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More damaging still is the fact that so few Nato states meet the organisation’s decade-old commitment to spending at least 2 per cent of GDP on defence, a commitment only satisfied by five out of the Nato 28, something that also led Barack Obama to talk of “free-riders”, and he was far from the first American president to grumble. The US shells out some 3.6 per cent, mighty Greece comes next with 2.4 per cent and the only other countries to hit the target are the UK, Estonia and Poland.  France comes close with 1.8 per cent, and the other Baltic States are, wisely, scrambling to catch up. The rest of Nato falls far short: Angela Merkel may be being hailed by some as the leader of the free world in the wake of Trump’s triumph, but her country only spends 1.2 per cent. Others are even stingier: Canada, home of Justin Trudeau, hero of Davos, coughs up just 0.99 per cent.

Trump has hinted that Nato countries that don’t pay their way might not be able to count on the US coming to their aid as required by the mutual defence obligations that underpin the alliance. He has since backtracked somewhat, and the optimistic take is that those remarks were simply an example of Trump the negotiator at work, putting pressure on partners in breach of their part of a deal. Maybe, but Trump is playing a dangerous game. Deterrence must be credible. Any suggestion that America would not protect a vulnerable Nato ally increases the chance that Putin might be tempted to try his luck. This only underlines the importance of Trump’s security and diplomatic hires. For Trump to pick hawks, like, say, John Bolton, a former US ambassador to the UN, or former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, would send one message; recruiting former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (who has described Estonia as “a place in the suburbs of St Petersburg”) quite another.

But Russia’s leader is more cautious than often understood. Much has, rightly, been made both of Trump’s need to win and — how shall I put this — poor anger management skills. Putin is unlikely to want to provoke The Donald, and, contrary to the fears of some critics, he can only go so far in wooing him. Yes, both men have strong authoritarian streaks (under Trump, America will be grateful for the checks and balances still built into its system), both see themselves as tough guys and both reject the attempt to create a supranationalist world order — in Putin’s case, by word and deed; in Trump’s, so far, only by word. “Americanism”, he has declared, “not globalism, will be our credo.” But these similarities will not be enough to transform Trump into Putin’s patsy. Trump evidently (and not unreasonably) doubts that Russia poses an existential threat to the US — he seems ready to co-operate with Moscow in Syria — but if Putin pushes Trump in ways that Trump thinks matter, Trump will push back.

But what Trump thinks matters will differ from what the US has thought mattered in the past. There is some point, he has said, beyond which America “cannot be the policeman of the world”, a line that resonates with those communities, many of them in regions that voted for Trump, who have lost so many of their own in wars where the US was doing just that. 

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Juggling For A Cure
January 16th, 2017
2:01 AM
Liberal media and celebrities were acidic toward Trump before election as well. However they did not remember that acid turns blue litmus red.

Milton Ezrati
December 19th, 2016
10:12 AM
Criticism of anything by Andrew Stuttaford always presents a challenge. The problem is he writes so much and is generally so thoughtful and so clever that one cannot help but agree with many of his points. The above has an equivocal title that makes my point - "Trump is No Loser, But Government is Harder". In this one, as with so much written about Trump, it is less his analysis that irritates than his tone. This piece starts with a confession that the author underestimated Trump's ability to take the Republican nomination and a further confession that he underestimated Trump's ability to win the general election. But then, without a hint of further humility, Stuttaford rolls on to examine how Trump's abilities will fall short of the demands of the job. One cannot argue with such a conclusion. I cannot think of anyone who has abilities fully up to the demands of that job. One can only hope that Trump, behind his boastful manner, has enough humility to proceed carefully and to subject his initial attitudes to review. One can only hope, too, that Mr. Stuttaford might reflect on his earlier failures and subject his initial attitudes to review. But he, like so much elite opinion, seems to feel no need to hesitate even for a moment or qualify conclusions in light of past failings. I suspect, though I cannot know, that he, and much elite opinion, cannot help himself because Trump is so unlike him in style, background, and aspiration, and that might be the most mortal of sins. One passage in the article stood out in this regard. About a third of the way through, Stuttaford tells us that Trump has "boasted about hiring the best and letting them get on with it." Then he contrasts that with Trump having added "but I always watch over them." My first problem is his use of the word boasted. Trump is an irritating braggart, but his comment about hiring the best does not sound like a boast at all. On the contrary, it sounds like a promise to the voters and an executive pursuing a well-respected approach to management. Worse is Stuttaford's effort to imply that oversight is somehow a contradiction. An executive, mush less a president, would be a fool to neglect oversight, even of the very best. That is what Eisenhower did with his generals and what many other successful leaders have done. But with tone alone, Mr. Stuttaford leaves the impression that these attitudes reflect inadequacies. There are other examples throughout the article. It is surely Trump's manner that makes good sense sound silly in Stuttaford's ears, but he owes it to his readers to see beyond style to the substance.

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