Trump assures NATO “I’m a very stable genius”

Donald Trump’s visit to a NATO summit in Brussels has been controversial, but he has assured them “I’m a very stable genius”. He didn’t claim he was modest.

Sky News – President Donald Trump at NATO summit: ‘I’m a very stable genius’

He also claimed success at NATO – Trump claims NATO victory after ‘go it alone’ ultimatum

Donald Trump claimed a personal victory at a NATO summit on Thursday after telling European allies to increase spending or lose Washington’s support, an ultimatum that forced leaders to huddle in a crisis session with the U.S. president.

He has a habit of claiming instant success.

Trump emerged declaring his continued commitment to a Western alliance built on U.S. military might that has stood up to Moscow since World War Two.

People present said he had earlier warned he would “go it alone” if allies, notably Germany, did not make vast increases in their defense budgets for next year.

“I let them know that I was extremely unhappy,” he said, but added that the talks ended on the best of terms: “It all came together at the end. It was a little tough for a little while.”

However other leaders seem to have seen things a bit differently.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who called the summit “very intense”, and other leaders including French President Emmanuel Macron, played down the extent to which they had pledged to accelerate spending plans as fast as Trump wanted.

And:

If victory is dominating the headlines then Trump has had a victory at the Brussels summit.

Otherwise his degree of success is quite debatable, and it will be some time before any significant change happens as a result of his threats.

 

Trump lectures Europe

 

Donald Trump has spoken strongly about NATO in Brussels, and has also vowed to stop embarrassing US intelligence leaks.

Guardian: Trump rebukes Nato leaders for not paying defence bills

Trump has taken the unprecedented step of lecturing world leaders on their chronic failure to pay for their own defence as they gathered in front of him for the unveiling of memorials to Nato’s role in keeping the peace around the world.

The US president broke with diplomatic norms to use his speech at a Natomeeting in Brussels to directly castigate 23 of the 28 members for failing to spend enough on defence, leaving the “taxpayers of the United States” to pick up the tab.

As tributes to Nato’s collective action – made from fragments of the Berlin Wall and the twin towers – were unveiled, Trump mentioned the article 5 commitment of member states to act as one when attacked. However, he largely focused on letting the leaders, and Nato’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, know of his determination to make them pay.

“I have been very very direct with secretary Stoltenberg and members of the alliance in saying Nato members must finally contribute their fair share and meet their financial obligations.

“But 23 of the 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying and what they are supposed to be paying for their defence.

“This is not fair to the people and taxpayers of the United States and many of these nations owe massive amounts of money from past years. And not paying in those past years.”

Ironically:

Trump, who said the attack in Manchester illustrated the need for greater cooperation on fighting terrorism, also appeared to demand that states who had so far failed to reach the 2% of GDP funding threshold, make additional reparations in the coming years.

Greater cooperation may mean stopping the US leaks of intelligence.

Fox News: Trump chastises NATO, vows to crackdown on leaks

With long-standing European alliances facing new strain, President Donald Trump chastised NATO member nations for not paying their fair share to protect the long-standing pact and declined to explicitly endorse its mutual defense agreement.

That unprecedented one-two punch from a president in his first major speech in Europe further rattled a continent anxious about Trump’s commitment to their bonds and reeling from another deadly terror attack.

Trump issued his sharp rebuke from Brussels, a city he called a “hellhole” in 2016, where he was addressing leaders at both the European Union and NATO, a pair of alliances whose necessity he has questioned.

Trump returned to his longstanding call for member nations to pay their fair share, lecturing leaders like German chancellor Angela Merkel and new French President Emmanuel Macron about contributing more as they stood listening in awkward silence.

“This is not fair to the people and taxpayers of the United States,” Trumps said in brief remarks. “If NATO countries made their full and complete contributions, then NATO would be even stronger than it is today, especially from the threat of terrorism.”

On terrorism and intelligence:

The aftermath of that attack in Manchester, England, has produced further tension, as a British official said that police have decided not to share further information on the investigation due to leaks blamed on U.S. officials. Trump, who said there is “no relationship we cherish more” than the one with the United Kingdom, declared the leaks “deeply troubling” and said he was asking the Justice Department to lead an investigation into the matter.

“These leaks have been going on for a long time and my administration will get to the bottom of this,” Trump said in a written statement. “The leaks of sensitive information pose a grave threat to our national security.”

Trump and his White House have long complained about “leakers” they think are trying to undermine his presidency.

