With the U.S. president set to meet Vladimir Putin next, current and former alliance officials wonder how the transatlantic military pact can be salvaged.
By Christopher Dickey and Spencer Ackerman
PARIS — The explosion was almost instantaneous—over breakfast, no less—at the beginning of this year’s NATO summit in Brussels. With cameras switched on, and no question they were recording, Donald Trump told his Atlantic Alliance counterparts that Germany is “totally controlled by Russia.” Berlin buys from Moscow more and more of the natural gas it uses. So, in one of his trademark versions of common sense, which commonly ignores basic history and fundamental facts, he asked why the U.S. should spend a lot of money to defend Germany from Russia if Germany was dependent on Russia for energy. Trump incorrectly inflated Germany’s reliance on Russian energy to convey, yet again, a picture of NATO as a protection racket and the U.S. demanding its envelope of cash be heavier.
What was surprising here to many Europeans was not the issue of Germany’s energy supplies or defense budget, which ought to be discussed, but the way it was raised, quite consciously, to be as rude and offensive as possible to America’s richest and most powerful ally on the continent. This after Trump turned the meeting last month in Canada of the G7 most economically advanced democracies into an acrimonious debacle. (He not only insulted German Chancellor Angela Merkel there, he threw a Starburst candy at her.)
If the trend continues, NATO officials present and past worried whether they will ever be able to pick up the pieces.
“The mood here is mix of concern, disappointment, anger and disgust,” said retired Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, who until October led the U.S. Army’s European contingent and who attended the NATO summit.
"I expected bad, and I kept telling people to expect bad, but it is still surreal to see,” one current NATO official told The Daily Beast.
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Source: The Daily Beast