NATO Throws Austria Under the Bus to Appease Turks

NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg meets with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Ankara, April 21, 2016
NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg meets with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Ankara, April 21, 2016 (NATO)

On the eve of a leaders summit in Brussels, NATO has found a way to salvage its partnership program with 41 nations in Europe and the Middle East which Turkey had threatened to suspend.

A last-minute compromise sees Austria withdrawing from NATO peacekeeping operations in the Balkans and Turkey holding back from severing ties with other non-allied partner states.

The Turks were outraged when Austria called on the EU to end accession talks in the wake of last year’s failed military coup against Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. His government has since purged tens of thousands of soldiers and civil servants on the pretext of disloyalty. Erdoğan has given himself broad powers and imprisoned opposition leaders. Read more “NATO Throws Austria Under the Bus to Appease Turks”

European Military Cooperation Need Not Weaken NATO

Italian and Portuguese army units take part in a NATO exercise in Santa Margarida, Portugal, October 21, 2015
Italian and Portuguese army units take part in a NATO exercise in Santa Margarida, Portugal, October 21, 2015 (Sebastien Frechette)

Tomáš Valášek, the director of Carnegie Europe, argues that European allies cannot assume Donald Trump’s aversion to NATO is an anomaly and the next president will put things right. The United States have been cooling on NATO for years, he writes:

A number of factors — a crisis in Europe that grips Americans’ imagination, an articulate pro-European leader in Washington, a crisis in the United States that the European allies help resolve — could revive America’s flagging interest in the alliance it created nearly seventy years ago. But for now, the passage of time and memories work against NATO.

Valášek is nevertheless uneasy about Europeans exploring a “backup” to the Atlantic alliance, arguing that continental security cooperation cannot come close to what Europe and North America have now.

Without plans, commands and sophisticated weapons in meaningful numbers, the Europeans may not on their own impress Russia, he warns — “and may therefore be unable to deter it from misbehaving.” Read more “European Military Cooperation Need Not Weaken NATO”

What’s Wrong with Trump’s NATO Bill to Germany

German chancellor Angela Merkel speaks with American president Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, March 17
German chancellor Angela Merkel speaks with American president Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, March 17 (Bundesregierung)

American president Donald Trump reportedly presented Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, with a $374 billion invoice for missed contributions to NATO when she visited Washington DC earlier this month.

As first reported by The Times, Trump arrived at the figure by calculating how much Germany has fallen short of NATO’s 2-percent defense spending target since 2002 and then adding interest.

A German official described the move as “outrageous” to The Times. Merkel ignored it.

It’s hard to imagine a previous president treating an ally so cruelly, but the story is not at all unbelievable given what we know about Trump: that he humiliates people, is intimidated by powerful women and sees international relations in transactional terms. Read more “What’s Wrong with Trump’s NATO Bill to Germany”

Mattis Alarms NATO by Threatening to “Moderate” Commitment

Donald Trump James Mattis
American president Donald Trump speaks with his defense secretary, James Mattis, outside the Pentagon in Washington DC, January 27 (DoD/Jette Carr)

Donald Trump’s defense secretary, James Mattis, warned allies on Wednesday that the United States might “moderate” their commitment to NATO unless European countries and Canada raise their own military spending.

“Americans cannot care more for your children’s future security than you do,” Mattis, a retired Marine Corps general, told defense minister in Brussels.

America will meet its responsibilities, but if your nations do not want to see America moderate its commitment to this alliance, each of your capitals needs to show support for our common defense.

Which sounds reasonable, were it not for Mattis’ boss, Trump. He has called NATO “obsolete” and suggested trading sanctions on Russia — which have hurt European economies far more than the United States’ — for a nuclear deal. It looks like America is already “moderating” its commitment to the alliance under this president, no matter what countries across the Atlantic do. Read more “Mattis Alarms NATO by Threatening to “Moderate” Commitment”

Europe Can Resist Trump in These Four Ways

French president François Hollande, German chancellor Angela Merkel and European Council president Donald Tusk march with other world leaders in Paris, January 11, 2015
French president François Hollande, German chancellor Angela Merkel and European Council president Donald Tusk march with other world leaders in Paris, January 11, 2015 (Bundesregierung)

If there was still any hope in Europe that Donald Trump might turn out to be less disruptive than he promised, the first weeks of his presidency must have put such hopes to rest.

It’s been less than two weeks and Trump has already disheartened America’s allies in Asia by withdrawing from the Trans Pacific Partnership, giving China a golden opportunity to take charge of regional economic integration; offended Australia and Mexico but hinted at improved relations with Russia, and banned Muslim immigrants and refugees from seven countries — including those who were previously approved for a visa — making a mockery of the rule of law and betraying a complete lack of compassion.

