Posts Tagged ‘Merkel’

Why NATO Matters

July 20, 2018

President Trump’s meeting with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland, has opened another round of debate on the purpose and future of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Since assuming office, Trump has moved away from his earlier position that NATO is obsolete, preferring instead to highlight the disparity between U.S. defense expenditures (3.5 percent of Gross Domestic Product) and those of other signatories to the treaty, especially Germany (1.2 percent). Indeed, Trump rightly views the commitments of NATO powers to increase defense spending as one of the ways he has strengthened the alliance.

Some of his supporters, however, continue to wonder why America is part of NATO at all. They point to NATO’s newest and 29th member state, Montenegro, and ask why American soldiers should be committed to the defense of its capital Podgorica. This is the latest version of the “Why die for Danzig” argument that originated among the French left in the run up to the Second World War: What reason is there, these critics say, to agree to defend the borders of small and faraway countries engaged in quarrels between people of whom we know nothing?

But to ask the question this way is to misunderstand the nature of deterrence. We join alliances such as NATO and we welcome countries like Montenegro—and Poland—into those alliances so that we will not have to perish for Podgorica.

Deterrence relies on the perception of strength. The tougher one’s adversaries perceive you to be, the higher the probable cost of aggression, the less likely foes or competitors or whatever will move against you. The principle of collective security manifested in NATO is nothing more than bolstering this perception of strength through greater numbers: As membership and resources scale upward, so does the price of hostile activity.

Image result for NATO, photos

Would NATO invoke Article Five for the second time (the first was after 9/11) if Russia moved into Estonia or Latvia or Melania Trump’s native Slovenia? The honest answer is we don’t know. But here’s the thing: Russia doesn’t know either. And that uncertainty is precisely the mechanism by which Russia is deterred. It’s risky, tenuous, and occasionally messy. And it has kept the peace.

The alternative did not. America’s lack of forward presence in Europe in the interwar years no doubt contributed to German rearmament and expansionism. So did the fact that the League of Nations—just like the U.N. and E.U. today—had no real military capability. It is worth remembering that many of the French who had no issue with the German annexation of Danzig ended up dying anyway, for among the lessons of history is that belligerent powers never stop with the small countries. They keep advancing until they run into a wall.

Nor is there any question that Putin’s Russia is a belligerent power. Ask yourself: Why do these central, eastern, and southeastern European nations want to belong to NATO? It’s not because they particularly enjoy the alliance’s swanky new headquarters. It’s because they have been under Russian domination before and, if they are not careful, will be again. They notice that Vladimir Putin has so far limited his invasions to non-NATO members Georgia and Ukraine. He meddles with NATO powers, trolls them, harasses them, and threatens them. He walks up to the line, for sure. But he dares not cross it.

OK, comes the reply, but why should Americans care who dominates Romania? I am happy to cite the nobility of freedom, democracy, and national sovereignty, but I recognize that these concepts will be dismissed as idealistic abstractions. So I offer instead this cold-hearted and realistic principle: As the late professor Harold Rood was fond of saying, you either run the show or the show runs you.

American retreat from NATO or Europe would, like we have seen in the Middle East, create a vacuum for an alternative power to revise political, economic, and security arrangements according to its will and in its favor. It would be the very definition of idealism to suggest that those arrangements would be friendly to or consonant with American interests. If you think America is getting a bad deal now, wait until Russia is shaping European trade policy. Only the Ladas will be tariff free.

The counterargument is that other powers will rise to balance against Russia. But the voices most skeptical of NATO and happiest with American withdrawal from Europe are also the most critical of the only power with the capacity to face down the bear. That power is Germany. Is this an outcome we really wish for? I seem to be the sole conservative left who is more than happy with Germany not spending too much money on soldiers, tanks, and artillery. There’s not a really happy track record there.

Germany is already extending its reach and dominating Europe through the E.U. Do we want to give Merkel, or whoever follows her, NATO as well? What would that look like? “Better take these migrants, Italy, or the Bundeswehr will have to make sure you do,” are words no one should want to hear.

I’ve heard the laments in recent days that debate over NATO has been closed. Where have these people been? We have been debating the future of NATO and its expansion since the foundation of the alliance in 1949 and especially since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. And that debate has been decided, again and again, by American voters, in NATO’s favor: first as a means to deter Soviet aggression, then as a way to expand and consolidate democratic gains, and for the last decade as a check against revanchist Russia. True, the two most recent presidents have been wary of NATO—Trump more loudly than his predecessor. But both Barack Obama and Donald Trump have come to assert, however grudgingly and haltingly, its value.

And for good reason. This is an alliance that furthers American interests in the service of American ideals. It’s worth preserving because the choice is not between NATO and peace. The choice is between NATO and war.