Theresa May:

British Prime Minister Theresa May said she plans to discuss the leaks with her American counterpart at the NATO gathering to “make clear to President Trump that intelligence that is shared between our law enforcement agencies must remain secure.”

British officials are particularly angry that photos detailing evidence about the bomb used in the Manchester attack were published in The New York Times, although it’s not clear that the paper obtained the photos from U.S. officials.

Emmanuel Macro:

Macron pushed Trump on a sweeping climate agreement and even engaged in an apparent handshake stand-off.

But:

Trump also had lunch with Macron, who has been critical of the Republican president. As the press watched, the two men exchanged a very firm handshake during their meeting, both men gripping tight, their faces showing the strain.

Trump handed Merkel £300bn Nato invoice

International diplomacy Trump style.

Independent: Donald Trump printed out made-up £300bn Nato invoice and handed it to Angela Merkel

Angela Merkel will reportedly ignore Donald Trump’s attempts to extricate £300bn from Germany for what he deems to be owed contributions to Nato.

The US President is said to have had an “invoice” printed out outlining the sum estimated by his aides as covering Germany’s unpaid contributions for defence.

Said to be presented during private talks in Washington, the move has been met with criticism from German and Nato officials.

While the figure presented to the Germans was not revealed by either side, Nato countries pledged in 2014 to spend two per cent of their GDP on defence, something only a handful of nations – including the UK, Greece, Poland and Estonia – currently do.

But the bill has been backdated even further to 2002, the year Mrs Merkel’s predecessor, Gerhard Schröder, pledged to spend more on defence.

Mr Trump reportedly instructed aides to calculate how much German spending fell below two per cent over the past 12 years, then added interest.

Estimates suggest the total came to £300bn, with official figures citing the shortfall to be around £250bn plus £50bn in interest added on.

The Times quoted a German government minister as saying the move was “outrageous”.

If this is true it doesn’t look like a good start to Trump’s relationship with Merkel and Germany.

He has already talked about billing Mexico for the construction of his wall.

Doing business and doing international relationships may not work the same way.

The tweet/debunk cycle continues

Donald Trump sulked during his media conference with Angela Merkel and waiting until he was in the ‘safety’ of his twittersphere before taking a swipe at Germany.

Trying to circumvent unfavourable media coverage by tweeting directly to his base audience is one thing.

But dirty diplomacy is another. He is looking like a gutless keyboard warrior.

And as has become common the challenges to his claims have flowed.

NZ Herald: German Defense Ministry contradicts Trump, says it doesn’t owe US money for NATO

President Donald Trump’s Saturday tweet accusing Germany of owing the United States “vast sums of money” for NATO might have been an attempt to put pressure on the European ally. But Berlin has rejected his claim while also questioning his understanding of NATO finances.

Yesterday, German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen called the criticism “inaccurate,” without mentioning the president’s name.

“NATO does not have a debt account,” von der Leyen said, according to her ministry. In reality, NATO has only a small logistical budget, which relies on funding by all member states. The vast majority of NATO members’ total resources are managed domestically, however.

And:

The criticism echoed other experts, including former US ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder. “Trump’s comments misrepresent the way NATO functions,” Daalder told The Washington Post on Saturday. “The president keeps saying that we need to be paid by the Europeans for the fact that we have troops in Europe or provide defense there. But that’s not how it works.”

Trump is not  just gutless, he is also often inaccurate.

May: Trump “100% in favour of Nato”

In a visit to the White House UK Prime Minister Theresa May says that Donald Trump is 100% in favour of Nato.

From the Guardian: Donald Trump ‘100% behind Nato’, says Theresa May at joint White House press conference

Donald Trump starts. He says the UK/US relationship has been a force for peace. We pledge our support for this relationship, he says.

He says the US respects the UK’s right to self-determination.

A free UK is a blessing to the world, he says.

Trump calls May “Madam Prime Minister”.

Great days lie ahead for our two peoples, he says.

He thanks May for coming. It has been a great honour.

On torture and on Russia:

Q: You say torture works, you have praised Russia, you suggest there should be punishment for abortion. What do you say to people worried about you?

Turning to May, Trump jokes: “This was your choice for a question.”

Trump says General Mattis, the new defence secretary, has said he does not believe in torture. He does not necessarily agree, Trump says. But he say Mattis will over-ride Trump on this. Trump will rely on him. But Mattis is the “general’s general”.

He says he does not know President Putin. He hopes they have a good relationship. He wants them to go after Isis together. How the relationship works out, he doesn’t know. Sometimes he thinks he will like someone, and he doesn’t like them at all. And sometimes he likes people he did not expect to like.

