Trump Says NATO’s A Dump. Best Listen to Him

christopher_lee180-11

Christopher Lee

21 May 2016

Brussels

In this city there are more bureaucrats on every street than Qin Shi Huang had cast in Terracotta. Donald Trump seems to think they have about the same value: objects of curiosity and most people asking What For?

Nowhere does the modern conundrum of the first emperor of China come to mind than a short 620 bus ride out from Brussels North station. In no time at all (maybe 30 minutes but that is no time considering what will unfold) the bus drops you along Boulevard Leopold III just across from the headquarters of the biggest multinational military and political organisation in the world, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

NATO was very much the brainchild of the Norwegians and the British and had 12 member states when founded on 4 April 1949.  Today there are 28 members and if the United States were not a member and did not supply the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) then NATO would count for nothing. At best, it would turn into an Euro Defence Force.

What Donald Trump has been told and whoever did so was right is pretty simple stuff. Four or five NATO states are in a position to treat NATO membership seriously and as Trump’s people point out, keep increasing their defence spending by 2% of there national Gross Domestic Products. Trump is wrong when he says the US bankrolls NATO. The UK for example makes the 2% GDP increase in annual defence spending albeit only after some cute double entry book keeping where assets=liabilities + owners equity.

Sir Adam Thomson, the UK’s permrep at NATO (an ambassador rating) is reported as saying that Donal Trump has got it right on one thing “Europeans do need to start pulling their weight when it comes to investing in defence.”

Trump dumps on NATO in a big way.  He say America is carrying the whole alliance or as he puts “we are getting ripped off by every country in NATO.  We are paying most of the costs. When he sees that the Belgians here, the Czechs,Hungarians, Italians, Luxembourgers, Slovenes and Spanish each pay less than 1% then you can see why Trump’s bad-mouthing is hard to dismiss as the rantings of a red neck Republican looking for headlines.

There is a side of this that he has yet to get on. NATO is as important as a political-military  alliance as it was at its formation when Stalin was closing the Iron Curtain around his “near abroad” of client states that with the USSR became on 14 May 1955 the Warsaw Pact -Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungry, Poland and Romania. Many of the states are now members of NATO.

That makes Putin’s Russia nervous – as it would the USA if former NATO states had joined  Russia. Equally there is little to be said against the idea that Putin’s policy on Crimea, Ukraine and thus far in Syria rings alarms along Boulevard Leopold III. In short, Europe feels unsafe – and that is without throwing ISIS into the Threat Assessment delivered every weekday morning at NATO.

Trump is right to biff NATO.

It is remember an Alliance of political formation.  Generals do not take decisions in NATO.  Politicians in national capitals do and then they come to Ministerial meetings or as they will in July this year in Warsaw, in a gathering of heads of government.   The greater truth is that these ministers are governed by the state of their separate economies, their political persuasion with the third imponderable how a crisis may or may not develop.There are three elements of NATO decision making: real polltik, economy and the impossible analysis of the relationship between strategic capability, ambition and intention.  The people who hold the secrets, even the masterhands  to all three but rarely know when to fold live in the Alliance bureaucracy.

The NATO bureaucracy is home to some brilliant people who never quite make it or have made nothing much. Machiavelli thought the permanent bureaucracy’s single mission was to change nothing, probably because they are neither conservative nor liberal thus they are canny, shrewd, ruthless and conspiratorial. They adore the principle of the status quo.

Trump may know all of this and more. He may too have grasped that the bureaucracy has its time. It may be now. Forget the 2 % GDP thing. Defense economics is about what you spend on rather than what you spend. In short, instead of shutting down NATO or re-jigging it as I heard Trump remark, the analysts’ bench needs to be freed up to tell the likes of Trump and whomsoever the Democrats throw up what NATO is, what it should be, what it needs to be as a minimum and fundamentally what the true threat is and from whence it comes. He will be surprised especially as it would begin with the legend Start By Seeing How Putin Sees It.  A lesson from 1991 still not learned.

 

 

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