Trump Acts Like An A-hole At NATO Because Of Course He Does

Ken AshfordForeign Affairs, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

Donald Trump opened his visit to NATO by doubling down on his efforts to attack America’s closest allies and deploying his I’m-not-a-puppet-you’re-a-puppet defense on Russia.

Trump: Germany, as far as I’m concerned, is captive to Russia because it’s getting so much of its energy from Russia. Germany is a captive of Russia, It’s very inappropriate.

When he was confronted by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg with the need for the alliance to stay united in the response to Germany, Trump dismissed the idea with contempt, saying that Germany had “gotten rid of all its coal and nuclear.” And, according to the Washington Post, Trump followed up with a declaration that seemed just one step short of walking away from the alliance.

Trump: We’re supposed to protect Germany but getting their energy from Russia. So explain that. And it can’t be explained and you know that.

Trump then stated that NATO was only “making Russia richer,” though he did not explain how. This opening, with Trump making blunt and inaccurate statements, then refusing to listen when others tried to correct his information, showed that he is still intent on weakening the alliance that has protected American interests for 70 years, still intent on dividing Europe over the subject of Russia, and still deaf to the concerns of America’s strongest allies.

The truth is that Germany has not “gotten rid of its coal.” In fact, German coal consumption has not decreased in two decades—though it now imports most of its coal from Australia, because the cost of mining remaining reserves in Germany is higher than the price of imports. German coal consumption is actually up slightly since 2010 and coal makes up a larger proportion of electrical generation in Germany than it does in the United States. Nuclear plants have begun to be phased out, with a plan to bring them offline accelerated after protests following the Fukushima disaster in Japan, but

Germany does import a lot of power—over half its energy comes from imports—but Russia is not at the top of that list. According to Clean Energy Wire, natural gas makes up 22.6 percent of Germany’s energy imports. Those imports were split almost equally between Russia, Norway, and the Netherlands. Russia also has about 39 percent of Germany’s market for imported oil used, as in the U.S., for transportation. But Germany simply has next to no oil and gas. It’s not a matter of shutting down local production and taking gas from Russia. There is no local production.

But the biggest source of new power in Germany hasn’t been Russia—it’s been renewables. The big change in Germany over the last two decades has been the rapid, successful, and cost-effective growth of solar, wind, and off-shore wind. Renewables now make up 14 percent of Germany’s electrical production, and that number is growing rapidly.

Which is why Trump is taking this special opportunity to attack them.

It’ s no coincidence that Trump’ s attack on Germany combines Russia, coal, and nuclear power all in one big mash-up. Because Germany is everything that Trump is working against in one bundle: They’re maintaining a democracy that is pushing back against right-wing white nationalism, they’re fighting back against Russia’s influence in both Europe and their local politics, and they’re rapidly building a base of renewable power that is set to displace their need for imported fossil fuels.

On the other hand, Trump is trying to demean renewable power and is pushing to use emergency executive power—under rules untapped since the 1950s—to force American electrical producers to retain coal and nuclear plants despite a higher cost. He’s pushing a program that is entirely based around the idea that limiting immigration to those with “merit” and turning away refugees is necessary to hold off crime.

It’s entirely in Trump’s interest to paint Germany—one of the most successful nations of the 21st century—as a kind of failed state, where Muslim immigrants pillage through the streets, the lights would go out without the help of Vladimir Putin, and the United States picks up the tab for their defense.

None of it is true. But that will not stop Trump from presenting this model.

Because the idea that a state can be welcoming to immigrants and refugees, and turn their dependence on fossil fuels into a rapid growth of renewables—and improve energy efficiency by 18 percent in just eight years — is a threat. A threat to the story he is selling.

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