Clear and Present Danger

U.S. president Donald Trump speaks to supporters during a campaign rally at Scheels Arena on June 27, 2018 in Fargo, North Dakota. President Trump held a campaign style "Make America Great Again" rally in Fargo, North Dakota with thousands in attendance.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images North America

We’re far past the point where it matters whether President Trump is a ignorant and destructive fool or operates as some sort of agent of the Russian Federation. The upshot appears to be the same. The Washington Post reports that President Trump has tasked the Pentagon with analyzing withdrawing US troops from Germany. Quoting the nominal explanation the Post was given: “Trump was said to have been taken aback by the size of the U.S. presence, which includes about 35,000 active-duty troops, and complained that other countries were not contributing fairly to joint security or paying enough to NATO.”

This is in advance of the NATO summit next month which will be followed shortly after by a summit with Vladimir Putin. The German troop presence news comes after we learned that in April Trump tried to persuade President Macron of France to leave the European Union. Days ago Trump told a crowd in North Dakota that “the European Union, of course, was set up to take advantage of the United States, to attack our piggy bank.” Trump apparently ‘joked’ about pulling the US out of NATO with the Prime Minister of Sweden. More strikingly, he told G-7 members in Canada earlier this month that “NATO is as bad as NAFTA.”

What The Times of London calls a “senior EU diplomat” says of these comments and gambits, “we are more and more concerned they are not just incidents. It starts to look like a very worrying pattern” and refers to “an American doctrine in which there are no friends, only enemies” with no “rules-based order”. “It is very dangerous,” the source told the paper.

Some of this comes from Trump’s longstanding protectionist views which I would argue are rooted in his zero sum concept of deal-making. But the role of Russia, the efforts to liquidate NATO and the continuing and aggressive courtship of Putin show it is part of some broader agenda. Someone, eventually, will have to place some check on Trump’s power. For the moment, the entire cadre of political appointees in the administration and the leadership of Congress appears entirely inert and passive, if not outright supportive. It is important to remember that the President has zero constitutional authority over trade policy. That is 100% on loan from Congress. It’s remarkable that this is all happening before our eyes and no one in power is taking any stand or action to counter it.

We’re in a lot of danger.

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