Yesterday I posted portions of Trump’s interview with The London Times and Bild, his first since his upset win in the November election. Today I turn my attention to the responses to his interview from the International community, primarily the European nations. Our relationship with our allies is, and has always been, of great concern. Strong bonds have been forged which offer protection for our allies, as well as for the U.S., and any perceived weakening of those bonds makes the world less safe for us all.
A few of the post-interview headlines:
As Trump Era Arrives, a Sense of Uncertainty Grips the World
IRISH BOOKMAKER OFFERING 8-1 ODDS THAT TRUMP IS IMPEACHED IN LESS THAN SIX MONTHS
Donald Trump’s Interview on Russia, NATO and Brexit Gives Some in Europe the Jitters
In response to Trump, France’s Hollande says EU needs no advice from outsiders
Defiant EU Nations Ready Themselves for Trump Presidency
Whenever Trump speaks or tweets, he manages to ruffle some feathers. His interview last week, however, ruffled many feathers and is not likely to sit well with many European leaders who were already leery, to say the least, of a Trump regime. Though Trump’s responses during the interview were typically lacking substance, some glimmer of his intent regarding foreign policy ultimately became discernable, and it created more than a few nervous tics across the great pond. Four major areas of concern are his criticism of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, his disparagement of NATO, his response to Brexit, and his declaration of intent to impose heavy tariffs on European auto imports.
Criticism of Chancellor Merkel
At least three times, he criticized Chancellor Merkel for her stance on immigration:
“I think it was, I think it was very unfortunate what happened. And you know I have a love for Germany because my father came from Germany and, I don’t want to be in that position. You know the way I look at it, we have enough problems.”
“I think she made one very catastrophic mistake and that was taking all of these illegals, you know taking all of the people from wherever they come from. And nobody even knows where they come from. You’ll find out, you got a big dose of it a week ago. So I think she made a catastrophic mistake, very bad mistake.”
“I think it was a big mistake for Germany. And Germany of all countries, ’cause Germany was one of the toughest in the world for having anybody go in, and, uh, no I think it was a mistake. And I’ll see her and I’ll meet her and I respect her. And I like her but I think it was a mistake.”
Chancellor Merkel responded calmly: “They have been known for a while — my positions are also known. I think we Europeans have control of our destiny. I am waiting for the president to be sworn into office. That is the way it is done. And then, of course, I will work with him together.”
Trump described the European Union as “basically a vehicle for Germany” and predicted that the bloc would probably see other countries follow Britain’s example and vote to leave. While many in the EU have the same thought, it was offensive and inappropriate for an incoming U.S. president to make such a statement about one of our most important allies. Throughout Trump’s campaign and subsequent election, Chancellor Merkel has been ever-polite and politic, showing a much greater degree of professionalism than Trump.
Disparagement of NATO
“I said a long time ago that NATO had problems. Number one it was obsolete, because it was designed many, many years ago. Number two the countries weren’t paying what they’re supposed to be paying.”
It is obsolete because it has been around for a long time? Does that not, by definition, make Trump himself obsolete? Our Constitution has been around for some 230 years, as compared with NATO, which was established in 1949, or 68 years ago, making it actually younger than Trump. As to his claim that other countries are spending less on military than the U.S., while the statement is true, there are also some valid reasons. One of the core tenets of NATO membership is that each nation spend 2% of its GDP on its own military spending, in an effort to curtail using pooled NATO resources. U.S. military spending has always been larger than other nations, and since 9/11, it increased even more until today it stands at 3.62% of GDP.
When something is wrong, it usually behooves us to ask “why?” before jumping in and criticizing. Why, then, do 23 of the NATO countries not spend at least 2% of their GDP on defense? Though this answer may seem over-simplistic, the reality is that most of those countries simply cannot afford to increase their defense spending. Most have high commitments to health and retirement benefits for their aging population, higher education and healthcare spending, and other humanitarian expenditures. There are other causes for the shortfall in each individual circumstance, such as Iceland that has no military of their own. However, to make a blanket statement without researching the causes and working with these nations toward a mutually acceptable solution is a sign that Trump does not understand NATO nor international affairs at all. Some also consider it a sign that Trump does not value our alliances.
It may happen that, in light of Trump’s criticism and seeming unwillingness to aid allies in times of hostilities or threat, the other NATO nations will begin to build their military as much as they can, fearing that they can no longer rely on the U.S. If Trump should decide to pull out of NATO, it would make the entire world less safe.
Response to Brexit
“People don’t want to have other people coming in and destroying their country … People, countries want their own identity and the UK wanted its own identity … I think people want, people want their own identity, so if you ask me, others, I believe others will leave.”
Most of Trump’s comments on Brexit during the interview revolved around himself and the fact that, though he initially did not even know what Brexit was, he predicted that Brexit would be approved by voters. However, he failed to consider that Brexit is yet very much a contentious issue in the UK and elsewhere, and his comments that others would leave the EU, as well as his foolish declaration that it does not matter to the U.S. whether the EU remains strong or crumbles, were inappropriate.
French President Francois Hollande said that Europe, “has no need for outside advice to tell it what to do. Europe will always be willing to pursue trans-Atlantic cooperation, but it will base its decisions on its interests and its values.” And Danish Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen said, “We are going to move away from, I guess, a kind of Twitter diplomacy, and then into a reality,” adding that reality could be “perhaps more difficult than what is going on on Twitter.”
On the proposed 35% tariff
Last, but definitely not least, was his threat to hit German automakers with a 35% tariff on automobiles shipped to the United States.
“I would tell BMW if they think they’re gonna build a plant in Mexico and sell cars into the US without a 35 per cent tax, it’s not gonna happen, it’s not gonna happen — so if they want to build cars for the world I would say wish them luck — they can build cars for the US but they’ll be paying a 35 per cent tax on every car that comes into the country.”
Germany’s deputy chancellor and minister for the economy, Sigmar Gabriel, said on Monday morning, “I believe BMW’s biggest factory is already in the US, in Spartanburg [South Carolina]. The US car industry would have a bad awakening if all the supply parts that aren’t being built in the US were to suddenly come with a 35% tariff. I believe it would make the US car industry weaker, worse and above all more expensive. I would wait and see what the Congress has to say about that, which is mostly full of people who want the opposite of Trump.” When asked what the U.S. automakers could do to sell more cars in Europe, Mr. Gabriel said, “Build better cars.”
Bottom line on this is any tariff that Trump imposes on foreign auto makers will cost the citizens of the U.S. It may put money in the government coffers, but it will put a significantly higher price tag on the automobiles.
According to a New York Times article , Trump’s handlers (transition team) were planning to try to smooth over some of the tensions caused by his interview and prior rhetoric. Frankly, cleaning up behind Trump may be among the filthiest jobs in the world.
Notably absent in his critiques were any negative comments against Russian President Vladimir Putin. He has not criticized Putin for seizing the Crimean Peninsula, killing his political opponents, invading Georgia (the country) or interfering with the U.S. elections. He has even indicated that he would lift the sanctions against Russia, the latest of which was in response to his invading the Crimea, and even urged the UK to lift their sanctions against Russia.
This was to be the conclusion of a two-part post, but today another interview with potentially harmful ramifications came to my attention, so stay tuned for Part III later today.