Fort Trump and the Future of Eastern Europe

Fort Trump and the Future of Eastern Europe

donald-trump

 

‘Fort Trump’ said the Polish president Andrzej Duda, during a White House press conference last week, would be an appropriate name to call the first American military base in Poland. Whether this Polish dream comes to pass or not is yet to be seen, but the strategic rationale behind it is anything but the joke US pundits took it to be.  It is, in fact, an incapsulation of the dilemma facing Eastern Europe and with it, NATO and the United States.

 

For barely concealed behind it is a multitude of challenges that must be addressed without delay if a serious crisis in Europe and the alliance is to be avoided. At the bottom of it is the seemingly unavoidable conflict over Muslim immigration. Virtually all of Eastern Europe refuses to accept any of them and is quite open about it.  Politically-correct Western Europe, Germany first and foremost, is scandalized by it and wants to force the Eastern Europeans into repeating  their own disastrous mistakes. And it does not help reminding them that Muslim integration has failed miserably in their own country with 64.8% of German Turks voting for Erdogan after 60 years of living in Europe. Nor does  telling them that barely a century ago or so, much of the region was under Ottoman rule, complete with infidel taxes and slave markets. Or that last year Poland alone issued 235,600 work permits to immigrants and is currently hosting over a million migrants, 40,000 of them from Vietnam.

 

Secondly, and here is where Fort Trump fits is, Poland and all of Eastern Europe simply do not trust the Western Europeans to defend them if push comes to shove. And it is enough to take a look at German military power in 2014  to realize that they are right. In that year, only 42 of 109 German  Eurofighter planes were combat ready, as were 39 of 89 Tornado aircraft, while the Bundeswehr’s once mighty tank force had shrunk by 90%.  And with 1.2% of GDP going to defense, it has certainly gotten much worse in the meantime. Is it any wonder that the Poles and all the rest of them, who have not forgotten what Russian domination means, will only feel safe if they have GIs stationed on their soil? Whether this is feasible now or in the future. is another question, but it is important for Americans to understand why East Europeans feel the way they do and why the gulf between them and Western Europe seems to be widening.

 

Finally, there is an immediate issue that must be resolved if the alliance is not to suffer irreparable damage. It is a German-Russian deal called Nord-Stream 2 that is unquestionably directed against the interests of Eastern Europe. Perhaps it is worth recalling that the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to bring gas directly from Russia to Germany was called by the Polish foreign minister at the time “the Molotov-Ribbentrop pipeline.” This one deserves that appellation even more. By bypassing all of Eastern Europe, it stands to do great economic damage to Ukraine and other pass-through countries. It is a blatantly political Putin project  and while Merkel continues to pretend that it is not, this is hypocrisy pure and simple. It is high time for Trump to say publicly that this project shall not pass.

 

Unfortunately, there is more than just that project. For the past few years, Merkel has ruled Germany together with the social-democrats (SPD) a left-wing party that does not hide its pro-Russian sympathies.  Its boss, prior to Merkel was none other than Gerhard Schroeder, a man who sold out to Putin lock, stock and barrel. In the meantime, one of Schroeder’s protégés and former German foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel, has argued openly that his party must move away from America and closer to Russia. This is in fact, what Merkel has already done by transforming the CDU from a moderately right-of-center party to a left-leaning one.

 

In the meantime, Poland and several other countries have started an initiative called the Three Seas Initiative (3SI) which aims to facilitate cooperation in the energy sector in the region. All Eastern European countries plus Austria participate and the focus is on using existing and future LNG  terminals in the region, building interconnectors and reverse flow connections and curtailing dependence on monopolists like Gazprom.  Some companies have gone beyond that and are suing Gazprom in European arbitration courts. More than a few have already won large awards.

 

Importantly, one of the announced objectives of the initiative is to enhance transatlantic ties, which eventually means greater emphasis on LNG supplies from the US.

 

By Alex Alexiev

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