Amidst questions of America’s commitment to NATO and relationship with Germany, President Trump doubled-down on the rift with Germany with an early morning tweet:
We have a MASSIVE trade deficit with Germany, plus they pay FAR LESS than they should on NATO & military. Very bad for U.S. This will change
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 30, 2017
If language, enthusiasm, and tone are calculated into deriving the true commitment of an ally, then President Trump, on his first trip abroad and since, transmitted his unwavering commitment to Saudi Arabia while conveying his growing frustration with NATO allies — Germany chief among them.
In addition to what was perceived as lecturing, Trump broke with a long tradition of United States Presidents expressing the nation’s commitment to NATO’s mutual defense agreement in Article 5.
And while members of Trump’s administration sought to reassure his and the United States’ commitment to Article 5, the glaring omission did not go unnoticed.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel appeared to have responded during a speech at a campaign event stating, “We Europeans must really take our destiny into our own hands.”
This moment did not go unnoticed by Merkel or her leading rival in the upcoming elections, Martin Schult, the unanimously elected head of the German Social Democrats (SPD) and former president of the European Parliament. In a speech Sunday, Schulz stated:
No freely elected head of government in our country should allow him or herself to be humiliated in this way, the way this man [Trump], like an autocratic leader, believed he could inflict humiliation in Brussels.
Election campaign or no election campaign, in this situation, let me be entirely clear: the chancellor represents all of us at summits like these. And I reject with outrage the way this man takes it upon himself to treat the head of our country’s government.
This is unacceptable.
Remarkable attack on Trump’s treatment of Merkel by her chief rival Martin Schulz. pic.twitter.com/IvK1AVf9Nq
— Richard Chambers (@newschambers) May 29, 2017
While Schulz’s comments convey a sense of pride, Merkel’s and Trump’s comments transmit the potential of policy decisions that could lead to the first divide between Germany and America since becoming allies in the post-WWII order.
While some may downplay all of this as mere political fodder, the reality of what Trump is and is not saying resonates in a manner that will shape security decisions across the globe.
That Trump did not mention Article 5 while listing a detailed list of budgetary shortfalls by NATO members suggest that the omission was intentional, and an intentional omission of assurance could lead to European nations increasing the security outside of NATO.
No head-of-state can stand by and excuse away Trump’s derision of NATO while he takes painstaking efforts to transmit the desire to have better relationships with Russia. The goal of better relationships with Russia in itself is not problematic. President Obama also sought a “reset” with Russia.
However, if this reset comes at the expense of reassurances to NATO members that feel vulnerable to Russia, the modicum of European stability experienced since the inception of NATO could quickly become a thing of the past with member nations taking security into their own hands.
Arms races with uncontrollable momentum and unforeseeable outcomes have been triggered by far less.