On Mexico:

Trump says he thinks he has a good relationship with the Mexican president. But the US cannot continue to lose jobs. The US will renegotiate trade deals. That will be good for both countries. His call with the Mexican president today was very friendly. They will negotiate over the coming months.

What happened publicly yesterday between the US and Mexican presidents didn’t look like good relationships.

Q: You say we will have a good trade deal, and you support Nato. But you keep changing your position. And how will the two of you get on because you are so differrent?

Trump says he thinks he and May can get on. He says he is not as brash as people think.

He denies changing his stance. His views on trade have been the same for years. When he visited Scotland he said Brexit would happen. He was scorned in the press. But it happened, he says.

Brexit will be good for the UK, he says. It will be able to make its own trade deal.

He had a bad experience in his business life getting approvals from the EU.

(Is this a reference to the planning application in Ireland that he spoke about in his interview with Michael Gove?)

May says she and Trump want to put the interests of ordinary people first, the people who feel the odds are stacked against them. She and Trump both feel that these people deserve a fairer deal.

Perhaps May will be keeping an eye on Twitter and listening to see what Sean Spicer has to say over the next day or two.

 

Trump: NATO ‘obsolete’, Europe: ‘astonished’

Donald Trump has again contradicted himself and his appointed defence secretary, and ‘astonished’ European leaders, with comments reported by Reuters – Trump says NATO is obsolete but still ‘very important to me’

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump said NATO was obsolete because it had not defended against terror attacks, but that the military alliance was still very important to him, The Times of London reported.

“I took such heat, when I said NATO was obsolete,” Trump told the newspaper in an interview. “It’s obsolete because it wasn’t taking care of terror. I took a lot of heat for two days. And then they started saying Trump is right.”

I don’t know who the ‘they’ is that Trump refers to is, but a number of people disagree with him.

Including his appointment as Defence Secretary, General James Mattis: Mattis Breaks With Trump on Russia, NATO

Gen. James Mattis broke sharply with President-elect Donald Trump on Russia and NATO during his confirmation hearing Thursday to be the next defense secretary.

“I think right now, the most important thing is that we recognize the reality of what we deal with in Mr. Putin and we recognize that he is trying to break the North Atlantic alliance and we take the integrated steps — diplomatic, economic, military and the alliance steps, working with our allies — to defend ourselves where we must,” Mattis said.

And Al Jazeera reports on reactions from European leaders on trump’s latest comments in EU nations react to Donald Trump’s remarks

European Union member nations have reacted with surprise and defiance to comments by US President-elect Donald Trump, who has said in an interview that he believes NATO is “obsolete” and that more member states will leave the 28-nation EU.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Germany’s foreign minister…

…said Trump’s view on NATO and criticism that allied members were not paying their fair share has “caused astonishment”.

French counterpart Jean-Marc Ayrault…

…said the best response to such an interview was simple – Europeans uniting.

Chancellor Angela Merkel…

…said Trump’s positions have been “long known” but added: “I think we Europeans have our fate in our own hands.

“I’m personally going to wait until the American president takes office, and then we will naturally work with him on all levels”.

That may be quite a challenge, especially if Trump’s stance on NATO and on Russia continues to differ from his Defence Secretary and other staff.

Trump has avoided saying who he trusts more — US ally German Chancellor Angela Merkel or Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Well, I start off trusting both — but let’s see how long that lasts,” the incoming president said in an interview with The Sunday Times.

“It may not last long at all.”

It’s not clear which of the two Trump is pessimistic about trust lasting with. Whether Merkel or Putin can trust Trump is another matter.

It’s difficult to know whether Trump’s contradictory statements are deliberate stirring, or if he is ignorant of how out of step he is with the US as well as Europe.

I can imagine that Russia will be loving what Trump is doing, stirring up and unsettling their main adversaries.

Whether Trump is doing it deliberately for Russia’s benefit is another big question.

Sweden sees Russian threat

It has been reported that Sweden has become increasingly anxious about a possible threat of Russian attack.

This alongside rising tensions between the US and Russia over allegations of interference in the recent election could be cause for some concern.

The Telegraph: Swedish towns told to ‘make preparations regarding the threat of war and conflict’ with Russia

Sweden’s towns and villages have been ordered to make preparations for a possible military attack in the latest sign of the country’s growing anxiety at its newly belligerent Russian neighbour.

