While browbeating European leaders at the NATO summit this week, US President Donald Trump used a rather unfortunate metaphor. He described Germany and Europe as “captive of Russia”.
Trump was erroneously referring to the huge and mutually beneficial trade in natural gas between Russia and Europe. He was implying that Germany and the rest of Europe are excessively dependent on Russian fuel, and thereby are “controlled” by Moscow’s geopolitical agenda.
Sometimes garbled thinking, however, inadvertently brings attention to the truth. And the truth is, Europe is far more a captive of US objectives than it is ever of Russia. A captivity that continually damages Europe’s best interests in the service of American hegemonic power.
What’s more, the European leaders seem to suffer from “Stockholm Syndrome”. This is the name of a curious condition which psychologists attribute to cases whereby victims of a hostage-taking situation bizarrely develop a trust or deference towards their evil-doing captors.
Trump’s swaggering display of bullying and humiliation was apparently accepted by European leaders in a pathetically servile way. His petulant ultimatum for increased military spending on NATO was acquiesced to by the fawning Europeans.
The American president then continued his “tirade tour” from Brussels to the United Kingdom where he made an extraordinary public attack on Prime Minister Theresa May, calling her Brexit plans a failure, in a high-profile media interview. The BBC headlined that Trump gave May’s Brexit plans “both barrels”. Such contempt for a political leader while being hosted in the country is shameful and mortifying.
Despite Trump’s boorish behavior, European politicians gingerly shuffle their feet, mutter and grumble, but ultimately do nothing to stand up to him. It will be interesting to see the interaction when he meets Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on Monday.
On his “captive of Russia” remark, Moscow slammed Trump’s demeaning distortion of what it said are normal and mutual trading relations between Russia and Europe. Rightly, the Kremlin pointed out that the American president is resorting to bully tactics in order to blackmail Europeans into replacing economically and logistically convenient Russian gas with much more expensive US supplies.
The brass neck of Trump dictating to European nations who they should conduct their international trade with is astounding. Is that not the behavior of a maniacal hostage-taker? Do as I say, or else.
Admittedly, German Chancellor Angela Merkel politely rebuffed Trump’s remarks about her country’s alleged subservience to Moscow, and insisted that her nation is independent from undue Russian political influence.
Nevertheless, the general response from European political leaders to Trump was one of meekness, when you consider the full-on assault he delivered during the two-day NATO summit in Brussels.
Trump rolled into Brussels earlier this week and proceeded to verbally beat up the supposed European allies. He reportedly turned up late for meetings in a show of disrespect, and then demanded an emergency session during which he lambasted the others for not “paying enough towards NATO” and for free loading on “American protection”.
It sounded more like a Mafia protection racket rather than a chivalrous virtue, as Trump was conceitedly presuming to claim.
It’s not the first time an American president has admonished European members of the NATO alliance to stump up more on military budgets. The American haranguing over money into NATO has been going on for decades since the US-led military organization was formed back in 1949 following the Second World War. NATO has always been a US vehicle for thwarting Europe and Russia developing a natural strategic partnership. And then, to boot, the overweening American rulers want Europe to pay for that “privilege”.
On the face of it, the US claims to be unfairly carrying the burden for the alliance. It currently spends some $700 billion a year on military — about 70 per cent of the total NATO outlay. That’s equivalent to 3.5 per cent of the US Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Germany, the bane of Trump’s gripes, spends about $43 billion a year on military, or 1.2 per cent of its GDP.
Trump wants Germany and all the other 28 members of NATO to immediately increase their budgets to 2 per cent of GDP. In the longer term, he even wants that figure to double up to 4 per cent.
There is no rational justification for this madcap militarism. It is simply American arbitrariness being imposed as a writ on other supposedly independent countries. If America wants to waste its resources on a voracious military-industrial complex that’s its business. But it also wants Europe to do likewise. Why? Because such expenditure feeds into the monstrous American military.
What the American president is brazenly doing is shaking down the Europeans for hundreds of billions of dollars. NATO estimates that if the European members stick to their increased spending plans over the next seven years that will amount to at least $266 billion in additional military expenditure.
Now, Trump and American planners, as well as European NATO cheerleaders, may claim that this is what’s required for proper defense and reimbursement of decades of US “protection”.
But hold on a moment. Protection from what exactly? Russia? The whole scaremongering narrative about Russia allegedly preparing to invade Europe is the most ludicrous propaganda ploy. It belongs in a book of bedtime spooky stories for children.
Possibly, Donald Trump doesn’t even believe this nonsense either, otherwise why would he be willing to seek friendlier relations with Putin?
Just think of the vast improvement in European civil society if NATO profligacy was scaled back and instead invested in social development. New factories, transport systems, high-wage employment, modern housing, quality food production, hospitals, schools, universities, free education, sports facilities, art museums, music academies.
All these benefits, and more, could be easily achieved if European economies were directed away from its militarism through NATO — a militarism that is intensifying tensions with Russia and, furthermore, inciting the danger of an eventual catastrophic war.
Why this eminently reasonable political direction is not taken is because European politicians are dominated by Washington and its hegemonic interests. They are ideologically and politically under the sway akin to vassalage — or Stockholm Syndrome.
The proof of this is seen from the way Trump was this week courted and fawned over by European politicians — even though he was rudely hectoring them to cough up money for NATO.
Not only that. Washington under Trump has slapped damaging trade tariffs on European exports, and he is threatening to sabotage major European investments in Iran if they do not comply with US diktats over boycotting Iranian oil exports.
Europe gets a very good deal from Russia on abundant natural gas supplies which heat European homes during winter and help fuel European industries to stay competitive in world markets.
Yet a big-mouthed American leader comes over to Europe and berates its leaders as if they are flunkies to spend more money on a military organization that primarily serves US imperialist interests around the world (pace, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Ukraine), while also trying to blackmail the Europeans into ditching affordable Russian gas for exorbitant US supplies.
And then — irony and arrogance reign supreme — when this same US president turns round and tells Europeans they are “captive of Russia”.