Thursday, July 12, 2018
Trump's Global Chaos Tour: Act I
|A float in a Dusseldorf parade|
My Salon column this morning:
In anticipation of Trump's Global Chaos Tour a couple of days ago I told everyone to get ready, it was going to be wild. Upon arrival in Brussels Belgium for the annual NATO meeting, the president opened the show with a fusillade of insults toward America's allies, a grand display of ignorance of every key issue and a total disregard for history, diplomacy or the national security of the United States. And then it got really crazy.
He started off at a morning breakfast photo-op with the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and members of their staffs. Trump proceeded to whine, complain and caterwaul once again about how the NATO countries aren't contributing enough money to what he still portrays as some common NATO piggy bank and implied that they owe the US for overdue payments which is simply daft. But he made some big news when he claimed that Germany is "totally controlled by Russia" which he apparently believes makes Angela Merkel Putin's puppet.
He based this upon a bogus claim that Germany gives vast sums of money to Russia in exchange for 70 percent of its energy and therefore, they are a "captive of Russia" and are the ones betraying the NATO charter. (As usual, he was wrong on the facts. Germany gets about 9 percent of its energy from natural gas, which is the energy in question, and about 70 percent of that comes from Russia. )
When Stoltenberg tried to explain that NATO was not about trade, Trump replied:
How can you be together when a country is getting its energy from the person you want protection against or from the group that you want protection against? I think it is a very bad thing for NATO and I don’t think it should have happened and I think we have to talk to Germany about it.
The fact is that of course NATO countries trade with Russia. So does America. But there's little point in trying to make sense of what he was saying because he clearly had no idea himself.
Later, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders released a statement saying that that instead of the 2 percent of GDP that the NATO countries have agreed to budget for military spending by 2024, Trump is now demanding that they double that to 4 percent. Shortly thereafter, Trump tweeted this, which slightly walked back his imperious demand:
No one knows why he is so intent upon everyone arming themselves to the teeth but we know it isn't because he wants America to cut back. He wants to raise US defense spending that high as well. Evidently, he wants everyone putting vast amounts of resources into a global war machine. What could go wrong?
The truth is that this is completely unrealistic and so the more obvious reason is that he is seeking to break up the NATO alliance the same way that he tore up the Paris climate accords and the Iran Deal and plans to abrogate NAFTA, withdraw from the WTO and, who knows what else? ( He says right in that tweet, "what good is NATO ...?")
At least that's how Russia State TV saw it:
— Julia Davis (@JuliaDavisNews) July 11, 2018
's state TV:
"I never thought I’d live to see this—neither the USSR nor Russia, who tried many times to drive the wedge between transatlantic allies, but Washington is doing everything to break down the foundations of transatlantic alliance & unity."©️ pic.twitter.com/AlG3QytN8S
Perhaps that's one of Trump's "deliverables" to the summit with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.
Meanwhile, back at home there was some highly unusual activity happening in the congress. You'll recall that a delegation of Republican Senators visited Moscow over the July 4th holiday and were quoted being extremely accommodating if not downright servile to their hosts. The leader of the delegation, Sen. Richard Shelby R-AL said they were there to “strive for a better relationship, not accuse Russia of this or that or so forth.” Others were even more generous:
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) July 12, 2018
Sen. Ron Johnson reportedly said that Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election "is not the greatest threat to our Democracy," after a group of Republican lawmakers returned from a trip to Moscow. pic.twitter.com/VXk3rkWHCP
Someone must have pointed out that they had come off as useful idiots because according to the Daily Beast, several of the senators who were there are now saying that the meetings were confrontational and tense with the Russians leaning heavily on the Senators about the sanctions and insisting that the election interference never happened.
Sen. John Kennedy R-LA said the Russians had been under the impression that only Democrats believed that Russia had been involved. It's not hard to understand why they would have made that assumption. This is the first we've seen of any Republican elected officials beyond the few retiring Senators give even the slightest indication that they are concerned about it.
And surprisingly, both the House and the Senate passed nearly unanimous bipartisan resolutions affirming support for NATO. They don't actually mean anything and neither will they do anything serious to restrain Trump but it's possible that Republicans making even the slightest attempt to tell the world that Trump's bellicose comments are not endorsed by his party will provide some reassurance.
And that wasn't all. The Senate also voted 88-11 for a non-binding resolution to stop Trump from using national security as a rationale for imposing tariffs willy nilly when he wakes up on the wrong side of the bed in the morning. Analysts are saying that it was a test vote to see if they can override a veto. It's unknown how many Republicans would hang tough if it came to that, however.
And finally, a bipartisan group of Senators have introduced a resolution condemning Russian incursion in Crimea and calling on the Trump administration to formalize a policy of non-recognition of Russia's land acquisition. It too will not be binding, but its timing just before the summit with Putin is not an accident.
Perhaps this is all just CYA behavior for Republicans seeing the handwriting on the wall in a tough election season. Or maybe they only manage to find their lost intestinal fortitude when the president is out of town. But it's also possible that Trump is starting to scare some of them as much as he's scaring the rest of the planet.
This NATO debacle was just the opening act of the Global Chaos Tour. Now he's off to the United Kingdom where he'll meet the Queen and be followed around by a gigantic Donald Trump Baby Blimp. It should be very entertaining. It's when Vladimir Putin joins him on the stage for the big finale in Helsinki that we'll see the real pyrotechnics.
In case you were wondering what might have Trump so agitated:
digby 7/12/2018 09:30:00 AM