Donald Trump has repeatedly done the bidding of his puppet master, Vladimir Putin. Trump has been demanding for years that the G-7 readmit Russia to make it the G-8 again, after Russia was kicked out in 2014 and sanctioned for its annexation of Crimea and invasion of Ukraine – the first such hostile invasion of a sovereign nation in Europe since World War II.
The U.S. is hosting the G-7 this year, so Trump can now invite his puppet master to the U.S., a reward for helping him get elected president in the 2016 election, something he has repeatedly said he wants to do. Trump and Putin discussed his proposal to convene an international summit that would involve Russia on June 1. Kremlin: Trump tells Putin about idea for summit with Russia:
Trump said Saturday he will postpone until the fall a meeting of the G7 leading industrialized nations that he had planned to hold next month, and plans to invite Russia, Australia, South Korea and India. Trump told reporters that he feels the current makeup of the group is “very outdated” and doesn’t properly represent “what’s going on in the world.”
The G7 members are Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States. Russia had been included in the gathering of the world’s most advanced economies since 1997, but was suspended in 2014 following its invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea.
The Kremlin said Monday that Trump told Putin about his idea, but it didn’t offer any details of the discussion or say whether the Russian leader accepted the invitation.
Once again the media learned about this call from the Kremlin, not the White House, and only later did the White House issue a readout of the call.
The readout did not include any mention of what happened just four days later. On June 5, Trump approved plan to withdraw one-third of U.S. troops from Germany (oh, you know Trump and Putin discussed this):
President Trump has signed off on a plan to permanently withdraw up to one-third of about 34,500 U.S. troops currently based in Germany, bringing the total down to no more than 25,000, according to U.S. officials.
Implementation of the plan is being turned over to the Defense Department, a senior administration official said. Defense officials said they had no immediate comment on the subject and referred questions to the White House National Security Council, which did not respond to queries.
Trump pledged during his last presidential campaign to end U.S. involvement in what he has called America’s “forever wars,” primarily in the Middle East and Afghanistan. He has repeatedly threatened to end or reduce the peacetime defensive deployments of troops in Asia and Europe, charging that those countries were not paying enough for what he has described as U.S. protection.
Until now, however, he has made only small reductions — along with a number of increases — in U.S. forces deployed in war zones, while threats to scale back the tens of thousands of U.S. forces in countries such as South Korea, Japan and Germany have not been acted upon.
The reduction plan, pushed by U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, has been closely held within the White House. Grenell has also served for the past several months as acting director of national intelligence, following Trump’s firing of his predecessor, acting director Joseph Maguire, over concerns about Maguire’s staff’s loyalty. Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Tex.) was confirmed for the post last month.
As of late Friday, Germany had not been officially informed of the withdrawal order, which the Wall Street Journal, which first reported it Friday, said had been formally signed by Trump national security adviser Robert O’Brien after the president approved it.
So no consultation with a strategic NATO ally, and this hare-brained plan comes from Trump toadies Richard Grenell and John Ratcliffe, loyalists who would agree to anything “Dear Leader” desires. Grenell has criticized Berlin in public and private for failing to meet the NATO target of spending 2% of GDP on defense, echoing Trump.
Not coincidentally, on the very same day Russia Sent More Troops West, Signaling New Challenge to U.S.-NATO Presence Near Borders:
Russia has announced the deployment of more advanced personnel to its western region, signaling a new challenge to the increasingly active U.S.-led NATO military alliance forces operating there.
The Western Military District press service said Friday that the Separate Guards Motorized Rifle Sevastopol Red Banner Brigade was included in Moscow’s Novomoskovsky Administrative District, joining the Guards Red Banner Tank Army “to perform tasks on ensuring the defense of the Russian Federation in the Western strategic direction,” according to the state-run Tass Russian News Agency.
The motorized rifle units are equipped with “more modern weapons and specialized vehicles,” including the T-90A tanks, BTR-82A armored carriers, BMP-3 combat vehicles, and 9A34 Strela-10 and 2S6M Tunguska air defense systems, the Russian military said.
The moves came just days after Colonel General Sergei Rudskoi of the Russian General Staff slammed “anti-Russian” activities conducted by the U.S. and allied states of the 29-member NATO defense pact near his country’s borders. The largest deployment of U.S. troops in a quarter-century was scaled down due to novel coronavirus concerns in March, but the U.S. still stepped up its presence through other maneuvers.
Another bad news development, we have a renewed nuclear arms race as well:
With the White House now threatening to let the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) expire, the nuclear arsenals of both countries may be unrestricted by February for the first time since the Cold War. After unsuccessful appeals to get the U.S. to sign a treaty that would preclude the use of nuclear weapons in a conflict and accusing Washington of lowering its own nuclear threshold, Russia updated its own nuclear doctrine Wednesday to include two new potentially nuclear scenarios that may be triggered in response to conventional attacks.
That doctrine also specifically criticized the practice of nuclear states deploying weapons of mass destruction to non-nuclear states in reference to NATO’s practice of nuclear sharing. Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned both the U.S. and NATO allies hosting Pentagon weapons would be legitimate targets in the event of an attack.
