The “no food on the plates” breakfast talk that President Donald Trump gave is making a lot of news, on The Duran, and everywhere else. His morning smackdown of NATO was unprecedented. The alliance’s decades-long delinquency of member nations to meet their financial obligations has never been addressed so directly by any American president.
Fox News’ Sean Hannity commented extensively on this, as has The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and many others, on the clarity that President Trump is showing by simply telling the NATO member leaders where things stand.
But on Rush Limbaugh’s radio program, some very interesting elements were brought up that reveal just how strongly embedded the mentality actually is among the American political machine that the Cold War is still going on – even to the place where Russia is still referred to as “The Soviet Union.”
In Rush’s broadcast dated July 11, he referred to the sound-clip of the breakfast talk where President Trump used NATO’s own perceived mission to point out Germany’s inconsistency, both in terms of paying only slightly over half of their required commitment into the alliance fund, as well as doing things that go against that same mission by making a very lucrative deal with the Russian Federation to have natural gas piped in directly to Germany without the pipeline crossing through any other NATO member state, as noted in this excerpt from the transcript of Rush’s program (emphasis added):
The NATO secretary general thought it would help him out to praise Trump for getting all of these NATO nations to up their donations, contributions to their own defense budgets, which is… There aren’t any dues paid to NATO in this sense. The “dues” that Trump talks about, every member nation has to pledge to spend a certain percent on its national defense. We have to pledge to spent 4% of GDP on it. They have to pledge 1 or 2%, depending on the country.
Many of them haven’t been spending any, including Germany, has been spending nothing! And this has been Trump’s big bugaboo. So for the past year and a half Trump’s been on these people to up their own defense spending — i.e., protect yourselves for a little bit here. And Jens Stoltenberg exults to President Trump (impression), “You have done it. We have increased the spending, and it’s all because of your leadership.” So Trump engineers praise, he engineers his leadership being commended, and then this…
TRUMP: We’re protecting Germany, we’re protecting France, we’re protecting all of these countries, and then numerous of the countries go out and make a pipeline deal with Russia where they’re paying billions of dollars into the coffers of Russia. On top of that, Germany is just paying a little bit over 1%. Whereas the United States in actual numbers is paying 4.2% of a much larger GDP. So I think that’s inappropriate also. Now, this has been going on for decades. This has been brought up by other presidents, but other presidents never did anything about it because I don’t think they understood it or they just didn’t want to get involved. But I have to bring it up because I think it’s very unfair to our country; it’s very unfair to our taxpayers.
RUSH: Now, he’s right. It’s always been given lip service. A lot of presidents have come along and talked about the unfairness. Never did anything about it. Trump, after just having been exalted and praised, then unloads on these people and particularly Germany, and this is what has Christiane Amanpour sniffing the vapors today. John Kerry can barely keep his horse face off the floor, he can’t buy it. Chris Stirewalt at Fox News says Trump is apparently no different than a bird flying over NATO and dropping a bunch of droppings all over these people. They just can’t accept what is happening here!
But the singling out of Germany, this is about a specific pipeline that is called Nord Stream. And what has happened here, is all of Europe has become totally dependent on Russia for natural gas and in some cases, oil. The pipelines to European countries come straight from Russia — some of them through Crimea, other places. What Angela Merkel did was cut a secret, special deal with Putin where she gets a direct pipeline of natural gas right into Germany that does not go through any of the other NATO countries.
She made a sweetheart deal with Putin, excluding other NATO countries, and Trump has called her out on this and is claiming that by doing this, she is putting herself at great disadvantage with Putin in a geopolitical and diplomatic sense because now Germany has become so dependent on Putin. Now, everybody thinks that Trump loves Putin because Putin helped Trump steal the election…
Now, the NordStream pipeline is indeed a project that pipes natural gas from Russia to various European countries. We have reported here on The Duran about this matter from the point of view that it is very practical for European countries to accept such exports from Russia for one very simple reason: Cost (which is a lot less coming through a pipeline from a nearby country) and ease of supply.
Further, we have noted that the US has tried to force NATO members to buy US natural gas at prices that are much higher because of the simple issue of transportation costs. The US after all, is 3000 miles away at minimum, where Russia is just next door.
President Trump suggested in his talk that it would be possible for Europe to get it from the US for a lower cost than from Russia. He also posed the notion of a belligerent Russia under President Vladimir Putin which would seem to be quite the shock, especially as he plans to have a summit meeting with the same President Putin in just four days from now.
