Written, I assume, by White House senior advisor Stephen Miller who is a long time outspoken critic of US participation in NATO, the speech given by President Trump in Brussels yesterday was probably more notable for what it did not say that for what it did.
While perfectly in order for Donald Trump to repeat the now well aired view that America’s allies must pay a fair share of the burden of NATO costs and that America is no longer prepared to shoulder the extent of the existing burden it carries in Europe if those here are not prepared pay a reasonable share (this based on the fact that 23 of the current 28 NATO member states are still spending under the 2% agreed level for defence of which 20% must be spent on equipment) what matter most about NATO related events in the Brussels speech yesterday was the exclusion by President Trump to explicitly reaffirm commitment to Article 5 of the NATO treaty – the well written one for all, all for one principle and doctrine that unpins the reasons for NATO. Not surprisingly, such absence of renewed commitment by Trump has caused further alarm.
British Prime Minister, Theresa May appeared to me to be as bewildered as the rest of her fellow NATO leaders who were attending the event at the new NATO headquarters. She would during the course of the day no doubt express annoyance to the US president over information leaks by the US that allowed the New York Times to publish unhelpful photographs of the terrorist attack in Manchester. It is of course hugely important that the UK and US share security information between them and the hope is that the visit by US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson to London today will provide reassurance that leaks such as those that have taken place will never be allowed to occur again.
Back to Brussels yesterday – there was to be no acceptance and not even the slightest recognition by Donald Trump in his speech yesterday or in the body language come to that of the huge role that Europe plays in respect of its ongoing contribution to peace and stability or indeed, of the terrible history that led to the creation of NATO in April 1949. I regret that as much as any of you but as someone suggested to me yesterday, that is what you get when you elect someone who is in effect, ignorant of history.
So be it but that does not mean that we can afford to ignore the underlying message or refute it. Suffice to say that the body language of many leaders present said it all and if one was to ignore all that President Trump either did or did not say, I think that the take-away message now is that NATO should never just be taken for granted.
Funding and matters related to the amount that countries should be spending on defence aside, Trump rhetoric on NATO is as sad as it is misplaced and potentially dangerous. For a start it sends the wrong message to our enemies and just as he had done two days earlier, following the Manchester suicide bombing when whatever the fight is was taken to ‘children’ I agree with those who say that trump’s calling of Manchester’s bombers as “losers” is completely inappropriate. Controlled hate would have been a far more appropriate stance for Trump to take.
One of my US chums suggested to me yesterday that against the backdrop of the Manchester bombing, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn appears rather like an old photographic negative plate – in other words the inverse of what is required in all respects. Today, Mr. Corbyn is likely to dig himself further into an already very deep hole claiming in a speech:
“That many experts have pointed to the connections between wars our government has supported or fought in other countries and terrorism here at home”
Such references are based on Corbyn’s belief that UK and allied intervention in Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan and Syria are the central cause of increased terrorist actions and atrocities committed in Britain over recent years. While Corbyn will apparently say that “The above assessment in no way reduces the guilt of those who attack our children and that those terrorists will forever be reviled and held to account for their actions” but he will also expound theories suggesting that “informed understanding of the causes of terrorism is an essential part of an effective response that will protect the security of our people that fights rather than fuels terrorism.” What nonsense this is – terrorism in all its ugly forms is evil and it is most often born of hatred of democracy.
Corbyn’s answer to the various terrorist and security issues and threats we face is to say that “we must be brave enough to admit the war on terror is not working and that we need a smarter way to reduce the threat from countries that nurture terrorists and generate terrorism”. No Mr. Corbyn – terrorist actions and threats are most usually based on a desire of a minority to have total power over a people and to destroy the core elements of that society and those that support them. It is about destruction of the status quo and all that we have known and stand for.
So, notwithstanding that Mr Corbyn would not have Britain supporting its NATO and other allies in the fight to rid the world of ISIL, that he would probably have closed his eyes to Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait not to mention the genocide and killing of an estimated 50,000 of his own people, Libyan atrocities including Lockerbie and the thousands of innocent lives lost at the hands of ISIL, I fear that if left to Mr. Corbyn, the results of both world wars might have been very different.
This man is a danger to the peace and stability of the world. Bad enough when countries elect second-hand car salesmen as presidents and who have too little recollection or willingness to accept the lessons of history, but to close your eyes to reality and plead on the side of the terrorist blaming his actions on us is as unacceptable as it is dangerous. A vote for Corbyn is I am afraid.
CHW (London – 26th May 2017)
Howard Wheeldon FRAeS
Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd,
M: +44 7710 779785