Reuters reports that Trump’s troop cut in Germany blindsided senior U.S. officials, sources say (excerpts):
President Donald Trump’s decision to cut U.S. troop levels in Germany blindsided a number of senior national security officials, according to five sources familiar with the matter, and the Pentagon had yet to receive a formal order to carry it out, Reuters has learned.
That official said it was the result of months of work by the U.S. military leadership and had nothing to do with tensions between Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who thwarted his plan to host an in-person Group of Seven (G7) summit this month.
But other sources familiar with the matter said a number of U.S. officials at the White House, State Department and Pentagon were surprised by the decision and they offered explanations ranging from Trump’s pique over the G7 to the influence of Richard Grenell, the former U.S. ambassador to Germany and a Trump loyalist.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a U.S. official told Reuters the Pentagon had not received a formal order to cut troops and that the decision caught some Defense Department officials off guard and scrambling to figure out its meaning and impact on relations with Germany.
Senior State Department, Pentagon and some National Security Council officials were blindsided and “learned something was up when calls started coming around and the WSJ article hit,” said a third source familiar with the matter.
Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee on Tuesday warned President Donald Trump against withdrawing U.S. troops from Germany. House Republicans oppose withdrawing U.S. troops from Germany:
In a letter, 22 lawmakers led by Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) argued reducing and capping troop levels in Europe would undermine the NATO alliance and spur aggression by Russia.
“We believe that such steps would significantly damage U.S. national security as well as strengthen the position of Russia to our detriment,” wrote the GOP lawmakers.
The Armed Services missive marks the largest Republican effort so far to convince the administration to change course. In addition to concerns over Russia, the GOP hawks argued capping the U.S. troop presence in Germany would impede military training and logistics.
“In Europe, the threats posed by Russia have not lessened, and we believe that signs of a weakened U.S. commitment to NATO will encourage further Russian aggression and opportunism,” they wrote.
“In addition, the overall limit on troops would prevent us from conducting the exercises that are necessary for the training and readiness of our forces and those of our allies,” said the lawmakers. “The troop limit would also significantly reduce the number of U.S. forces that can flow through Germany for deployment to bases around the world, causing serious logistical challenges.”
The Washington Post editorialized, Trump chooses a senseless withdrawal from Germany. He threatens national security.
In a transparent attempt to boost his sagging political fortunes, President Trump proposed to stage a summit meeting of the Group of Seven nations in Washington this month, with Vladimir Putin among the special guests. In a May 30 phone call that reportedly turned testy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel demurred, citing the continuing threat of the covid-19 pandemic as well as the lack of preparation for such a meeting.
One week later, Trump’s riposte to Ms. Merkel surfaced: a vindictive and, for U.S. national security, deeply damaging decision to withdraw nearly a third of the American troops stationed in Germany. The move was made without consultation with the Germans, other NATO allies or even senior U.S. military officers in Europe, who were taken by surprise when the story emerged on Friday.
The pullout, which Mr. Trump arrived at in the absence of any National Security Council deliberation, could substantially weaken U.S. ability to deter Russian aggression in Europe or respond to other foreign crises. However, shortly after speaking with Ms. Merkel, Mr. Trump initiated a phone call with Mr. Putin, who will be thrilled by the president’s unilateral disarmament and exacerbation of a rift with a key ally.
Mr. Trump appears to believe he is punishing Ms. Merkel by removing forces that nominally defend Germany. The sycophant whom the president installed as ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, has been arguing publicly that Germany doesn’t merit U.S. bases when it fails to meet NATO defense spending guidelines. What he and the president fail to understand is that the 34,500 U.S. personnel in Germany — down from 235,000 during the Cold War — primarily bolster U.S. defense. The Ramstein Air Base is vital to operations in the Middle East and Africa, and the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center provides critical care to wounded American soldiers medevaced from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Mr. Trump has been impervious to serial attempts over the past three years by his national security advisers and senior military commanders to explain such basics to him. Instead, conceiving U.S. troops as mercenary forces who should be deployed only when host countries offer compensation he regards as adequate, he also has been threatening to pull troops out of South Korea — which would delight another dictator, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.
Note: North Korea cuts off all communication with South Korea: North Korea said it was cutting off all communication channels with South Korea on Tuesday, a move experts say could signal Pyongyang has grown frustrated that Seoul has failed to revive lucrative inter-Korean economic projects and persuade the United States to ease sanctions. North Korea’s latest moves will further set back South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s push for inter-Korean reconciliation.
Further, Mr. Trump is reportedly contemplating accelerating a withdrawal of the remaining U.S. forces in Afghanistan, so that it can be carried out in advance of the November election, rather than sometime next year. Never mind that this would likely short-circuit nascent talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, and leave the latter in position to restore a theocratic dictatorship.
If the past is any guide, there will now be a scramble within the Pentagon or by Trump-friendly congressional Republicans to reverse or water down the president’s decision — which as of late Monday had still not been formally announced. In the meantime, it should be clearer than ever why former senior military leaders such as Jim Mattis and Colin Powell have taken the lead in publicly repudiating the president. He is, as they have said, a liar who divides the country. He is also, increasingly, a threat to national security.