NATO. Mattis was a supporter of the traditional approach to American obligations and alliances, and in his farewell statement he made it clear that the president treats these topics quite differently. Consequently, in the coming year, the allies may have to see the true face of Trump, and this will be not the most pleasant picture.
The darkest scenario comes to life
The article in The New York Times did not surprise the "atlantists" on both sides of the ocean, but only heightened their concern. Some experts remind that they have long been warned about this, and some are pessimistic that the gloomiest scenario comes to life. Most analysts state that the only world leader who now has a reason for joy is Vladimir Putin.
Former Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt says that since Trump thinks about withdrawing from NATO, it is the worst scenario. The German expert Ulrich Speck devoted several comments to the above article, of which the most important says that Germany should make maximum efforts and keep the United States in Europe, because only they can effectively contain Russia.
Such a statement contradicts the widespread opinion in Poland, that Berlin and Paris are the main opponents of the presence of Americans on our continent. Speck says that Paris has no chance of replacing Washington, and you should not even have any illusions regarding this..
Many Americans’ comments sound the idea that although the president claims that he holds a tough position with regard to Russia, his words and deeds are in line with the aspirations of the Kremlin. Relations with Moscow and Putin have lately increasingly cast a shadow on the image of Trump. The media found that the FBI launched an investigation, trying to find out whether the American president is acting in the interests of Moscow. Trump even had to answer the question posed in this way, since American journalists could not disregard such accusations. Moreover, it turned out that Trump did not even talk about the details of the negotiations with Putin to his closest associates: he took the notes from his translator.
The atmosphere continues to heat up, especially as the special prosecutor, who is investigating Moscow’s interference in the American elections, is said to submit its report in the coming months. The press is wondering if there will be enough materials in this document to at least start the impeachment procedure. In this context, the reports that Trump is considering whether the United States should withdraw from NATO are particularly alarming.
Will this anniversary of NATO be the last?
All this is only press reports. We are far from such an incredible perspective, and even more from the realization of such threats. Trump is a person subject to impulses, and perhaps this can explain the discussions in the White House. On the other hand, the accusations against NATO were already heard during the election campaign, and now the president has just begun to fulfill his promises. The topic of building a wall on the border with Mexico shows that he is ready to put them into practice, regardless of the consequences, even at the cost of a record long suspension of the work of the federal government.
Who knows whether he will decide to make an unimaginable step in relation to the Alliance. Trump takes great risks. Withdrawal from NATO will be perceived as a blow to US fundamental security interests and could lead to massive resignations at the Pentagon, the defense ministry, and the army.
Even Trump has to reckon with the generals, although, of course, he never ceases to test their strength. However, the very thoughts about US withdrawal from NATO (especially since these ideas come from the American president) weaken the Alliance and complicate relations between the allies. And this is the worst gift for the 70th birthday.
Read the original article at Polityka