Imagine the damage he can — and will — do in four years. Read more “Europe Can Resist Trump in These Four Ways”

Trump’s No Good, Very Bad, Absolutely Stupid Comments on the EU and NATO

Businessman Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 27, 2015
Businessman Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 27, 2015 (Gage Skidmore)

NATO is “obsolete”. The European Union will, and perhaps should, lose more members.

Such are the words of the president-elect of the United States and they are unequivocally terrible.

When Trump slams NATO, he is quietly whispering to deadened nightmares Europe thought it had laid to rest.

When he hopes for the EU to dissolve, he is literally trying to roll back civilization.

That’s not hyperbole. Here’s why. Read more “Trump’s No Good, Very Bad, Absolutely Stupid Comments on the EU and NATO”

Trump Lashes Out at Europe, Proposes Nuclear Deal with Russia

Businessman Donald Trump gestures while making a speech in Fountain Hills, Arizona, March 19, 2016
Businessman Donald Trump gestures while making a speech in Fountain Hills, Arizona, March 19, 2016 (Gage Skidmore)

American president-elect Donald Trump has said the United Kingdom made a “smart” decision leaving the EU and suggested he could trade sanctions relief for a deal with Russia on reducing nuclear weapons.

Both comments mark complete reversals from current American policy.

The United States have for decades encouraged European integration in order to avoid being called on a third time to save the continent from itself.

The sanctions against Russia are only meant to be lifted when Moscow withdraws its support from an insurrection in southeastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian rebels battle the forces of the pro-Western government in Kiev. Read more “Trump Lashes Out at Europe, Proposes Nuclear Deal with Russia”

Spanish City in North Africa at the Heart of Diplomatic Row

View of the Spanish city of Ceuta from Gibraltar, January 30, 2011
View of the Spanish city of Ceuta from Gibraltar, January 30, 2011 (José Rambaud)

Russia withdrew a request for a flotilla of warships to refuel at Spain’s North African city of Ceuta on Wednesday, sparing the NATO country the embarrassment of having to either turn the Russians down or accept the outrage of its allies.

Madrid had come under criticism from politicians in continental Europe and the United Kingdom for possibly allowing the Russian ships to dock at Ceuta.

A group of warships led by Russia’s only aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, was expected to stop for supplies in the port after passing through the Strait of Gibraltar on Wednesday morning.

The vessels are sailing for Syria, where they would join Russian military efforts in support of the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

NATO’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, warned on Tuesday that the battle group may be used to increase Russian airstrikes in and around Aleppo, a major city in the north of Syria where tens of thousands of civilians are trapped between loyalist and opposition forces. Read more “Spanish City in North Africa at the Heart of Diplomatic Row”

Why Turkey Is Drifting from the West

Presidents Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey and Barack Obama of the United States meet in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, December 7, 2009
Presidents Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey and Barack Obama of the United States meet in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, December 7, 2009 (White House/Samantha Appleton)

Blaming the West is a time-honored tradition for those who would be king; Recep Erdoğan is merely following the well-worn pathway of Gamal Abdel Nasser, Saddam Hussein, Ayatollah Khomeini and Hafez al-Assad when he declared the root of Turkey’s evil coup is somewhere in a Western intelligence agency.

It’s a familiar Middle Eastern script. It appeals to the Turkish street because it coddles Turkish nationalism, reinforcing the (deeply false) notion that Turks’ only political flaw is letting spies slip into their society. It draws upon historical myth for credence: of course Western intelligence agencies have meddled and doubtless continue to do so, from Operation Ajax to CIA spooks in Syria’s civil war.

But just because Western spies have meddled in the past does not mean they did so this time, nor does that let Turkey’s citizens off the hook for listening to the siren call of Erdoğan’s Islamism.

Yet despite its familiarity, this time there is a general feeling that perhaps Turkey and the West are going separate ways.

The rationale is simple: NATO needs Turkey, but Turkey, increasingly, does not need NATO.

Here’s why. Read more “Why Turkey Is Drifting from the West”

Turkey Coup Continues Destabilization Spiral in Black Sea

Black Sea ships
Ships on the Black Sea seen from Sukhumi, Abkhazia, May 12, 2009 (WomEOS)

In the two years following the Russian annexation of the Crimea, the Black Sea region has turned into a seismic spot for geopolitical destabilization.

The failed coup against Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is the latest in a series of events that have undermined stability in the area. There is now concern that relations between Ankara and the rest of NATO could change, which would have an averse effect on regional security.

On the other hand, NATO has had some successes in the region, with Montenegro joining soon and the former Soviet republics of Georgia and Ukraine strengthening their relations with the Western alliance. Read more “Turkey Coup Continues Destabilization Spiral in Black Sea”