Saturday, April 28, 2018

Shifting Leadership

Donald Trump held a news conference Friday with the leader of the free world and remarked

We need a reciprocal relationship, which we don't have. The United States right now has a trade deficit with the European Union of $151 billion. And the chancellor and I have discussed it today at length and we're working on it. And we want to make it more fair and the chancellor wants to make it more fair.

Same thing with NATO, we have a far greater burden than we should have. Other countries should be paying more. And I'm not saying Germany alone; other countries should be paying more. We're protecting Europe and, yet, we pay, by far, more than anybody else. And NATO is wonderful but it helps Europe more than it helps us. And why are we paying the vast majority of the costs.

So we're working on those things, it's been unfair. And I don't blame the chancellor and I don't Germany, I don't even blame the European Union; I blame the people that preceded me for allowing this to happen.

Trump periodically blames European nations for not paying their share of the NATO budget. However, as was pointed out the last time he complained, the 2% of their budget member nations are urged to pay goes not into NATO operations, but into their particular defense budget.

Berlin pays less than 2%. But over the last few years, they have paid in other ways.  Although in 2017 Germany accepted only 186,644 asylum seekers, they had taken in approximately 280,000 in 2016 and 890,0000 in 2015.

In comparison, we learned from Pew that as of October 2017

about 28,000 refugees have been resettled in the U.S., far less than in 2016, according to U.S. State Department data. If the number of refugees worldwide remains the same as in 2016 and if few refugees enter the U.S. for the rest of 2017, the U.S. is on track to accept just 0.2% of the world’s refugee population – far less than the historic average of 0.6%, and lower even than the share admitted in 2001 and 2002, in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Each year, the president’s administration sets the ceiling for how many refugees are resettled in the United States. In fiscal 2017, the Trump administration used an executive order to reduce the number of refugee admissions previously set by the outgoing Obama White House to be less than half the initial ceiling. Looking ahead to fiscal 2018, the Trump administration has proposed a refugee resettlement ceiling of 45,000 to Congress. The White House has also asked Congress for lower annual admissions of refugees as part of their immigration principles for immigration legislation.

In the year that ended in September 2016, the USA accepted 84,995 refugees. By contrast, Germany accepted in 2015 more refugees than the USA had in the previous ten years.  It did so while its population was only approximately 26% that of the USA and its gross domestic product only about 19% that of the USA. This is not an example of American exceptionalism.

Leadership is difficult to come by. It's a difficult role for Berlin because of a measure of distrust engendered by the Holocaust and its role in World War II. It's also not a huge nation and is less prosperous (by wealth) and less powerful than the USA.

Not willing to lead, Donald Trump should follow or get out of the way. Instead, by refusing to acknowledge Berlin's role and attacking it, President Trump is not only further relinquishing America's moral leadership, but attacking the Trans-Pacific partnership and the ability of the European Union to contribute to global security.

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