According to President Trump’s political opponents, his performance at a NATO summit today represented proof positive that Trump is a Russian agent. According to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Trump demonstrated fealty to Vladimir Putin:
President Trump’s brazen insults and denigration of one of America’s most steadfast allies, Germany, is an embarrassment. His behavior this morning is another profoundly disturbing signal that the president is more loyal to President Putin than to our NATO allies.
So what did Trump do wrong?
He said two things that made waves. First, he accused NATO nations of skimping on their national security spending. In 2014, NATO signatories pledged to President Obama that they’d aim for spending 2% of their respective GDPs on defense; this provision was presumably aimed at Russia. But few NATO signatories have met that mark so far, even though they are moving steadily in that direction. Trump stated, “I think that’s inappropriate also. You know, we’re protecting Germany, we’re protecting France. We’re protecting everybody. And yet we’re paying a lot of money to protect.”
Second, Trump suggested that Germany’s protests against Russia seemed empty given their willingness to sign onto natural gas deals with the Russian government. Jim Geraghty of National Review has the details:
If you think Trump’s past business connections to Russian figures are troubling, you probably ought to be livid about how former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s has decided to become the chief lobbyist for Vladimir Putin in Europe. One of Schroeder’s last acts in office in 2005 was authorizing “Nord Stream,” a pipeline bypassing key territories and controlled by Russia’s Gazprom energy company. Shortly after leaving office, Vladimir Putin arranged for Schroeder to chair the project, and then he started pushing for a second pipeline, Nord Stream 2. Instead of diversifying Europe’s energy supply, Schroeder’s pushed policies that make the continent more dependent upon Russia, not less. In September 2017, Putin arranged for Schroeder to become chairman of Rosneft, the state-owned Russian oil giant.
So is Trump wrong? The same media that spend reams of paper documenting Trump’s connections with Russia — which, they suggest, demonstrate Trump’s secret loyalty to the Kremlin — have said nothing about Schroeder. And now they’re ripping into Trump for . . . complaining about Germany’s connections with Russia?
Now, maybe people are skeptical that Trump is criticizing NATO and Germany in particular for good reason — perhaps they think that he’s really just attempting to undermine them. Why, then, would he be calling for more spending on anti-Russian defense? Why would he be chastising Germany for doing deals with Russia?
Perhaps Trump is just mouthing off. But until he actually capitulates to Putin, it’s difficult to claim that he’s capitulating to Putin by calling for harsher action against Russia.