Angela Merkel rejects Donald Trump’s definition of EU as ‘foe’ — Want to end trend toward “squalidness” in political discourse

July 20, 2018

In her annual summer press Q&A session, the German chancellor stressed that Europe and the US are not enemies. She also held up the EU as a model of a “win-win” situation — words clearly aimed in Washington’s direction.

Sommerpressekonferenz Merkel (picture-alliance/dpa/W. Kumm)

In her yearly meet-the-press session before her summer vacation, Angela Merkel put forward the European Union as an example of cooperation and multilateralism. While reaffirming the centrality of Germany’s trans-Atlantic relations with the US, she acknowledged that US President Donald Trump had put the two country’s traditional friendship “under pressure.”

When asked whether she agreed with Trump that the US and the EU were “foes,” the chancellor replied, “I’m not going to adopt that choice of words.”

When asked why Trump seems to have developed an antipathy toward Germany, Merkel said that she “hadn’t done any research into the root causes” but surmised that it may have to do with Germany’s economic might.

She said that she has tried to argue against Trump’s accusations that Germany was maintaining a skewed balance of trade with the US with arguments, for instance, that the trade balance actually favored the US when services were included.

But she admitted Trump wasn’t always persuaded.

Merkel and Trump (picture-alliance/AP Images/The Yomiuri Shimbun)Merkel has become a gallion figure of European multilateralism in contrast to Trump

A more influential Europe

While avoiding confrontational language, Merkel sketched out a vision of a multilateral Europe ready to emancipate itself somewhat on the US and assume a greater role globally.

Merkel said that events of the past months had “confirmed” the truth her statement from May 2017 that “the days when we could completely rely on the US are in part over.” And she added that Europe’s geography made it predestined to exert greater influence.

“It’s legitimate for Europe to find a role of its own in the world,” Merkel told journalists. “We have a number of the world’s conflicts directly on our doorstep. So Europe needs to play a greater role in resolving conflict.”

That, Merkel said, would involve increased German spending on defense, if not at anything like the levels Trump has demanded.

Hits out a possible trade war

Amidst increasing conflicts between the US and the EU and other parts of the world over trade, Merkel acknowledged that the situation was “serious.” And she cited recent history as an alternative model to Trumpian protectionism.

“The financial crisis of 2007 and 2008 was only overcome through multi-national action, for instance, by the G20,” Merkel said.  “China also made a big contribution. This path led us out of an extremely complicated situation.

With regard to possible US tariffs on foreign automobiles, which could potentially hurt German carmakers, Merkel stressed the international character of the industry, pointing out that BMW’s largest factory was located in Spartanburg, South Carolina. She also took aim American protectionism.

“The possible tariffs violate the rules of the World Trade Organization and endanger the prosperity of many people around the world,” Merkel said.

She said that Europe was united behind EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who travels to the US next week for trade talks next week. She said that the EU was prepared to impose retaliatory tariffs if necessary but that this was “the worst solution.”

A plea for more civility

Whole questions about Donald Trump and European-American relations set the tone for the session, Merkel also had the opportunity to address other issue, including the conflict over migrants that threatened to bring down her government late last month.

Merkel had some clear words for her interior minister Horst Seehofer, who initiated that conflict, on who ultimately set government policy.

“I’m responsible for ensuring that the government is able to function,” Merkel said. “We found a joint path forward. The standard is that ministers have to recognize the chancellor’s responsibility for determining policies. If that’s not the case, cooperation in a government would be impossible.”

But Merkel also said that there had been a certain “erosion of language” and called for a change in tone in German political culture.

“I try to pay attention to my language and describe things as precisely as possible,” Merkel told reporters, saying she aimed to combat the trend toward “squalidness” in political discourse.

That remark was pointed not only at Seehofer but also the far-right populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party in Germany and Trump himself.

Merkel’s performance was a reassertion of her own particular brand of low-key but thus far undefeatable authority. Despite weeks of speculation that her rein might be coming to an end or that she no longer had the energy for the job, the chancellor survived until the summer and seems little worse the wear for the acrimony. She will now have a chance to recharge her batteries for a bit, before the battles at home and abroad resume.

WSJ: Time to Assesses the Trump Presidency — U.S. is being isolated

July 19, 2018

This Is the Art of the Deal?

Trump tweeted, ‘Big results will come!’ Putin already has the results he wanted.

Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, July 16.
Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, July 16. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES



The controversy overflowing the banks of the press conference between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin is a moment to step back and assess the nonstop maelstrom called the Trump presidency.

Mr. Trump’s famous modus operandi is the art of the deal. Keep everyone guessing and off balance. Decision first, details later. Drive events, stay on offense, force everyone to react. In this, Mr. Trump has succeeded.

No one—from the individuals who work daily in the White House to friends and enemies in foreign capitals—knows what he may do next. A high-ranking official from an Asian ally who visited the Journal’s offices recently was asked if his government has a clear idea of what Mr. Trump wants them to do on trade. “No,” he said, “we do not.”

