LONDON – The British Financial Times published an article by its columnist Philip Stevens about the crisis in the ranks of NATO.
At the conference on international security held in Munich (February 15-17), German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s speech in defense of the liberal international legal order and, by default, against the policies of the administration of US President Donald Trump , was met with a bang. However, US Vice President Michael Pence , who rose to the podium immediately after Merkel, apparently, did not listen to her speech. The number two man in the current US administration said that US allies should follow the orders of Washington, writes Stevens.
The fact that this exchange of views took place at the Munich Security Conference, one of the foundations of the transatlantic alliance, says a lot about the current relationship between America and Europe. The Europeans have so far tried to play down the “Donald Trump problem,” but their patience comes to an end, the author notes.
Merkel’s patience broke after Trump unilaterally decided to withdraw from the Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles, and also threatened Europe if it did not comply with the sanctions imposed by the United States against Iran.
Meanwhile, the FT columnist believes that Russia and China felt better in Munich. This much appears to be the case. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov rarely allows himself to smile. This time it was difficult for him to hide his pleasure. “Let the Europeans themselves run their common home,” says Lavrov.
Of course, this means that if America leaves the European scene, Russia will be in charge of everything, reflects Stevens.
NATO Alliance was allegedly based on shared values, not just collective defense considerations. The NATO Charter begins with a statement on the protection of democracy, freedom and the rule of law. Trump has little interest in these questions, according to Stevens. The US president makes it clear that he prefers to deal with autocrats rather than defenders of a liberal international order.
‘Public opinion’ in Europe – at least that generated artificially through media censorship and its simulacrum – perceives this negatively, and according to surveys, the credibility of the United States in Europe has plummeted. German diplomats say that it’s difficult for them to promote the idea of the Atlantic alliance, while a significant part of German society trusts Vladimir Putin more than the current US president. But if the world order is based only on short-term transactions, and not on common values, then Europe and the United States will lose, the author concludes.
What the Financial Times columnist has done, is construct for itself a hodgepodge of contradictory positions, and sewn together a narrative which really doesn’t fit the reality.
At real issue is that Trump has broken with any pretense towards multilateral policy, when in reality it was abandoned by neo-conservatives starting with former US president Reagan. His ‘Committee on the Present Danger, also known as ‘Plan B’ was really the beginning of the end of post-WWII trilateralalism. For Japan, this meant an increase in tariffs on Japanese goods in the U.S, especially cars and electronics, which saw Japan respond by switching over to high-value per unit marketing and product, as opposed to dominance through sheer volume. This gave rise to Japan’s entrance into the luxury car market under former US president Clinton.
What has been witnessed since, has been a gradual unwinding of the US’s commitment to Western European capital centers, as the US and EU are now real competitors around the world, as highlighted in the controversy over Venezuela, Ukraine, and especially over the Iran energy deal.
Merkel is not a proponent of Eurasianism for Western Europe, her need to compromise with Russia in a more amicable fashion across a number of questions is based on the reality of the facts on the ground, and not political or ideological commitments. Likewise, Trump’s positions are not based in Trump’s proclivities or worldview, but also based upon the fact that whole swaths of the so-called developing world have ‘caught up’ to the West across a number of metrics. This effectively means the end of U.S unipolar hegemony, and the reality of multipolarity. Whatever words and policies that this or that leader uses to express this reality, is more of an afterthought than a real determinant.