Trump’s European Trip Best Week of Presidency

Member Group : Marc Scaringi

Many are calling President Trump’s dual summits with the leaders of North American Treaty Organization (NATO)-member nations in Brussels and with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, the worst week of his presidency.

They’re wrong. It could be one of his best.

In Brussels, to strengthen NATO, Trump ramped up the volume to a near roar on his call for our allies to increase defense spending. Trump raised such a fuss at the NATO summit that he may succeed in shaming our parsimonious friends into contributing more.

In Helsinki, to ease tensions between the world’s two nuclear superpowers, Trump pledged to reverse course on the dangerous direction of our current relationship with Russia, which Trump bluntly stated had, “…never been worse than it is now.”

Before departing for Europe, Trump had resumed blasting our NATO allies for not paying their “fair share,” for being “delinquent” and for “ripping off” Americans. Once in Brussels, at a meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, Trump delivered a stinging rebuke of fellow NATO-member, Germany.

Trump declared Germany “a captive of Russia,” for allowing itself to become dependent upon Russia for its energy needs. Russia, according to our European friends, is the nation America is supposed to protect them against.

Trump fired back that allies cannot be together when they’re getting their energy from Russia. One doesn’t need a master’s degree in foreign policy to understand that being dependent upon one’s enemy for the energy needed to run one’s economy and military does not make one stronger.

Incredibly, still not grasping this truism, Stoltenberg responded again with the same “stronger together” mantra he tried the first time, saying, “…when we stand together…when dealing with Russia, we’re stronger.”

Trump, like an irritated school teacher trying to break through to an obtuse student, replied, “No…you’re not dealing with Russia. You’re just making Russia richer.” Stoltenberg just stared back blankly at Trump. It’s easy to see why Trump gets so frustrated with our NATO allies.

In his private meeting with NATO leaders Trump read out loud the defense spending of each member nation sometimes adding an aside criticizing that nation’s leader for not spending more.

Trump denounced their goal of increasing defense spending to 2 percent of their gross domestic product by 2024 as too little too late. He demanded they double it to 4 percent.

Message having been delivered, it was on to Helsinki.

Before his Helsinki summit, Trump, posting to Twitter, laid the blame for the deplorable state of US-Russian relations where it belonged: “Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!”

Trump is referring to the foreign policy of previous U.S. administrations that antagonized Russia where the U.S. had no national interest and the never-ending effort by Special Counsel Robert Mueller to prove collusion in the 2016 election when it’s obvious there was none.

Trump is concerned the Mueller investigation may impede his ability to work toward better relations with Russia.

And, he knows that US-Russian cooperation in the war against Islamic extremism in Syria, achieving denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and insuring a non-nuclear Iran are far more important to the American people than anything Mueller is doing.

Thankfully, Putin is showing patience and restraint; he even took the time during the joint news conference to try to dampen down this hysteria by explaining how, “The Cold War is a thing of the past. The era of acute ideological confrontation of the two countries is a thing of the remote past, a vestige of the past.”

That remonstrance was lost on the U.S. media whose first question to Trump was designed to goad him into publicly castigating Putin. Exhibiting great diplomatic skill, Trump chose not to take the bait.

Yet because of his attempt at rapprochement with Russia, Trump has withstood some of the worst criticism of any president in our nation’s history.

Speaking directly into these ferocious political headwinds, Trump delivered a courageous response, “I would rather take a political risk in pursuit of peace than to risk peace in pursuit of politics.”

By educating our European allies on how to build a stronger NATO and pledging to achieve a good working relationship with the world’s only other nuclear superpower, despite seemingly overwhelming opposition at home, Trump has earned another profile in courage.

PennLive Opinion contributor Marc A. Scaringi was a Donald Trump delegate to the Republican National Convention in 2016. He is an attorney and radio host, whose work appears biweekly. He writes from Camp Hill.