The whole world is back on its heels, which is where, according to theory, the art-of-the-deal master wants them.

There is another pop culture phrase nearly everyone knows: “Show me the money!” It means there comes a time when the man offering deals has to stop talking and start producing results.

Mr. Trump has three major foreign-policy initiatives going: North Korea, trade and Russia. So far, none have produced a deal or anything close. Instead, we get Mr. Trump’s repeated, Jerry Maguire-like assurances that something big is in the works.

Mr. Trump said shortly after his sit-down with Kim Jong Un, “The North Korean nuclear threat is over.” Then this Tuesday, Mr. Trump said there is “no time limit” on the negotiations. That deal sits at square one, the same tough starting point other presidents faced. Meanwhile, Mr. Kim’s scientists will spend every day improving his missiles’ survival and accuracy.

On trade, we don’t have a deal of any sort equal to the massive roll of the dice taken by pulling out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, upending the North American Free Trade Agreement, and imposing tariffs on all the U.S.’s major trading partners.

The only deals getting done are among our trading partners, with the U.S. excluded. Japan this week signed a huge free-trade deal with the European Union. Europe is finishing similar trade deals with Canada and Mexico.

When U.S. allies, from Tokyo to London, become actively confused and doubtful about their lead partner’s commitments, they start looking for alternative arrangements of convenience. Two weeks ago, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced he will go to China and hopes for a reciprocal visit to Tokyo by Chinese President-for-life Xi Jinping. Germany last week signed significant trade deals during a meeting in Berlin between Angela Merkel and Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang. Slowly, the U.S. is being isolated.

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling

On Tuesday at the White House, addressing the Putin controversy, Mr. Trump said his meeting with the Russian “was really strong.” He added, “They were willing to do things that frankly I didn’t think they would be willing to do.” Like what? Given the barrage of criticism this week, if anything resembling real progress had been accomplished in Helsinki, the White House would have made it public by now.

The only voice addressing the substance of the Putin meeting remains that of Mr. Trump, who in a tweet Wednesday promised, “Big results will come!” Mr. Putin got the results he wanted on Monday in Finland. The man with the Cheshire cat smile will be moving on now.

Mr. Trump’s supporters say he deserves more time to negotiate wins on these big foreign-policy bets. It’s not going to get better.

Boarding his plane for the meetings in Europe, Mr. Trump said, “Frankly, Putin may be the easiest of them all.” That confident insouciance can be endearing, but we are seeing the limits to Mr. Trump’s art of the deal. Past some point of complexity, such as the global supply chain or North Korea’s nuclear program, decision first and strategy later (“We’ll see what happens”) degrades into deadlock. Or what may be worse, happy talk, which in time erodes credibility.

When Mr. Trump entered office amid a generalized panic among political elites, the first thing some of us noticed was that he was filling his government with first-rate people. To revive the economy, they included economic advisers Gary Cohn and Kevin Hassett, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and OMB Director Mick Mulvaney. On taxes, Paul Ryan and Kevin Brady provided a detailed template. The economy raced to full employment. The stock market boomed.

On the Supreme Court, the most astute minds in the conservative legal movement gave Mr. Trump a list of stellar options. He picked Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. More wins.

Mr. Trump has said that in Mike Pompeo, Jim Mattis and John Bolton he has the foreign-policy team he always wanted. He also said he wanted to do one-on-ones with Messrs. Xi, Kim and Putin. He has done that. The moment has arrived to start listening less to America’s adversaries and more to his own good people. That, in his first year, was the art of the win.


Write to Daniel Henninger at

Appeared in the July 19, 2018, print edition.

Hannity wins as Trump’s lone defender

July 18, 2018

The Fox News host earns blockbuster ratings in his post-summit interview with the president.

Sean Hannity is pictured. | Getty Images
Fox News host Sean Hannity’s defense of Trump in the wake of the Helsinki episode stood in stark contrast with the critical remarks made by other Republicans typically supportive of the president. | Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

The mass desertion by some of the president’s stalwart allies made his remaining defenders — Sean Hannity and a handful of right-wing media personalities — all the more conspicuous in the wake of Trump’s Helsinki appearance by virtue of being virtually alone.

Leading them all was Hannity, who has shadowed Trump across the globe for high-stakes international summits to provide him with a friendly interview platform moments after their conclusion. He was in Singapore last month to interview the president after his meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, and he was in Helsinki on Monday to shield him from bipartisan criticism that he had disgraced the U.S. by refusing to stand up to Putin.

“You were very strong at the end of that press conference,” Hannity told Trump, as he conducted the first interview following the afternoon news conference. Moments earlier, the president had told reporters he accepted Putin’s denials about meddling in the 2016 election even though his director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, said otherwise.

