AntiWar.com & Edward Malnick / The Telegraph – 2018-07-09 00:18:28
NATO Fears Trump May Threaten to Pull Troops
From Europe If They Don’t Increase Spending
Trump’s demands loom larger ahead of Putin summit
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(July 8, 2018) — President Trump’s visit to the NATO summit in Brussels in expected to come with a whole flurry of demands for NATO nations to increase military spending. This is virtually a constant for NATO summits, and normally wouldn’t be a big issue.
That Trump will be meeting with Vladimir Putin almost immediately thereafter, however, have NATO nations taking a lot more notice, and diplomats predicting Trump will make threats to redraw the security landscape in Europe if NATO doesn’t give him what he wants.
Diplomats are quoted as predicting that Trump will threaten to pull US troops out of Ukraine, and ultimately out of Europe in general over the spending demands. He may even refuse to take part in joint NATO exercises going forward if they don’t spend more money.
It’s not clear any of this is actually being considered. US reports have suggested Trump may be interested in a drawdown in Germany, but the much greater changes seem to just be further panicky speculation built around Europe’s general opposition to the Trump-Putin summit.
NATO Fears Donald Trump May Pull Troops Out of Europe
If Countries Do Not Increase Defense Spending
Edward Malnick, Whitehall Editor / The Telegraph
LONDON (July 8, 2018) — Donald Trump could threaten to pull US troops out of Ukraine and refuse to take part in joint NATO exercises if Britain and other European countries fail to commit to increased spending on defense, military figures and diplomats fear.
Senior sources involved in preparations for this week’s NATO summit are concerned that the US president will begin talks with Vladimir Putin about “redrawing the security landscape” across Europe if leaders refuse to meet Mr. Trump’s demands to shoulder a bigger share of the military “burden”.
Military and diplomatic figures told The Telegraph of fears over a possible offer that Mr. Trump could make to Mr. Putin at a planned summit between the two leaders in Helsinki on July 16 — four days after Thursday’s summit in Brussels.
Separately, speaking to The Telegraph, Tobias Ellwood, the defense minister, warned: “Given the US’s footprint in Europe and Putin’s recent hostile actions that has eroded continental stability, much hinges on the outcome of the two forthcoming summits. And Britain, as Europe’s largest and most capable military force, is right to play an influencing role in US thinking.”
It comes as Britain’s ambassador to America today launches a staunch defense of the UK-US relationship under Donald Trump, insisting military ties remain “stronger than ever” despite some policy differences.
Writing in the Telegraph ahead of Mr. Trump’s UK visit, Sir Kim Darroch admits that both countries have had to talk “frankly” over issues such as steel tariffs and the Iran nuclear deal.
However he adds that it is only because Britain and America have a relationship that is “so close and open” that they can share their grievances with honesty.
The US has a military presence, ranging from troops to aircraft, in Ukraine, Poland, Germany, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia.
The US had been scaling back its presence in Europe until Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, when Barack Obama launched a major drive to support and train the armed forces of NATO states on Russia’s borders, to guard against future aggressive moves. Only last month America led a joint NATO exercise in Poland and the Baltic states, involving 18,000 soldiers.
A diplomatic source said officials feared that Mr. Trump would use this week’s summit to withdraw American military support over the spending row. “Ukraine is really in danger,” the source said.
An official familiar with Britain’s preparations for the summit added: “We could be in a situation where, between them, Trump and Putin will come up with some dodgy deal that they’ll try to portray as a political win to both their countries but will ultimately leave Europe exposed and vulnerable at a crucial moment in our history with so much instability on the continent.”
Britain is one of only five states that currently meets a NATO targets of spending 2 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on defense, with Spain and Belgium spending 0.9 percent, and Germany’s contribution set at 1.2 percent.
Mr. Ellwood said: “As we make the case for further UK defense spending so should our NATO allies. The world is becoming more dangerous, the threats more complex and growing on multiple fronts. So it’s understandable for the US to air frustration and ask European nations to do more — especially as some states are yet to meet their standard 2 percent obligation.
“And it’s in Europe’s direct interest to upgrade our defense posture, as our economies, heavily reliant on access to international markets, will be affected if we can’t guarantee security for that access as well as put out potential fires in future markets.”
Mr. Trump wants Theresa May to go further on defense spending, and in a letter to Gavin Williamson, the Defense Secretary, Jim Mattis, his US counterpart said America was concerned that Britain’s military power and diplomatic influence were “at risk of erosion”.
Last week it emerged that Mr. Trump was already considering transferring or withdrawing personnel from Germany, where the US currently has around 35,000 troops. For decades, America’s military presence in Germany has been viewed as a bulwark against a potential Russian invasion of Europe.
The diplomatic source warned that Mr. Trump could use the offer of cutting back the US military presence in Europe to secure a reciprocal assurance from Mr. Putin in Helsinki that Russia will use its influence on Tehran to help secure the withdrawal of Iranian troops from Syria.
Israel views Iran’s presence in Syria as an existential threat. The source claimed that Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, has tried to persuade both Mrs May and Mr. Trump of the need to enlist Mr. Putin’s help.
The source warned that Mr. Putin’s ability to achieve Iran’s withdrawal from Syria was questionable, and warned against Mr. Trump making any offer in exchange for a false promise.
“Russia pretends it can deliver to achieve these short-term aims. They just need the hook to get [Trump] on.
“We need to be in a very strong position in the West to negotiate with Russia . . . [which would be threatened by] cutting some kind of theoretical deal which sounds purely naive.”
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