Donald Trump has made it pretty clear that he wants to do to NATO what he did to the G7 -- blow it up. Trump has always been a bully; and he's not going to change. Michael Harris writes:
Some NATO members have already received a dunning letter from Trump demanding more defence spending as a percentage of GDP. If they don’t hop to it, the president is threatening to reconsider U.S. troop deployments abroad.
In other words, he will take his soldiers from places like Germany, where they have been stationed for decades, and go home.
Would he actually do it? You betcha and at the drop of a tweet. This is the man who has circled the wagons around America at every opportunity on the international stage. He’s shunned the Paris Climate Accord, the UN Human Rights Commission, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Iran nuclear deal. He recently said NATO was as bad as NAFTA, which of course he’s also thinking tearing up.
So, to keep the alliance together, should Trump be placated? That response would be catastrophic. In the end, there's always only been one way to deal with a bully. And that's the way NATO should deal with Trump:
The other approach to Trump would be to treat him as the bully and psychopathic liar that he is. For those who mistake the office for the man, who confuse the presidency with Trump, this is seen as irresponsible schoolyard talk.
But the office never sanctifies the man, at least not in a democracy. Occasionally, there is wisdom in the schoolyard, and nothing but cowardice in fake displays of diplomatic normality.
For NATO to rein in Trump, it means taking a page out of Trudeau’s book in the wake of the president’s G7 shenanigans. Just as the PM said of Canadians, NATO should make clear that its members can’t be pushed around — no matter who is doing the pushing.
Have a conversation about the financial arrangements of the alliance, to be sure. But don’t bow and scrape to the bully’s demands, because with this guy, you may never get off your knees again.
Psychologists would call standing up to Trump creating new, healthy boundaries for the relationship. The message is simple enough: the U.S. is powerful, but not all-powerful. Yes it’s a great country, but there’s a limit to American exceptionalism.
The new normal can’t be one member of NATO dictating terms to all the others. The foundation of the relationship with Trump must be that no one in the room is intimidated by his belligerence or brainlessly starry-eyed over the office he holds.
Such an approach will not humble Trump. But it will leave him out in the cold -- where he belongs.
Image: JSTOR Daily