Though some right-wing radio hosts offered their own defenses of the president, the Hannity-Trump interview stood out as a singular safe space for the president on cable news, underscoring the significance of Hannity’s platform for the maintenance of the Trump brand. The relationship is mutually beneficial: Monday night’s interview drew about 4 million viewers, squashing the cable news competition and, in turn, providing the president with a megaphone that broadcasts directly to his political base.

Friends of Hannity say he is no longer driven primarily by money — Forbes estimated that he makes $36 million annually — but by his belief, shared with associates, that the country is at a tipping point. He and the president have forged a friendship that some have likened to a wacky version of the relationship between the late New York Times reporter Scotty Reston and President John F. Kennedy, who pressed Reston publicly to make the case for the policies he wanted to enact.

Like Trump and Hannity, who have been spotted together numerous times at the president’s Mar-a-Lago resort, Reston and Kennedy spent time together — in their case, at the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts. Reston recounted in his memoir, “Deadline,” Kennedy asking him to make a case in the Times for the U.S. to respond militarily if the Soviets tried to block American access to Berlin. The president himself ultimately cleared the language used in a Reston piece that made the argument.

Hannity’s coziness with the president, as well as that of other Fox News hosts with Trump, has at times discomfited the executives trying to steer the network in the post-Roger Ailes era. The channel is now led by CEO Suzanne Scott, and Fox News executives have at times pushed its hosts to distance themselves from the president, according to people familiar with their deliberations. On at least one occasion, executives asked a group of Fox personalities who had been invited to dine at the White House to decline the invitation, hoping to fend off the appearance that the network has inched too close to the White House.

“All it is is fear and nervousness about the whole situation,” a former network producer said of the proximity of so many of the network’s stars to the White House, including a romantic relationship between Fox host Kimberly Guilfoyle and the president’s son Donald Trump Jr. A spokeswoman for Fox News declined to comment on the record for this article.

A person close to Hannity said executives have not asked him to decline the president’s invitations and that he has “a strong working relationship with Rupert [Murdoch], Lachlan [Murdoch] and Suzanne Scott. Rupert in particular loves news and a strong, dynamic editorial division.” Unnamed sources, the sources continued, “obviously work in the much lower-rated news division at Fox, and are just jealous of the attention and ratings of the opinion hosts on the network.”

Hannity has crisscrossed the globe conducting the ratings-busting interviews at the encouragement, in part, of former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, according to a person familiar with the situation. In exile, Bannon has huddled with Trump defenders like Hannity who still enjoy a direct line to the president, strategizing with them about how to amplify the president’s message. He ralliedEuropean populists in London ahead of the president’s visit to the U.K. last week and emerged on Tuesday to defend Trump’s news-conference performance. Bannon told POLITICO on Tuesday that Trump was playing three-dimensional chess, pitting Russia against China in a “brilliant” strategy.

Talk radio hosts Mark Levin and Rush Limbaugh also defended the president, arguing that it was President Barack Obama on whose watch Putin’s mischief occurred but Trump who was being held to account for it. But it was Hannity who offered unmitigated support, praising the president for traveling widely across the globe at “the speed of Trump.”

Hannity’s defense of Trump in the wake of the Helsinki episode stood in stark contrast to critical remarks made by other Republicans typically loyal to the president. “President Trump must clarify his statements in Helsinki on our intelligence system and Putin. It is the most serious mistake of his presidency and must be corrected — immediately,” said Gingrich, the former House speaker who served as a surrogate for Trump on the campaign trail.

Even Trump’s allies on “Fox & Friends,” whose hosts and guests have garnered praise from the president on numerous occasions, were discomfited by the interview. “I will say this to the president, when Newt Gingrich, when Gen. Jack Keane, when Matt Schlapp say, ‘The president fell short and made our intelligence apparatus look bad,’ I think it’s time to pay attention, and it’s easily correctible from the president’s perspective,” “Fox & Friends” co-host Brian Kilmeade said.

Trump appears to have been listening. A senior administration official said the president was far more impacted by external critics, including those on Fox, than by any of his advisers, who were roundly disappointed by his performance. By Tuesday afternoon, he had done an about-face, telling reporters ahead of a meeting with Republican lawmakers that he accepted the findings of the intelligence community that Russia had, in fact, meddled in the 2016 election.

General Ben Hodges: Trump on NATO and Russia “Worries Every Military Professional”

July 18, 2018

In the space of a week, the US president has attacked NATO and cozied up to Vladimir Putin. Retired US Army General Ben Hodges told DW that Trump alienating US allies “worries every military professional” he knows.

Polen Warschau Militärparade US General Ben Hodges (picture-alliance/(AP Photo/A. Keplicz)

After military experience in Korea, Iraq, and Afghanistan, Lieutenant General Frederick “Ben” Hodges served his last military assignment as commander of the United States Army in Europe, before his retirement in December 2017. Now living in Frankfurt, Germany, he is Pershing Chair of Strategic Studies at the Washington-based Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA).