The country’s Civil Contingency Agency (MSB) last week sent a letter to local authorities across the country asking them to maintain operations centres in underground bunkers, ensure that a system of emergency sirens is in place, and to be open to cooperating on war exercises with the Swedish Armed Forces.

“In a state of war,  civil defence for municipalities is no different from any of the other services they should provide,” the letter read, instructing local governments to “ensure their ability to maintain their functions during disturbed situations, and at the most extreme, in a war scenario.”

The dramatic call comes as Sweden returns to the Total Defence Strategy it maintained during the Cold War, reconstituting its old coastal anti-ship missile system, placing an armoured division on the exposed Baltic island of Gotland, and making plans to restart compulsory conscription as early as 2018.

“This strategy is not new. We used it during the Cold War and we are going to now strengthen coordination regarding civil defence,” Magnus Dyberg-Ek, who is leading the civil defence operation for MSB, told the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper.

“What is new is that the security situation in our neighbourhood has worsened, and that we must therefore make preparations regarding the threat of war and conflict.”

This must be quite concerning for people in Sweden and Scandinavia.

“There is nothing to suggest that war is likely, but we have been given an order from the government to plan for it,” Svante Werger, the press officer for MSB, told the Sydsvenskan newspaper.

That sounds a bit contradictory.

In 2013, the Russian air force conducted a mock nuclear strike against Sweden during war games which saw a contingent of Russian aircraft approach Swedish airspace after crossing the Gulf of Finland.

This was one of several examples of dummy nuclear attacks against Nato and its allies in recent years, according to a Nato report.

During the election Trump suggested the US under his rule may not support NATO countries if they became involved in conflict.

Does Russia see an opportunities in expanding it’s influence with Donald Trump’s rise to power in the US? Maybe there is no threat to Sweden there could be a few countries in eastern Europe with increasing apprehension.

After the US election Time asked Can NATO Survive a Donald Trump Presidency?

Throughout his campaign for the presidency, Trump has suggested that the world’s most powerful military alliance should be run like an insurance scheme or a protection racket. In a typical remark on the issue this summer, he said allies that don’t “reasonably reimburse” the U.S. for the costs of defense should expect to be told, “Congratulations, you will be defending yourself.”

An emerging consensus in Europe has called Trump’s remarks the beginning of the end of the global order that has kept the West united since World War II. At best they mark the start of a bruising renegotiation of the transatlantic friendship. But it’s hard to tell which is closer to Trump’s true intention, because like so many of his policy positions, the statements he has made on NATO have come with plenty of caveats and room for retreat.

During the primary race this spring, he repeatedly called the alliance “obsolete.” But after winning the Republican nomination, he told the New York Times in July that he would like to preserve it, adding that only “fools and haters” would suggest Trump does not want to protect U.S. allies.

The ambiguity has left some room for optimism, at least among the defense experts who are willing to discount Trump’s apparent disdain for the idea of mutual defense. “I think this was politicking,” says Lord David Richards, the former head of the British Armed Forces. “I have every confidence that he will be as resolute on this issue as all U.S. presidents have since the formation of NATO,” he tells TIME.

I think that it’s too soon to have confidence in what Trump may or may not do.

Perhaps more importantly, what Putin may do, taking advantage of Trump’s ambiguity and possible lack of resolve in helping allies in NATO.

If Russia made any more military moves in Europe it’s difficult to guess whether Trump would try to stay uninvolved, or play tough guy and risk escalation, or shock the world with strong, principled and careful standing up to any Russian aggression.

If Trump continues to push the notion that NATO is a commercial enterprise – reliant less on the mutual trust and commitment of its members than on the question of who is picking up the check – he could alienate his European partners so completely that they will have no alliance left to defend. “Everybody will be so frustrated and disappointed with the other side that they will not feel a desire to continue,” says Shapiro. “NATO will become a hollow shell, because nobody will be contributing.”

A lot of that frustration has already begun to show. Even Europe’s typically cautious and understated officials have begun warning that NATO could split down the middle. “It might be that [Trump’s] policy priorities will lead America far away from some of the European basic principles or interests,” Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s top official for foreign and security policy, said in an interview televised last week.

International relations are complex and difficult enough in better times. Superpower uncertainty under Trump’s presidency may be opportunistically exploited, and history has proven, escalations can quickly get out of hand.

Especially perhaps when you have egos like Putin’s and Trump’s involved.

Back to Sweden versus Russia – war between them may seem unlikely in the modern world, but in the last Millennium there have been twelve major conflicts between Sweden and Russia.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wars_between_Russia_and_Sweden