The world’s media suspected that President Trump would not stay on script during Tuesday’s NATO summit in London, and they were not disappointed. Whether it was calling impeachment ringleader Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) a “maniac” and a “deranged human being,” or taking French President Emmanuel Macron to task over his handling of returned ISIS fighters, the president made this meeting of world leaders purely Trump-centric.
Yet something has been missing. An undercurrent here is neither being reported on nor spoken about, and it appears most players just wish it to be ignored. Far from being a strong bastion of mutual cooperation, NATO suffers under the weight of a European Union project that would all but gut the organization’s power: PESCO.
An EU Army?
Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) is a project that brings together military forces from members under the E.U. flag. It describes its scope as:
“The aim is to jointly develop defence capabilities and make them available for EU military operations. This will enhance the EU’s capacity as an international security actor, contribute to the protection of EU citizens and maximise the effectiveness of defence spending.
“The difference between PESCO and other forms of cooperation is the legally binding nature of the commitments undertaken by the participating Member States.”
With PESCO in place, who needs NATO? If all E.U. national armies are under the control of a single body, a threat to one becomes a threat to all – almost exactly the framework for how NATO functions.
Just before the summit began, Macron took a swipe at the United States and President Trump, stating that NATO had become “brain dead.” His implication was that the United States (the organization’s biggest guarantor) was not putting its full weight behind the treaty and therefore rendered it ineffective. Trump responded to the criticism, saying these comments were “nasty” and “very insulting.”
But just who is not giving full co-operation? Is it the country that asks others to pay their fair share? Or could it be the nations actively involved in creating a legally binding supranational army of their own? Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the EU Commission – all complain about President Trump’s hardline stance when it comes to meeting their 2% obligation, yet they fail to acknowledge that they are in the process of building a replacement Euro-centric alliance.
The Meat of the Matter
In reality, this particular NATO summit is about one thing only: bringing America back to the table to solve issues with which the E.U. cannot cope. European leaders may take Trump to task for withdrawing from Syria, but they need a united front in their attempts to rein in President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey.
Erdoğan and Macron have disagreed publicly on what constitutes a terrorist organization, causing the Turkish leader to state, “If our friends at Nato don’t recognize as terrorist organizations those we consider terrorist organizations … we will stand against any step that will be taken there.”
Just before leaving Turkey, Erdoğan also said that he would not approve any plans to defend Lithuania, Poland, Latvia, or Estonia in the event of Russian attacks unless NATO fully recognized the Kurdish YPG militia as a terrorist group. This is a fundamental issue for NATO; if partner nations refuse to answer their obligations unless terms are met, then the alliance holds no sway.
NATO needs President Trump and the United States to step in and start taking names. If Trump demands certain conditions – conditions the other nations have already agreed to honor – that is his right. As with dinner parties, so it goes with politics: He who pays the tab hosts the table.
Read more from Mark Angelides.