DW: What did you make of President Vladimir Putin’s meeting with his US counterpart Donald Trump in Helsinki? Do you share what seems to be the common view: That it was a diplomatic disaster that undermines multilateral alliances like NATO?

Hodges: I’m reluctant to say anything is a disaster so immediately after it happened. It’s just going to take a little bit of time for things to filter out. Certainly all the reports I’ve seen would indicate that nobody was happy with it except the Russians. I think, on the plus side, at least there have been no announcements of something like: You can do what you want with Ukraine or Georgia. There’s no indication that this was like in the 18th century, when great powers traded away space to each other. I think there’s a little bit of a sigh of relief that way.

I think it’s going to be a huge problem for Trump in the US, because so many Republicans have also come out with very strong criticism, that he didn’t put a stake in the heart of this whole business about Russian meddling in the US election. He wouldn’t condemn it, he didn’t hold Putin accountable, I mean, it’s inexplicable.

DW: Trump began his European trip by criticizing NATO allies and ended it by failing to criticize Putin. What should we read into that?

First and foremost, our great alliance NATO — it’s not perfect, lots of work that always needs doing — but it’s still the most successful alliance in the history of the world. The alliance has made it through tough times before, but it was always because the nations shared common interests and values, and there was never a question that the US would always provide leadership. For the first time in my life, the American president put that in question, which really concerns me. What is new is that the president is so openly disrespectful and dismissive of our most important allies — that worries every military professional I know.

Helsinki Trump Putin (picture alliance/dpa)Many people interpreted the Helsinki meeting as a disaster for Trump

Read more: Trump ignites firestorm with attacks on Germany

Secondly, I don’t think the president appreciates alliances and international organizations. I think that’s unfortunate, because for the US, the alliance is an essential part of our overall national security strategy. The 30,000 troops that are in Germany are not there to defend Germany, that’s part of our overall contribution to collective security. And frankly Germany is the essential ally for the US, because of the access it gives us to do so much. It’s our forward presence, if you will, our intelligence cooperation. I’ve always believed that Germany is the ally the US should be working hardest to have that relationship with. The fact that the president singled out the chancellor: I think that was a terrible mistake.

Read moreOpinion: Trump-Putin summit was a troubling media circus

DW: But many analysts and conservative German politicians shared Trump’s criticism that Germany should be spending more on defense.

Yes, having said all that, while most of the nations were beginning to do more in terms of burden-sharing, I think the president drew a lot of attention to it and probably added some momentum to it, which is needed. So I think he should get some credit for that. Honestly, half of America doesn’t understand either why European countries don’t do more. But I didn’t like the way it’s done – I think it’s harmful in the long run.

DW: A lot of the points that Trump made — on NATO spending, and on Nord Stream 2 — are shared by defense analysts. So it just Trump’s style that bothers people?

I don’t want to say it’s just style — that minimizes the damage that Trump does to these relationships. Style is a part of it, but it’s much worse than that, it’s a disregard for our allies and what it means to be an ally. Germany does so much to help the alliance, and to help the United States, which doesn’t fit into this 2 percent (the percentage of GDP that NATO wants its members to spend on defense – DW). I really don’t like that 2 percent as the only measure. I understand why we have it, but I think it’s time for a much more sophisticated approach to burden-sharing, and what it really means. What the alliance needs Germany to do just doesn’t fit neatly under that 2 percent.

DW: Some people in Germany are a little distrustful of NATO and the Cold War rhetoric of antagonism towards Russia. They aren’t Trump supporters, but they certainly don’t want conflict with Russia either. Do you think there’s any truth to the idea that we make the threat of Russia bigger than it is?

No, absolutely not. For 400 hundred years, Russia has always used every element of its power, whether it’s economic, diplomatic, or military power, to achieve what it wanted. We need to be realistic about it: Russia only respects strength. Russia’s the one that invaded Ukraine, Russia’s the one that invaded Georgia, Russia’s the one that’s threatening Baltic countries, and talks about Romania, Denmark, and Sweden being nuclear targets — this is a real threat.

Now, there’s not a long line of Russian tanks sitting across the border with engines running waiting to launch a ground invasion. I don’t expect that, although they’ve retained that capability in combination with cyber- and misinformation, and the threat of nuclear weapons. Number two: All of us, including the US, disarmed significantly in the last few years because we thought Russia was going to be our partner. The last American tank went home from Germany five years ago. The Bundeswehr almost completely disarmed, and now because of what Russia has done, everybody is hustling to rebuild sufficient capability to deter.

Read moreGerman politicians rally round Merkel after Trump’s NATO tirade

DW: So in that context, how worrying was this summit, and the apparent hold that Putin has over Trump?

