CHARLOTTE, N.C., March 27, 2017 — Donald Trump has his detractors, but you have to give him credit: When he wants to make a point, he does it in true Trumpish-style.
Several media sources reported behind the scenes reasons why Trump’s meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel last week was icier than midday at the top of Mt. Everest.
According to reports, Trump handed Merkel an invoice. Not a small bill that would merely agitate the chancellor, but a whopping 370-billion-dollar statement, including interest, for money Germany owes to NATO.
Whether the Germans have any intention of covering even a small percentage of the fee is a story for another day, but Trump certainly made his point to Europe and other free-loading nations who have not paid their fair share. It was like a Republican version of “the rich need to pay more taxes.” Or, in this case, Europe needs to pay some of its taxes.
Reports were that Trump handed his early Christmas present to Merkel in a private meeting, but, given the manner in which it was done, that was about the only part of his strategy that could be labeled minimally embarrassing for Merkel. The only thing worse would have been giving her the bill during a public session.
According to the “Times of Israel” a German government minister said that Merkel was not intimidated by Trump’s not-so-subtle message. Said the minister, “The concept behind putting out such demands is to intimidate the other side, but the Chancellor took it calmly and will not respond to such provocations.”
These maneuvers by the new president are the sort of tactics that drive anti-Trumpers insane and keep the Trump faithful giving each other high fives on a regular basis. Whether or not this kind of strategy will work may not be known for some time.
The “Times of Israel” reminded its readers that Trump made his point about NATO payments on numerous occasions while on the campaign trail. That said, those statements were frequently lost in the daily media frenzy over more exciting issues, like immigration, terror and Obamacare.
In 2014, Germany and all the other NATO countries agreed to pay two percent of their Gross Domestic Products on defense. Of the 28 member countries, only a few paid their fair share while the others took the traditional kick-the-can, out-of-sight-out-of-mind approach.
Germany spent approximately 1.23 percent of GDP, about 62 percent of its commitment, and is said to be increasing its contributions. But Trump wants to make the point that the free ride from the U.S. for the rest of the West is over.
For nearly a year, Trump has insisted that the United States might halt defense obligations to Western allies if they were not pulling their own financial weight. This threat could play into the hands of terror organizations, which might also be willing to challenge U.S. commitments, knowing that the United States has long offered assistance to friendly nations and worried about the consequences later.
In a common response to claims that Trump lacked qualifications for the presidency, Germany argued that Trump was ignorant of the way NATO works, and that each country decides how much to contribute according to their individual financial obligations at any given time.
The ever and always optimistic Trump tweeted after his meeting with Merkel that despite reports of a cool reception on both sides, the meeting went very well.
Stay tuned. Getting accurate news these days is more difficult than ever before, but there will certainly be other controversial meetings as the completely confused national media attempts to get a grip on how to report the maverick in the White House.
The same will be true of other Western nations and their leaders, and the primary reason for the confusion will be because Trump rarely reveals his hand until it is absolutely necessary.
Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe. He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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