The Post World War II Order, Pax Americana and the world as we know it are all coming to an end. Habitually reserved German Chancellor Angela Merkel, having drunk a little more good Bavarian beer than a politician of her stature is allowed, declared that loud and clear “The times when we could completely rely on others are, to an extent, over… I experienced that in the last a few days, and therefore I can only say that we Europeans must really take our fate into our own hands..." The press was ecstatic to hear the words. The speed at which the new gospel spread would put the combined efforts of all twelve Apostles to shame. Mrs. Merkel’s statement was bombastic and uncharacteristic. However, the media attention it drew has concealed the real reasons for the Chancellor’s outburst and unquestionably assumed the validity of her conclusion.
Notwithstanding the President’s ungentlemanly behaviour, no extraordinary actions or announcements by Mr. Trump threatening integrity of the Transatlantic Alliance transpired during his sojourn either at the NATO or G7 summits. However, if good manners were a reason to declare NATO imminent demise, the organization would not probably exist since the days of General De Gaulle. The scepticism the American President displayed towards the Paris Climate Accord can hardly be considered a threat to the future of NATO. There was a pass at German car manufactures, but many respected economists consider German export-import policies akin the ones exercised by China. The NATO related statement of perceived controversy attered by the President dealt with the military spending of the Alliance members. It is impossible to argue with that declaration. The US accounts for 75% of NATO military spending. Moreover, only few NATO countries spend at least 2% of their GDP on defense as was agreed in 2006 among the member states. Germany’s military budget has been declining since 1991 and now stands at mere 1.2% of the GDP.
After the end of the World War II, the US assumed a leading role in defense of Europe and the West in general. It was a practical and the only option given the destruction of the rest of the world and the overwhelming strength of the American economy. It’s been more than seventy years since the defeat of Nazism. The world has changed dramatically. Europe has rebuilt itself and the EU economy rivals its Western hemisphere counterpart in many respects. Given the intensity and complexity of the threats facing the world order, Europe's reluctance to invest in defense is nothing short of scandalous. Indeed, Europe wants to continue relying on the US for defense in both the military spending and manpower. Unfortunately, the economic and political realities make this proposition unfeasible. That sentiment was expressed (in a less public setting) by at least two other presidents before Mr. Trump. Americans are no longer willing to be the mighty Titan holding up the blue sky above the civilized world. Alas, Mrs. Merkel seems to be upset by the giant’s capricious behaviour.
The bluster of the Chancellor’s declaration is a pretzel without a dough. The “soft power” is great concept when dealing with Burkina Faso. When faced with an aggressive power willing and able to exercise its military strength, this beautiful theoretical construct becomes a disaster. As Russian aggression in Ukraine or Turkey’s behaviour during the refugee crisis have clearly demonstrated, EU has no potent answers to the forces threatening its security. The events of the last few years have unequivocally showed there is no military force, but the American one, capable to defend Europe against real threats such as Putin’s Russia. The NATO participants have complained about Mr. Trump not reiterating the US commitment to the Article 5. That was a sad omission. However, the facts on the ground speak louder than words. The American forces are steadily increasing its deployment across all NATO countries bordering Russia (including the Baltic states). They are providing training and military hardware to the Ukrainian Army. Moreover, even when President Obama had publicly given up on Mr. Putin (in his typical ambiguous way), the Chancellor continued her attempts at convincing the new Tzar of unholiness of his actions. Hence, it is absolutely unclear what Mrs. Merkel, known to be a friend of logic and reason, meant by saying the Europeans should “take our fate into our own hands...".