Well, the fact that they met is not bad. In fact, the tenser the situation is the more you would want people to meet to make sure there are no misunderstandings. The problem is so many people don’t have confidence in what President Trump is doing or saying. Meeting for the sake of meeting is not helpful if you’re not clear about expectations and if you’re not putting pressure on Russia. Again, the Russians only respect strength, and I think right now the alliance does not look strong, and the president does not look strong.

The Trump Doctrine — coherent, radical and wrong

July 16, 2018
The US president’s worldview puts economics ahead of ideals and values

Image may contain: 14 people, people standing and suit

Heads of state and government at last week’s Nato summit in Brussels, including Angela Merkel of Germany, left, Charles Michel, prime minister of Belgium, Jens Stoltenberg, Nato secretary-general, President Donald Trump, and Britain’s Theresa May © Getty

By Gideon Rachman 

Since the end of the second world war, there has been a remarkable consensus within the US establishment about foreign policy. Republicans and Democrats alike have supported a global network of American-led alliances and security guarantees.

Leading figures in both parties — from John Kennedy to Ronald Reagan through to the Bushes and Clintons — agreed that it was in US interests to promote free-trade and democracy around the world.

Donald Trump has taken an axe to this Washington consensus. The US president’s departure from the established principles of American foreign policy is so radical that many of his critics dismiss his ideas as simply the product of a disordered mind. But that is a mistake. There is an emerging Trump doctrine that makes internal sense. There are four broad principles underpinning this approach.

Economics first: from his inaugural address, in which he decried the “carnage” and “rusted-out factories” of the US Midwest, Mr Trump has defined making America “great again” in economic terms. To this end, he has focused on countries that he believes have excessive trade surpluses with the US.

This emphasis on trade and economics blurs the distinction between allies and adversaries — many of the nations that have a large trade surplus with America are also important security partners including Japan and Germany. That is why Mr Trump described the EU as a foe this week. His economics-first viewpoint leads him to question the value of the US’s traditional security alliances, since he sees these as essentially a subsidy to economic adversaries.

Nations not institutions: most previous US presidents have expressed frustration from time to time with international institutions, such as the UN, the World Trade Organization and the G7.

But Mr Trump has raised these objections to another level. He regards international institutions as bastions of “political correctness” on issues such as climate change. He would much prefer to deal with other nations on a one-to-one basis, where America’s size advantage can be made to tell. Multilateral institutions, where the US can be out-voted, are best avoided. The “rules-based international order”, carefully nurtured by previous presidents, is being deliberately undermined by the Trump administration.

Culture not values: all postwar American presidents, even the ultra-realist Richard Nixon, have believed that their role was to uphold certain universal values. It has been easy for US critics to point out inconsistencies, and occasional hypocrisy, in America’s promotion of democracy and human rights. But the rhetorical commitment was a central part of the US approach.

Mr Trump, by contrast, has shown very little interest in democracy promotion or human rights. His conception of the west is based not on shared values, but on culture or, even, race. This leads to his preoccupation with controlling immigration, which he believes is the real threat to the west. He reiterated this view on his current trip to Europe, arguing that immigration is “very bad for Europe, it’s changing the culture”.

Spheres of interest: Mr Trump is not a believer in universal values and rules. So it is much easier for him to accept the idea that the world could (or should) be divided up into informal “spheres of influence” in which great powers such as the US, Russia and China dominate their respective regions. The US president has never explicitly endorsed this idea. But he has hinted at it, in his suggestion that Crimea is naturally part of Russia — and in his frequent questioning of the value of America’s global alliances.

Mr Trump’s enthusiasm for dealing with strongman leaders, such as Xi Jinping of China and Vladimir Putin of Russia, may also incline him to try to settle disputes in the manner of a chief executive who divides up a market with a rival company. The question of what values the Chinese or Russians are attempting to spread in their regions is not of interest to Mr Trump.

The US foreign-policy establishment is understandably appalled by this radical departure from hallowed principles that have been upheld for decades. But there is a case for taking a fresh look at a foreign policy that was forged after 1945, under very different circumstances. Back then the cold war was raging and American economic supremacy was unquestioned.

The problem is that Mr Trump’s policies are not just radical. They are also dangerous and morally suspect. America needs allies. Undermining the US-led alliance system and promoting “spheres of influence” encourages the expansion of Chinese and Russian influence.

Even if the Trump administration’s only concern is US economic interests, that is not a good idea. Previous generations of US policymakers understood that security and economic concerns are closely entwined — not antithetical. Mr Trump also has a very simplistic view of US economic interests, in which the only thing that seems to matter is a trade surplus.

And finally, there is the moral aspect. Many people will mourn the passing of an America that aspired to be a force for good. During the cold war and its aftermath, it mattered that the world’s dominant power was a country that believed in promoting political and economic freedom. The whole world will pay a price, if that is no longer true.

