President-elect Donald Trump continued his frightening campaign to undermine long-time U.S. alliances in favor of Russia by attacking German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the NATO alliance. These reckless actions are already beginning to have consequences.
The Donald Trump administration is setting up the United States for a major shift in foreign policy — one that stands to make us considerably less safe and secure than we have been under President Barack Obama's leadership.
His admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin has raised alarms; his antagonism of China and Mexico could trigger major diplomatic breakdowns leading to trade wars; foreign intelligence communities have reason to be increasingly wary of sharing information with us; and Trump’s recent comments in a joint interview with the Times of London and Germany’s Bild newspaper threaten to destroy important relationships that protect us from harm.
In his interview with the Times and Bild, Trump criticized German Chancellor Angela Merkel, saying he was not sure if he could trust her or Putin more. He suggested imposing new tariffs on German car companies that do not build factories in the United States as Japanese manufacturers have done. He also openly declared that NATO is "obsolete."
TRUMP: I thought the U.K. was so smart in getting out. And, you were there, and you guys wrote it and put it on the front page
TRUMP: "Trump said that Brexit was going to happen."
TRUMP: Right? And it happened.
TRUMP: That was when I was going to lose easily, you know, everybody thought I was crazy. Obama said, "they'll go to the back of the line." Meaning, if it does happen. And then he had to retract. That was a bad statement.
REPORTER: And now we're at the front of the queue.
TRUMP: I think you're doing great. I think it's going great.
REPORTER: Who do you trust more, if you talk to them: Angela Merkel or Vladimir Putin?
TRUMP: Well, I start off trusting both, but let's see how long that lasts. It may not last long at all. And I said a long time ago that NATO had problems. Number one, it was obsolete, because it was, you know, designed many, many years ago. Number 2, the countries weren't paying what they're supposed to pay.
The response to this interview in Europe has been one of astonishment. Merkel commented that Europe’s fate "is in our own hands," which is a terrifying indication of just how significantly the United States' longstanding alliance with Germany has eroded, even before Trump is inaugurated.
French President Francois Hollande hinted at the quickly emerging divergence of a once-strong alignment between the U.S. and France, saying, "Europe will always be willing to pursue trans-Atlantic cooperation, but it will base its decisions on its interests and its values."
Those are values which are currently under threat across Europe, as far-right, anti-immigrant, white supremacist parties seek to take hold, aided by Russian interference and the pro-Trump propadanga outlet Breitbart, whose erstwhile chief will be joining Trump in the White House.
Trump's hostility toward NATO and praise for the Brexit vote, in concert with his support for Putin, who has long sought to undermine the European Union, is part of a radical strategy to realign U.S. foreign policy with extremists whose ideologies are, like Trump's, inextricably tied to white supremacy.
Since the election, Trump’s national security adviser met with the leader of Austria’s neo-Nazi party at Trump Tower, and France’s far-right fascist Front National leader Marine Le Pen visited Trump Tower, though neither she nor Trump would confirm a meeting.
Trump's own racist nationalism and isolationist streak are certainly a motivation in this radical realignment; there are also allegations that Trump is being extorted by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is notoriously anti-EU.
Each of these elements, particularly the last, has caused deep worry among the U.S.’s longstanding allies. Israeli investigative reporter, Ronen Bergman, reports that current American intelligence officials are warning Israeli intelligence to "be careful" about what they share with the incoming administration:
According to the Israelis who were present in the meeting, the Americans recommended that until it is made clear that Trump is not inappropriately connected to Russia and is not being extorted – Israel should avoid revealing sensitive sources to administration officials for fear the information would reach the Iranians.
What this means for the average American is that the agencies tasked with keeping the country safe will be without vital tools and information necessary to do that incredibly necessary work. Our intelligence is dependent upon carefully cultivated relationships with foreign allies — relationships Trump is eager to sacrifice in order to build a new world order with Putin.
We will also be made materially less safe if Trump successfully orchestrates a break with NATO: Our NATO allies have come to our aid time and again after 9/11, including helping in the war in Afghanistan. The destruction of an alliance with Europe actively endangers troops overseas, and we are risking the alienation of our closest allies who would come to our aid in the event of an attack on our shores.
Trump's dramatic "reset" of our established global alliances raises serious alarm bells that, as Shareblue's Melissa McEwan observes, must not be underestimated:
Impossible to overstate how much more materially less safe Americans will be with Trump isolating us from key allies. Tremendously scary. https://t.co/JCJdHcv1Ku
— Melissa McEwan (@Shakestweetz) January 16, 2017