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New Cold War clouds are dispersing

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | May 26, 2017

Imagine if former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh were to have suddenly arrived in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on September 27, 2014 to deliver a speech at Harvard and had received a welcome like a rock star – and all this to steal the thunder from his successor Prime Minister Modi on the eve of the latter’s famous Madison Square Garden event. Well, that was more or less what Barack Obama did in Berlin on May 25 just as President Donald Trump arrived in Brussels for the NATO summit. The German Chancellor Angela Merkel was alongside Obama. (Deutsche Welle )

Trump’s first trip to Europe as president has witnessed an incredible surge of the fault lines in the western camp since the Obama presidency ended and the alchemy of the US’ trans-Atlantic leadership began changing. But the really stunning thing came when Trump blasted the US’ 23 NATO allies who have not paid up their outstanding dues to the alliance’s budget – Germany included. Germany point blank refuses to pay up. With a Mona Lisa smile, Merkel watched Trump launch the tirade (here).

Where is the western alliance heading? To be sure, Trump is not mellowing on the demand that the US tax payer will not underwrite NATO budget anymore. He made an inter alia reference to the “threat from Russia” but didn’t care to elaborate, leave alone call it “Russian aggression”, which used to be a common refrain in Obamaspeak. Trump made no direct references to Ukraine or Crimea. Nor did he show any interest in the NATO’s forward deployments on Russia’s borders, which has been the alliance’s main agenda since the 2014 summit in Wales, which was a landmark event heralding New Cold War. A hefty portion of the Wales Summit Declaration, stretching over a dozen paragraphs or so, was devoted to condemning Russia. It began as follows:

  • We condemn in the strongest terms Russia’s escalating and illegal military intervention in Ukraine and demand that Russia stop and withdraw its forces from inside Ukraine and along the Ukrainian border. This violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is a serious breach of international law and a major challenge to Euro-Atlantic security. We do not and will not recognise Russia’s illegal and illegitimate ‘annexation’ of Crimea. We demand that Russia comply with international law and its international obligations and responsibilities; end its illegitimate occupation of Crimea; refrain from aggressive actions against Ukraine; withdraw its troops; halt the flow of weapons, equipment, people and money across the border to the separatists; and stop fomenting tension along and across the Ukrainian border.

Trump has not expressed any commitment to Article V of the NATO Charter, which affirms the core principle of collective security. He is insisting that NATO should re-orient its activities and the priority ought to be the fight against terrorism. The NATO has said that it will join the US-led coalition to fight terrorism but will not undertake combat missions.

There is still more to come as Trump proceeded from Brussels to the medieval Sicilian coastal town of Taormina in Italy for the G7 summit stretching a day and a half. Consensus-making at the G7 will be a tough job on issues such as migration, security and climate change where Trump has voiced strong opinions diverging from the mainstream western position. A Guardian commentary notes: “no one knows if Donald Trump, reaching the end of an exhausting week-long tour, will take to world summitry. Multilateral fora would not seem his natural habitat: he is hardly likely to be interested in the dense final communiques these meetings tend to produce… The risk is that – on a range of agenda items – Trump finds himself in the G1. His six colleagues, with varying degrees of emphasis, are likely to want to change his instincts… According to diplomats, the leaders have been exchanging views on how best to engage Trump…”

Moscow and Beijing will be quietly pleased at these happenings. Without doubt, the New Cold War clouds are dispersing. Of course, NATO is not about to disintegrate. But then, it has lost its raison d’etre and will be hard-pressed to regain its old elan as in the Obama era. A senior White House official in Trump’s entourage has said that the US is yet to determine its stance on the sanctions against Russia – “I think the president is looking at it. Right now we don’t have a position.”

The G7 will discuss relations with Russia. Japan and Italy have reservations over the efficacy of the policy of sanctions against Russia. What emerges is that unlike Obama, Trump won’t lift his little finger to arm twist the US’ European allies to keep the sanctions in place and “isolate” Russia. The big question is whether without US pressure, there could be any EU consensus to renew the sanctions against Russia. Moscow seems to sense the shift in the alignments. (Read my blog A Franco-Russian ‘thaw’ is in the offing.)

May 26, 2017 - Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. The clouds are gathering, not dispersing. Trump isn’t going to be able to continue and the people who want conflict are going to get rid of him and confront Russia. Additionally, Trump cannot be expected to act prudently.

    Comment by altheperson | May 27, 2017 | Reply


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