China Cozies Up to EU as Trade Spat With U.S. Escalates

July 16, 2018

Chinese premier and EU officials pledge support for global trading system

European Council President Donald Tusk, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker attend a ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Monday.
European Council President Donald Tusk, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker attend a ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Monday. PHOTO: THOMAS PETER/REUTERS

BEIJING—China courted the European Union as an ally in its trade conflict with the U.S., offering to improve access for foreign companies and work with the EU on reforming the World Trade Organization.

At an annual summit on Monday, China gave EU leaders much of what they were looking for. Both sides committed to setting up a working group to look at a WTO revamp, made headway in reaching an investment treaty and pledged to cooperate on enforcing the Paris accord on climate change.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang along with European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker vowed their support for the global trading system at a joint press briefing. The two sides later released a statement enumerating their points of agreement, the first time in three years they were able to do so.

China and the EU are both battling the U.S. over tariffs the Trump administration said are needed to compensate for unfair trade policies. Monday’s summit came a day after President Donald Trump, in a CBS interview, named the EU as the U.S.’s biggest foe globally because of “what they do to us on trade.”

Even so, EU leaders are mindful that the bloc shares many of Washington’s criticisms of China’s policies they see as discriminating against foreign companies. Mr. Tusk, who on Sunday fired back at Mr. Trump saying on Twitter that “America and the EU are best friends,” on Monday cited a common responsibility to improve, not tear down the world order.

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling

“The architecture of the world is changing before our very eyes,” Mr. Tusk said at the appearance with Mr. Li. The EU leader mentioned Monday’s meeting with Mr. Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki and urged all to work together to address shortcomings in the WTO.

“I am calling on our Chinese hosts, but also on Presidents Trump and Putin to jointly start this process for a reform of the WTO,” he said.

Mr. Tusk specifically called for new WTO rules to deal with government subsidies, protection of intellectual property and forced technology transfer—all issues that the EU and the U.S. have criticized China over.

Mr. Li said that China is ready to step up. “We feel it is necessary to improve and reform the WTO,” he said. Mr. Li reiterated pledges to “significantly raise” market access for foreign companies and cut tariffs for some goods. He didn’t provide a timeline or discuss subsidies for favored industries.

Beijing has previously said it is willing to work on revising the WTO. It has turned to the body to protest U.S. tariffs, including saying Monday that it filed a new challenge to the Trump administration’s plans to clamp tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods.

Analysts sensed little new in China’s offer to the EU. “Statements in favor of multilateralism are nothing new and a working group on reforming the WTO is no concession,” said Lance Noble, senior policy analyst at Gavekal Dragonomics, a research firm.

EU leaders also suggested that China could show more resolve in addressing criticisms of its trade policies.

Mr. Li, in defending China’s treatment of foreign companies, pointed to German chemical giant BASF’s announcement last week that it received approval for a $10 billion wholly owned plant in China.

The BASF deal, said Mr. Juncker, “shows if China wishes to open up, it can choose to.”

China has been actively trying to woo the EU as trade tensions between Beijing and Washington have escalated. With tariffs from the U.S. looming last month, Chinese President Xi Jinping suggested to a group of mostly European business executives that better treatment awaits companies whose countries aren’t caught in a trade fight.

In a sign of Beijing’s willingness to satisfy European priorities, China and the EU also issued a joint statement in support of the Paris climate-change accord. The two had agreed on the declaration ahead of a summit in Brussels last year following Mr. Trump’s withdrawal of the U.S. from the global agreement. But China pulled the plug on the announcement after EU officials refused Chinese entreaties on trade, particularly regarding Beijing’s bid to be recognized by Europe as a market economy.

In Europe earlier this month, Mr. Li met with leaders of Central and Eastern European countries and held a summit with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in which they also renewed a commitment to a rules-based trading system.

EU leaders refrained on Monday from criticizing China on human rights, with Mr. Tusk only saying “differences persist.” Asked if he raised China’s detention of Uighurs, a mostly Muslim ethnic group, in re-education camps in the country’s northwest, Mr. Tusk said he brought up individual human-rights cases during the summit and didn’t elaborate further.

Last week, China released Liu Xia, the widow of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, after eight years of house arrest, and allowed her to relocate to Germany. It was widely seen as a gesture of goodwill toward Germany and the EU to help win them over against the U.S.

Write to Eva Dou at

Germany: We can no longer fully rely on U.S. White House

July 16, 2018

Germany’s foreign minister said on Monday Europe could not rely on Donald Trump and needed to close ranks after the U.S. president called the European Union a “foe” with regard to trade.

Image result for Heiko Maas, photos

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas 

“We can no longer completely rely on the White House,” Heiko Maas told the Funke newspaper group. “To maintain our partnership with the USA we must readjust it. The first clear consequence can only be that we need to align ourselves even more closely in Europe.”

He added: “Europe must not let itself be divided however sharp the verbal attacks and absurd the tweets may be.”

