US President Donald Trump's foreign policy continues it zigzag course. Can NATO truly rejoice at its support from Washington? Don't get your hopes up too soon, warns DW's Bernd Riegert.
Even NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg was surprised, as he had not expected such a clear commitment from Donald Trump. The US president took back his statement about NATO being "obsolete" and instead referred to the Western military alliance as an important partner in mutual security matters. Trump embraced the meeting with his European NATO partner and did not at all look uncomfortable about his sudden change of course. Trump now sees Russia as a threat and NATO obviously protects countries from Russia and terror, too. He also made it look like the whole story about the unpaid NATO bills would somehow turn out to be alright, and that's that. That's how easy Trump's politics can be.
NATO headquarters in Brussels is relieved that Trump is evidently aligning himself with his Secretary of Defense, James Mattis. During his first official visit to Brussels, right after he had taken office, the retired general declared NATO to be crucial for American interests in Europe, Afghanistan and Iraq. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson did the same two weeks ago in Brussels. Has reason prevailed over the US president's over-inflated ego? Perhaps the encounters with reality and the realization that Washington cannot do everything on its own may have impact on his policies. In the press conference with Jens Stoltenberg, Trump added as an aside that unilateral action does not necessarily mean acting alone but together with many other nations. The politically agile president was referring to his statement about unilaterally putting things in order in North Korea in case his new best buddy, President Xi Jinping from China, did not do so.
Blowing hot and cold
Defense Secretary Mattis and Secretary of State Tillerson are trying to take their boss down a notch after he had directed harsh words at North Korea. In the past few days, Mattis and Tillerson said that the US Navy carrier strike group seemingly headed to the Korean peninsula was more or less coincidentally traveling in the region. In an interview with Fox Business Network, however, Donald Trump talked about an "armada" that he had allegedly sent to North Korea.
In his stance on NATO, Russia and China, President Trump has done a 180 degree turn compared to the course announced during his election campaign. Russian President Vladimir Putin doesn't seem to be such a great guy after all because he backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. And now, Trump claims he bonded with China's strongman Xi after two days in Florida. Thus, the Chinese who have supposedly been "raping" America economically, as Trump said in the past, have now been offered trade deals if they turn their backs on North Korea. There are no signs whatsoever that he intends to take action against China for currency manipulating and shut the country out of world trade. Furthermore, Secretary of State Tillerson has surprisingly decided to resume the US world police role in order to protect "innocents" worldwide. None of this fits in with Trump's "America First" slogan.
It's about Trump, not politics
Donald Trump's political acrobatics don't look too bad at the moment. The only question is how long will the White House apprentice stick to his opinion? Is it possible that next week he will have a new idea that the Secretary of State and Defense Secretary cannot contain? It is not just the people at NATO headquarters in Brussels who are wondering how Trump or his team will react if North Korea continues its nuclear provocations. If rapprochement or a deal with Russia were useful to him, Trump would quickly abandon his newfound love of NATO and perhaps even withdraw US support for Ukraine. Secretary of State Tillerson hinted at this at the G7 Summit in Lucca. He openly asked the other foreign ministers why the US should actually support Ukraine.
Stability, reliability and loyalty are not terms that can be used to describe American foreign policy at the moment. That is not in Donald Trump's interests. It is all about him, his role and his greatness. This is obvious from the some of the statements he made while speaking to reporters alongside Jens Stoltenberg. "Right now, the world is a mess. But I think by the time we finish, I think it’s going to be a lot better place to live," he said. Trump obviously sees himself as a savior. Any further questions?
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