Some of Europe’s national leaders are “scared to death” that President Trump may pull support for NATO in some capacity, leaving them reliant on their own armed forces for defense according to The Independent.
Leon Panetta, a former United States Defense Secretary having served under the Obama administration, told McClatchy that these leaders are very concerned that Trump’s rhetoric about bringing the troops home and demanding that they honor their NATO funding obligations is more than simple bluster.
“They are scared to death. They are worried about a very unpredictable president of the United States. They are increasingly worried he is going to do things not based on what’s in the best interest..but based solely on his vision of ‘America First.'”
The Pentagon has already begun the process of reviewing the potential impact of removing a portion of the 35,000 active duty service members currently stationed in Germany according to the Washington Post, a suggestion that surely must rattle the politically precious German Chancellor Angela Merkel as she also stares down an incipient migrant crisis battering her public polling.
European allies are rightly concerned that President Trump will seek to renegotiate NATO entirely, perhaps even abandoning the defense pact, in the face of a continued failure of other member states to keep up their end of the financial bargain, often relying on American military apparatus as a failsafe against having to cultivate their own defense strategies. With Trump set to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on July 16th, these fears are coming to the forefront.
Most recently, in a concession to the ongoing North Korean peace process, President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the regular military readiness drilling and war games frequently conducted jointly with South Korea would be suspended. This move blindsided most leaders in the region.
Approximately 60,000 American soldiers are stationed in European bases, the bulk of them in Germany but sizable populations also being present in the UK, Spain, Italy, and Poland.
President Trump has frequently lambasted the NATO agreement publicly, during rallies, speeches, and even on social media platform Twitter. His primary criticism is that the United States seems to be fitting the majority of the bill to defend member nations that do not carry their weight or even come close to meeting the agreed upon 2 percent of GDP contribution to the collective effort. Whether or not anything will come of this rhetoric remains to be seen in the coming weeks and months ahead, with all eyes watching his summit meeting with Putin and other world leaders in Helsinki.
With the Trump administration having an ideological focus on fair dealings that put “America First,” from trade barriers to military arrangements, it seems that the mercurial man and his supporters may be more than fine with altering the deal to be more favorable to U.S. interests.