Reporting by Michelle Martin; Editing by Robin Pomeroy

EU urges big powers to avert trade ‘conflict and chaos’

July 16, 2018

The European Union called Monday on the United States, China and Russia to work together to cool worsening global trade tensions, warning that they could spiral into violent “conflict and chaos.”

The comments from EU Council President Donald Tusk comes as Washington and Beijing stand on the brink of an all-out trade war many fear could hammer the global economy, while the US has also picked fights with allies in Europe and Canada.

“It is the common duty of Europe and China, but also America and Russia, not to destroy (the global trade order) but to improve it, not to start trade wars which turned into hot conflicts so often in our history,” Tusk said in Beijing.

“There is still time to prevent conflict and chaos.”

© POOL/AFP | European Council President Donald Tusk (R) and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker met China’s Premier Li Keqiang as part of an annual summit

Tusk spoke after meeting Chinese Premier Li Keqiang as part of an annual EU-China summit that opened against the backdrop of the deepening global trade discord.

The EU — the world’s biggest single market with 28 countries and 500 million people — is trying to buttress alliances in the face of the protectionism unleashed by US President Donald Trump’s “America First” administration.

The meeting between Chinese and European officials in Beijing, which also included European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker, comes as Trump prepared to hold talks in Helsinki with Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

Trump sprinkled further spice on the rising rancour in a interview aired Sunday in which he labelled the EU, Russia and China as “foes” of the United States.

– Tough talk –

Tusk said in Beijing that the world needs trade reform, not confrontation.

“This is why I am calling on our Chinese hosts, but also on presidents Trump and Putin, to jointly start this process from a thorough reform of the WTO (World Trade Organization),” Tusk said.

“Today we are facing a dilemma, whether to play a tough game, such as tariff wars and conflict in places like Ukraine and Syria, or to look for common solutions based on fair rules.”

Tusk did not immediately specify what sorts of reform he was referring to.

French President Emmanuel Macron had called in late May for talks on overhauling the WTO.

At the time, European companies were bracing for punishing US tariffs on steel and aluminium imports that ultimately went into effect on June 1.

Besides the steel and aluminium tariffs on the EU, Russia and major US trading partners, Trump earlier this month implemented tariffs on $34 billion worth of Chinese imports, drawing a tit-for-tat response from Beijing.

Washington last week threatened yet more measures on another $200 billion in Chinese goods, prompting Beijing to vow further retaliation.

The back-and-forth has heightened fears that trading powers will hunker down into a destructive all-out trade war that could hit global growth.

China said on Monday that its economic growth rate had slowed slightly to 6.7 percent in the second quarter of this year, from 6.8 percent the previous quarter, and a government spokesman warned a trade conflict threatens all the affected economies.

“The China-US trade friction unilaterally provoked by the United States will have an impact on the Chinese and US economies,” Mao Shengyong, a spokesman for the national statistics bureau.

“Now that the world economy is deeply integrated, industrial Chains have become globalised, and many related countries also will feel an impact.”


Italy rescues migrants, asks other countries to host them

July 14, 2018

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte is trying to find countries willing to take in some 450 migrants rescued from an overcrowded ship in the Mediterranean on Saturday, a source at the premier’s office said.

Image result for Giuseppe Conte, photos

FILE PHOTO: Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte 

A ship operated by EU border agency Frontex and a vessel owned by Italy’s tax police picked up the migrants near the Italian island of Linosa and more than 100 nautical miles from Malta, which rejected pressure from Rome on Friday to rescue them.

Italy’s far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini is leading a high-profile campaign to exclude humanitarian rescue ships from Italian ports and has said the migrants will not be allowed to land in Italy.

Eight of the migrants who needed medical assistance were taken to the Italian island of Lampedusa for treatment, the source said.

The source, who asked not to be named, said Salvini had spoken with Conte on the telephone about how to resolve the situation.

Image result for Italy, coast guard, rescue ship, photos

“The migrants could be distributed immediately among European countries, or Italy would contact Libya to send them back to where they came from,” the source said.

A third option would be to leave the migrants on the ships temporarily while their asylum requests are considered, the source added.

The source said Conte would write to EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, European Council President Donald Tusk and other European heads of state to urge them to apply the European principles on migrants that were restated at a summit in June.

“Italy is no longer willingly to take on, alone, a problem that affects all European countries,” the source said.

Late on Friday, Malta said the people traveling on the packed vessel were Italy’s responsibility.

In two similar stand-offs between Rome and Valletta since Italy’s new populist government took office, migrants ended up in Spain and in Malta.

According to international law, refugees cannot be returned to a place where their lives are in danger. Both the United Nations and EU have acknowledged that Libya is not safe.

Earlier this week, however, Salvini asked EU interior ministers to declare Libya a place of safety where migrants can be taken after they are picked up at sea. German, Austrian and French ministers agreed it could be done, Salvini said.

Reporting by Francesca Landini; Editing by Helen Popper