Friday, March 31, 2017

Threatening Friends, Coddling Enemies

I spent much time this morning talking to Canadian radio and TV folks about the NATO meeting in Brussels that SecState Tillerson, a walkingunmitigated disaster, deigned to attend. Tillerson, after rudely refusing to attend and then changing his mind (because he is an amateur with few experienced appointees under him), showed up and issued an ultimatum: come up with plans in two months to get to the 2% goal or else.  Or else what? Damned if I know.  But his entire performance is enraging.  How so?

  1.     One does not threaten friends.  Especially after seeming to prioritize good relations with adversaries over working with friends. 
  2.     Tillerson saysstuff that discounts what America's friends has done: "Allies must demonstrate by their actions that they share US government's commitment."  Isn't that what they did in Afghanistan in blood and treasure and political costs?  FFS!
  3.     No longer sustainable for US to maintain disproportionate share of NATO defense spending?  This might make sense if the US were looking to cut spending, but Trump wants more defense spending, so how is this not sustainable?  Oh, because Trump hates the current international order and pretty much all multilateral institutions.   
  4.     The fixation on 2% misses the point: NATO does not exist to pressure countries to spend on defense.  It exists to provide stability in Europe.  However, that job #1 is being put to the side because Trump cares far more about a campaign promise or because Trump is so profoundly ignorant about NATO that he thinks countries owe the US for past unpaid dues. 
  5.     Tillerson does not seem to get that these democracies have domestic politics, so humiliating them is unlikely to pay off.  Germany alreadyhas its Foreign Minister (who is not of the same party as Merkel--yes, Rex, coalition politics are a tad complex) push back hard.  Germany is not going to double its defense budget, nor is Canada.

Again, this whole statement and performance makes little sense--Tillerson throws out language about NATO being so important and the US commitment being ironclad at the same time he tells its members that they need to put up or be shut out.... or something. 

Thus far, I can say is that just as not showing up would be an unmitigated disaster, it turns out that showing up was as well.

2 comments: said...

Re: blood & treasure in Afghanistan, don't forget some NATO allies spent the same in Iraq, too.

Steve Saideman said...

Sure, but that was not a NATO thing. I also left out non-NATO partners who also bled in Afghanistan--Swedes, Aussies, etc.