Constanze Stelzenmüller on the Trump-Putin meeting and NATO summit:
"After one of the most cringe-worthy press conferences ever held by an American president (preceded by a shock-and-awe tour of Europe), it’s worth focusing on some essentials.
In terms of formal policy outcomes, the worst has not happened, because the administration has managed to wrestle down the president: The United States is staying the course on the illegality of the Russian annexation of Crimea, on the war in Ukraine, on deterrence and defense of NATO’s eastern periphery. For this, we Europeans should be grateful. I know I am.
In terms of the intangibles that hold this alliance together—shared values, mutual commitment, and trust—the damage done by the president is incalculable. One look at the delighted faces of our adversaries confirms it.
We need to decide what the president’s game is—is he playing reality TV, or destroying the rules-based international order? It matters. In the one, we Europeans are just viewers, and can simply turn off the TV. In the other, we’re vassals. Demands that are impossible to meet (such as raising European defense spending to 4 percent of GDP) suggest the latter.
So far, European leaders and policymakers have been reacting with remarkable restraint. But above all, they must act. They should close vulnerabilities (defense spending, the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline), and invest in cohesion and trust—with each other, but also with those elements of the U.S. administration that want to maintain the Western alliance. In this, Germany will be key.
Above all, it needs to be understood that the rift between those who seek to maintain republican constitutional orders, representative democracy, political pluralism, open and decent societies, and a rules-based international order and its adversaries is the single greatest challenge of our time—and it runs through all our countries. Schadenfreude is not in order."