Trump’s Geopolitical Madness

Donald Trump James Mattis
American president Donald Trump and his then-defense secretary, James Mattis, arrive for a NATO summit in Brussels, July 12, 2018 (NATO)

Defenders of Donald Trump’s foreign policy confuse his lack of sentimentality for realism. In fact, his disinterest in America’s decades-old alliances in Europe and the Far East defies a century of geopolitical wisdom.

Strategists from Halford Mackinder to Zbigniew Brzezinski understood that only a united Eurasia, which has two-thirds of the world’s population and resources, can pose a threat to the Americas, while Robert Kagan and Henry Kissinger recently warned, in The Jungle Grows Back (2018) and World Order (2014), respectively, that the long peace since World War II has owed as much to American “hard” power as to the world’s belief that Americans will, by and large, do the right thing.

These assumptions were widely shared in Washington — until Trump became president. Read more “Trump’s Geopolitical Madness”

Why Europe Needs Its Own Army

Polish soldiers
NATO troops participate in a military exercise near the German-Polish border, June 18, 2015 (NATO)

French president Emmanuel Macron called for a European army in 2018, arguing the EU needed to defend itself from “China, Russia and even the United States of America.”

Two years later, the argument for a common European defense is even stronger.

China’s authoritarianism can no longer be denied. It has effectively revoked the autonomy of Hong Kong, is carrying out a cultural genocide against the Uighurs in west China, threatening its neighbors around the South China Sea and extending its reach as far west as Europe and as far north as the Arctic.

Russia continues to abrogate international norms. It still supports Bashar Assad in Syria, who is responsible for driving millions of his compatriots from their homes, many of them fleeing to Europe; it still occupies the Crimea and still supports an insurgency in southeastern Ukraine.

The United States are led by an impetuous president, who has accused the EU of “taking advantage” of America, called NATO “obsolete” and withdrawn 9,500 soldiers from Germany, but expressed admiration for Vladimir Putin and doubts that he ordered the poisoning of Sergei Skripal, a defector, and Alexei Navalny, an opposition leader. Read more “Why Europe Needs Its Own Army”

Turkey Lashes Out at Allies in Mediterranean Border Dispute

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan attends a Victory Day ceremony in Ankara, August 30 (Presidency of the Republic of Turkey)

Tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean show no sign of easing.

Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has accused the EU of “modern-day colonialism” for supporting Greek claims in the region.

His government has accused the United States of violating the “spirit” of the NATO alliance by lifting an arms embargo on Cyprus.

Greece and Turkey are both in NATO, but they have a history of antagonism and overlapping maritime border claims. Those long-standing disputes have been rekindled by the discovery of national gas in waters around Cyprus, the northern half of which Turkey recognizes as an independent republic. Read more “Turkey Lashes Out at Allies in Mediterranean Border Dispute”

Why Germany “Deserves” American Troops

American C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft
Two American C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft fly in formation over Germany, May 27, 2014 (USAF/Jordan Castelan)

Victor Davis Hanson writes in National Review that Germany “cuts deals with Russia, has never met its NATO commitment and is the most anti-American nation in Europe.” So why, he wonders, should the United States anchor its defense?

He could have asked that question at any point in the last seventy years. Read more “Why Germany “Deserves” American Troops”

France Deploys Warships as Tensions with Turkey Rise

NATO warships Aegean Sea
NATO warships conduct maneuvers in the Aegean Sea (Bundeswehr)

France is boosting its military presence in the Eastern Mediterranean to reinforce Cypriot and Greek claims in the area and protect the activities of its energy giant Total.

The helicopter carrier Tonnerre, which is taking aid to Lebanon following the fertilizer explosion in Beirut, and the frigate La Fayette, which is training with the Greek navy, will remain in the area.

Two French Rafale warplanes will be based in Crete.

The deployments come after the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier patrolled the region earlier this year, and in response to the appearance of Turkish drill ships and frigates in disputed waters.

Turkish warships have in the past blocked Western drilling rigs in waters around Cyprus. Read more “France Deploys Warships as Tensions with Turkey Rise”

Pulling American Troops Out of Germany Is Another Gift to Putin

Donald Trump Vladimir Putin
Presidents Donald Trump of the United States and Vladimir Putin of Russia meet in Helsinki, Finland, July 16, 2018 (Kremlin)

Donald Trump has done his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, another favor by withdrawing almost 12,000 American troops from Germany, a third of the current deployment.

Fewer than half — 5,600 — are sent to other NATO countries, including Poland. Most will be pulled out of Europe altogether. An F-16 fighter squadron will be rebased in Italy.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper claims the decision is the outcome of long-term strategic planning and will somehow enhance “deterrence of Russia”.

