Tillerson's Teasing Europe
The Trump administration is playing a cruel game with Europe; nobody can be sure where they stand with Nato. Tillerson’s planned no-show at his first meeting in April is the most extreme dismissal of the alliance yet.
Trump has said on the Twitter that he doesn’t support the alliance, but it seems his feed has devolved further into a stream of inconsistent ramblings. On the campaign trail and eve of is inauguration, he thought Nato was “obsolete”.
When Theresa May visited the White House back in January, however, President Trump confirmed his commitment to Nato. Europe, feeling the pressure from Russia, breathed a sigh of relief.The Secretary of State’s decision to prioritise meetings with Russia over a summit with allies is a diplomatic middle finger that will have Europe once again looking nervously east.
Russia, with its oil, already have a considerable hold on European politics. Germany for instance, is heavily reliant on Russian fuel and is hence not as enthusiastic about Russian sanctions as other international partners. The slow unofficial exit of the US from Nato will strengthen Russia’s grip on the region - something the US can’t afford.
One senior EU diplomat called the snub “unfortunate symbolism”. What isn’t symbolic however, is the increasingly assertive Russia. So assertive, in fact, that Sweden has been forced to re-introduce military conscription to face up to the hostile Russian neighbour, which has been known to send in planes and submarines to tease the neutral nation.
President Trump needs to make clear its stance on Nato, and maintain that position. Otherwise he risks alienating America’s key allies and encouraging Russia to be more aggressive still. That is something Europe can’t afford.