Shocking News: China Matters More than NATO A meeting between the U.S. and Chinese presidents is more important than a NATO summit.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will be attending a meeting between
Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Trump on April
6-7. Reuters reported on March 21 that Tillerson, therefore, will skip
an April 5-6 meeting of NATO foreign ministers, the first time a U.S.
secretary of state will miss such a meeting since 2002. The State
Department followed up by saying that the U.S. has decided to propose
new dates for the NATO summit. Nevertheless, the key point is that
Tillerson views the Trump-Xi meeting as more important than the NATO
meetings of international leaders are neither dramatic nor important.
Leaders are obligated to attend, but usually, nothing comes of them. But
this summit between Trump and Xi is of prime importance. It brings
together the leaders of the world’s first and second largest economies,
whose militaries are brushing up against each other in the air and at
sea. To the extent that summits matter, this one does. And if nothing
comes of it, that would be an ominous sign. Obviously, the U.S.
secretary of state has to be at that meeting.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, left, talks with Chinese Foreign
Minister Wang Yi, right, as he arrives for a bilateral meeting at the
Diaoyutai State Guesthouse on March 18, 2017 in Beijing, China. Mark
Schiefelbein – Pool/Getty Images
it coincides with the NATO meeting was not intended as a slap at NATO.
The NATO meeting likely didn’t even come up, and if it did, as Reuters
has reported, it wasn’t the primary concern when planning U.S.
officials’ schedules and priorities. Figuring out when and where Trump
and Xi would meet likely involved difficult negotiations. These meetings
usually do, especially when they are tense and stakes are high. The
fact that Xi will go to the U.S. – and especially that he reportedly
will go to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida – is one of those minor
symbolic victories for Trump. It also indicates that, having agreed to
this visit, Xi will be much tougher on substance. To put it in American
terms, this is a major league meeting.
NATO meeting, by comparison, is minor league. NATO constantly has
meetings. There are few substantive outcomes. NATO meetings used to be
of vital importance during the Cold War. Now those discussions rarely
intersect the main issue. The United States, wisely or not, has been fighting a war for 16 years in the Middle East,
and that war is now entering another phase in Syria with U.S. forces
being deployed there. As an institution, NATO has been of little
material support to the United States. Many nations provided some
support in Afghanistan, but much of this was symbolic. It was
insufficient to have any material effect on the war’s outcome. Some
smaller countries sent small forces because that was all that they could
send. Other, larger countries sent far fewer forces than they could
have because they didn’t want to send more. The British and Canadians
put far more skin into the game, but that was because of their close
ties to the U.S., not because of NATO.
is understandable that some NATO members would choose to abstain from
this 16-year war in the Middle East, as NATO’s charter does not require
“out of area” deployments. But NATO is a military alliance, and the
organization has been of little value to the U.S. Under these
circumstances, NATO members should not be surprised that the U.S.
secretary of state finds a meeting with the Chinese president more
significant than a meeting with NATO foreign ministers.
This goes to the deeper issue concerning the alliance. It is not clear that Europe has a serious commitment to NATO.
Undoubtedly, ringing declarations will come out of this and other such
meetings but not the money to fund the sentiments. NATO members have
made a commitment to raise their military budgets to 2 percent of GDP,
which would be a little less than half the percent of GDP the U.S.
spends on defense. Secretary of Defense James Mattis
pointed this out to NATO defense ministers, and he was supported by
NATO’s secretary general. A very strong case can be made that there is
no reason for any further meetings without dramatic increases in NATO
members’ military budgets. The Europeans have made a commitment.
They will either meet it or not. That will determine the need for
meetings. But at NATO, endless meetings have become a substitute for
will point out that members’ direct contributions to NATO are not out
of line with U.S. contributions. That may be true, but wars are not
fought with NATO contributions. Should war come, it will have to be
fought with the full military capability of all NATO members. But at
this point, American divisions, aircraft and navies will provide the
decisive force to NATO if war breaks out. Should the Russians move
westward into the Baltics, for example, only American forces would have
sufficient size and depth to fight them off. This is why the U.S. war in
the Middle East should be considered a NATO affair. Without NATO
relief, U.S. forces will be strained to supply the force needed in
Europe, which is why the Trump administration is speaking about a
substantial increase in the U.S. defense budget, so that forces in
reserve for a conventional war can be upgraded.
is in this context that NATO foreign ministers are dismayed at
Tillerson’s decision to attend the showdown between the U.S. and China.
The China meeting matters greatly. The NATO meeting does not because the
Europeans have not taken NATO seriously for a long time. They have not
treated it like a critical military alliance, but as something bonding
the U.S. and Europe together. Increases in defense spending would be far
the rotation of interest away from NATO makes perfect sense. Russia is a
pale shadow of the Soviet Union, reduced to hacking emails
or spreading misleading tweets. There is little to fear in terms of
war. Perhaps NATO should be abolished. But for some reason, the
Europeans want neither to abolish nor to keep their commitments to the
alliance. It is good that Tillerson will not be at this meeting. The
American presence would likely make conversation uncomfortable. The
Europeans will be there by themselves (with the Canadians, of course).
Maybe in private they can figure out what they think they are doing.
ROLAND SAN JUAN was a researcher, management consultant, inventor, a part time radio broadcaster and a publishing director. He died last November 25, 2008 after suffering a stroke. His staff will continue his unfinished work to inform the world of the untold truths. Please read Erick San Juan's articles at: ericksanjuan.blogspot.com This blog is dedicated to the late Max Soliven, a FILIPINO PATRIOT.
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