However, Mr. Trump appears to be using all this to make a very salient point – that NATO is irrelevant on several levels, and it is an extremely expensive irrelevant effort.
How expensive it actually is may be a shock. Sean Hannity reported on his program that the US spends about $709 billion as its committment to the alliance.
Independent checks on that amount bear this out:
We first consulted NATO’s latest budget report for 2017. (A report with projected 2018 defense spending was released after Trump’s initial comment, but this doesn’t change the facts surrounding the claim.) The 2017 numbers show defense spending data of all member countries from 2010 to 2016 and 2017 estimates.
By NATO’s count, total defense spending of all NATO members stood at about $957 billion in 2017. The United States’ share was about $686 billion. Do the math, and the percentage of U.S. spending is about 72 percent. (We don’t know the source for the 90 percent number.)
But what do these numbers mean? The spending doesn’t represent money spent on behalf of NATO, nor for NATO. They’re the total defense budgets of NATO members. For 2017, the defense spending of all NATO members totaled about $957 billion.
As an important note, the spending attributed is the spending of the total defense budget of any given nation, and the amount of this that is reserved specifically for the NATO alliance is not given. However, the United States spends far more on defense than any other nation in the world, and it pays a higher percentage of its own GDP (here shown as 3.5% in contrast to President Trump’s claim of 4.2%) and that percentage is still far higher than the nearest next paying member, Greece, with 2.27% of its GDP so involved.
Germany, the most powerful and wealthy member state of NATO in Europe, pays only about 1.24% of its GDP for NATO, well under the guideline of two percent.
President Trump has thrown the problem into sharp relief. NATO came into existence to defend Europe against a perceived expansionist Soviet threat. That threat no longer exists. The only actions that are being tagged as “threat” are the issues surrounding the EuroMaidan uprising in the Ukraine, and the Crimean referendum that resulted from the coup in Ukraine’s government, where the Crimean citizens voted vastly in favor of reunification with the Russian Federation.
But this leads to the second point that Rush Limbaugh rather inadvertently exposed. That is the perception common among many members of the American leadership that Russia is not free of the fetters of Communism. Rush Limbaugh himself regularly takes issue with President Putin’s stated regret over the demise of the Soviet Union, a remark which was largely taken out of context.
Rush’s transcript for July 11 shows this the most clearly (emphasis added):
Bill Richardson. Grab audio sound bite No. 10. Former ambassador to the United Nations (for, I think, the Clintons) and former governor of New Mexico. He was on CNN this morning, and the infobabe anchorette Poppy Harlow said, “The president says this, Governor, as he heads to Russia and a Monday sit down with Putin. Does he have a point? Is this a smart strategy, what Trump is doing with NATO?”
RICHARDSON: It’s very… I believe very questionable strategy. Uh, NATO is very important to the United States. Germany’s the strongest partner we have in NATO. I don’t understand the president’s tactics. I think he wants to get leverage over Germany on trade, on tariffs. But the important message here is — is one of saying to Russia, “Look, uh, you’re the most important relationship for us and Europe.” This is not — should not be the case —
RICHARDS: — that NATO is diminished by some of the president’s remarks.
HARLOW: Mmm-hmm. Mmm-hmm.
RICHARDS: So I’m — I’m — I’m very troubled by this attitude and this effort to basically (snickers) undermine NATO.
RUSH: See, who is undermining NATO? This is why these people have it ass-backwards. Pardon my French. NATO is undermining NATO! That’s what all this is about. Trump’s not undermining anything. Trump’s simply calling it out. Do we have time for the next Richardson bite? We do. Cram it in there right now.
RICHARDSON: It doesn’t have a basis in fact. Uh, NATO countries host 28 American military bases. There are 40,000 American troop… Uh, European troops in Afghanistan. They help us — NATO helps us against radical Islamic countries, against Soviet [sic] expansionism. Uh, they are very much a part of the most important security alliance since the Cold War that America has.
The Soviet Union ended 27 years ago. Twenty-seven years is a very long time not to change one’s perception.
The most interesting thing about this is that regardless of anyone’s political opinion or bias about who is what, Mr. Trump’s point still stands: The NATO alliance is undercutting itself and its stated purpose by making deals with the national entity it is supposed to be defending itself against. It is further in a state of not meeting up to its own financial commitment to its own security, and purposely or tacitly imposing an inappropriately large financial burden on four or five of its member nations. Trump is expressing clearly that the US no longer wishes to play along with this. It is unnecessary for American taxpayers to pay the bills of others.
Regardless of opinion, this is certainly a real set of problems that must be addressed.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.