President Trump revealed the real reason on Twitter:

Germany pays Russia billions of dollars a year for Energy, and we are supposed to protect Germany from Russia. What’s that all about? Also, Germany is very delinquent in their 2% fee to NATO. We are therefore moving some troops out of Germany!

This is nonsense. There is no NATO “fee”. Germany has for decades underinvested in its defense, relying on American protection, but until recently neither the United States nor Germany’s neighbors objected to the lack of German remilitarization. In 1990, the Western Allies and Russia conditioned their support for German reunification on the country keeping its defense force under 370,000 men. That ceiling remains in place. Read more “Pulling American Troops Out of Germany Is Another Gift to Putin”

Sino-American Rift Gives Russia an Opening

Vladimir Putin Xi Jinping
Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Xi Jinping of China meet on the sidelines of a summit in Benaulim, India, October 15, 2016 (Kremlin)

Aside from causing a global humanitarian crisis, COVID-19 has deepened the rift between China and the United States. President Donald Trump has politicized the pandemic, calling it the “Chinese virus” and ordering the federal government’s main pension fund to stop investing in China.

Military conflict remains unlikely. Escalation is more likely to be economic and political — which is still costly, and gives America’s other nuclear-powered adversary, Russia, a chance to strengthen its ties with Beijing. Read more “Sino-American Rift Gives Russia an Opening”

Trump Once Again Throws Europe Under the Bus

Donald Trump Vladimir Putin
Presidents Donald Trump of the United States and Vladimir Putin of Russia deliver a news conference in Helsinki, Finland, July 16, 2018 (Office of the President of the Republic of Finland/Juhani Kandell)

There have been some constants in Donald Trump’s otherwise haphazard foreign policy. He will invariably side with Russia and against America’s allies in Europe. He sympathizes more with authoritarian regimes than democracies. He doesn’t believe in multilateralism or free trade.

Anything the president’s advisors or allies can portray as a show of “strength” Trump will support.

Anything his supporters in the Republican Party or the conservative media portray as “weakness”, whether it is consultations, compromises or concessions, Trump will resist.

The latest casualty of this simplistic, zero-sum worldview is the Open Skies Treaty, which includes most countries in the Northern Hemisphere and allows reciprocal flights over military facilities. Read more “Trump Once Again Throws Europe Under the Bus”

Macron’s Idealistic Russia Pragmatism

Vladimir Putin Emmanuel Macron
Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Emmanuel Macron of France meet outside the Palace of Versailles, May 29, 2017 (Elysée)

The 2020 Munich Security Conference saw French president Emmanuel Macron reaffirm his eagerness to turn Russia into a security partner, suggesting that “we have to restart a strategic dialogue.”

But Russia hasn’t been a part of Europe for a while and doesn’t belong in a conversation about European autonomy. The only thing that ties it to Europe is geography. Read more “Macron’s Idealistic Russia Pragmatism”

From Zero Problems with Neighbors to Zero Friends

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan attends a conference in Sochi, Russia, November 22, 2017 (Kremlin)

Ten years ago, Turkey’s “zero problems with neighbors” policy was all the rage. I went so far as to predict Ahmet Davutoğlu, the foreign minister at the time, could be remembered as the architect of Turkey’s return to preeminence in the Middle East.

Miguel Nunes Silva saw things more clearly, writing for the Atlantic Sentinel in 2012 that Turkey’s policy of antagonizing its allies and befriending its rivals merited little praise.

Turkish appeasement of Bashar Assad and Muammar Gaddafi meant little when those dictators turned their guns on their own people. Turkish appeasement of Iran was rewarded by unwavering Iranian support for Nouri al-Maliki in Iraq and Assad in Syria, two strongmen Turkey opposed.

Silva also recognized the on-again, off-again nature of Turkish diplomacy with Russia, which has only grown worse. Turkey and Russia back opposite sides in the Syrian War. Turkey even shot down a Russian attack aircraft near its border in 2015. Yet Turkey has also bought missile defense systems from Russia and is helping Russia build a natural gas pipeline into Europe that circumvents Ukraine. Both decisions were strongly opposed by Turkey’s nominal NATO allies. The United States kicked Turkey out of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program.

To form, Turkey has also allowed the construction of a competing European pipeline from Azerbaijan to Greece. Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan still — somehow — convinced his American counterpart, Donald Trump, to withdraw from Syria, clearing the way for him to invade and attack the Kurds.

Trump’s memory may be short. He responded with sanctions on Turkish officials and tariffs on steel, which he respectively lifted and halved only a week later. But not everyone is so forgiving. Turkey’s tendency to play all sides, far from giving it more freedom in foreign policy, has hamstrung its diplomacy. It now has to use force to get its way. Read more “From Zero Problems with Neighbors to Zero Friends”