Dec 04 (1/2): Dude, Where’s My Summit?

tl;dr: One Day 2 of the NATO Summit, there was a bunch of spats, Trump stormed off, everyone went home mad or pretending to be mad, nothing was resolved, and Russia (as was expected) is attacking the legitimacy of US interventions.

But otherwise things are business as usual but rather quiet. Which is a bit unnerving, but not much has come out of the NATO summit.

Except maybe that NATO blinked, and that seems to be all Erdogan wanted to see.

Now let’s go over what happened.

So, the core event after the indictment of basically literally everything about The West occurred when a bunch of alpha male world leaders and Boris Johnson were caught on a hot mic making fun of POTUS.

I’m using the Biden Tweet even though much of the video is only tangentially related to the key happening—it offers more context of how some people want to “weaponize” it for US domestic politics.

I figure this information might be useful at some point. And there are a zillion copies of it in circulation anyway.

This is basically what has come out of the summit according to most direct coverage of the summit in the news.

So this caused Trump to storm out of the summit.

Of course, in reality, Trump was actually quite pleased with himself.

As though it wasn’t already clear that most of this was performative BS with lives hanging in the balance.

Which is consistent with NATO’s statement-non-statement on… things.

It’s nice they had a nice time at their nice homecoming.

Meanwhile Macron got much more specific, at least in practical terms.

But then, something actually happened.

Trump had a meeting with Erdogan and Erdogan subsequently agreed not to block the new defense plan adjustment thingie (that was probably mostly symbolic anyway) for Poland and the Baltics.

Ahval: Trump, Erdoğan discuss Turkey’s NATO commitments, boosting trade

The two Presidents “discussed the importance of Turkey fulfilling its commitments to the alliance, further strengthening commerce through boosting bilateral trade by $100 billion, regional security challenges, and energy security,” according a pool report disseminated by White House.

President Trump, after meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, said of the ceasefire agreed to last month to halt Turkish operation in northeast Syria targeting Kurdish forces had been effective.

“The ceasefire is holding very much … maybe someday they’ll give me credit but probably not,” Trump said.

Trump also said Turkey had been “very good” in honouring security in Balkans. Then moved to Syria, noted with regards to Syria-Turkey border, “the border and the safe zone is working out very well, and I give a lot of credit to Turkey for that”.

Comparing differences in global coverage is always instructive.

The Telegraph: Turkey backs down on threat to block Nato plans for Baltics and Poland

Mr Erdoğan dropped the demand on Wednesday even though there was no discussion of the YPG militia, said Jens Stoltenberg, the secretary general of Nato. It was not clear why Turkey reversed course but the move came as Mr Erdoğan held an unscheduled meeting with Donald Trump.

Ahval: Erdoğan agrees to back NATO’s Baltic plan – Lithuanian President

Following Turkey’s decision to back NATO plans for the Baltics and Poland, Polish President Andrzej Duda late on Wednesday said Turkey’s point of view must be acknowledged in NATO debates, Reuters reported.

Poland, huh?

And if anyone wants a reminder of why we read so much foreign news media on this issue.

CNN: Fact check: Trump makes at least 21 false claims at NATO meetings

Progress against ISIS

Trump claimed that ISIS still possessed “virtually 100%” of its so-called “caliphate” when he took office, “and I knocked it down to 0.”

Facts First: A substantial portion of ISIS territory had been retaken by the time Trump was inaugurated in 2017.

“President Trump’s statement is inaccurate because at the time of his inauguration in January 2017, the Obama administration had regained close to 50% of ISIS’s would-be Caliphate,” Nicholas Heras, Middle East security fellow at the Center for a New American Security, said in response to a previous version of this Trump claim.

Estimates of pre-Trump progress against ISIS vary, but Heras’ estimate roughly squares with reportsfrom the end of the Obama era. Regardless of the precise figure, there is no doubt that ISIS had lost a big chunk of its former territory by the time Trump was inaugurated.

Ammunition

Trump said that when he took office, the US military “was in trouble.” He added, “We didn’t have ammunition.”

Facts First: According to military leaders, there was a shortfall in certain kinds of munitions, particularly precision-guided bombs, late in the Obama presidency and early in the Trump presidency. But the claim that “we didn’t have ammunition” is a significant exaggeration. Military leaders did not say that they had completely run out of any kind of bomb, let alone ammunition in general.

You can read a full fact check of Trump’s claims about munitions levels here.

ISIS prisoners

Trump said of ISIS prisoners in Syria: “But many are from France, many are from Germany, many are from UK. They’re mostly from Europe.”

Facts First: Macron correctly told Trump that it is not true that “most” ISIS prisoners in Syria are from Europe.

James Jeffrey, Trump’s special envoy to the anti-ISIS coalition, said on August 1 that roughly 8,000 of about 10,000 terrorist fighters being held in northeastern Syria are Iraqi or Syrian nationals; there were “about 2,000 ISIS foreign fighters” from all other countries. Trump himself tweeted in February to ask that European countries take back “over 800” ISIS fighters captured in Syria.

Macron fact-checked Trump to his face, saying: “The very large number of fighters you have on the ground are ISIS fighters coming from Syria, from Iraq, and the region. It is true that you have foreign fighters coming from Europe, but this is a tiny minority of the overall problem we have in the region.”

Really informative stuff, especially the broken link to The New York Times.

You can find my take on the initial agenda here and of the day one news here.

Anyway, that means business as usual, with respect to NATO anyway.

Which means bad guy business as usual too.

Moreover, the Russians are pointing out, as observers have noted from jump, that there may not be a strong legal basis for Trump’s stated reason for being in Syria.

So continues the indictment of the west’s legitimacy.

To which is added a moral indictment of a substantive nature.

Stuff like this makes the illegitimacy issue more tangible, i.e. this isn’t just fine but pointless legal distinctions but something with real world consequences.

Of special note is that the problematic foundation of NATO, as it currently stands, has been noted.

As has the possibility of another way of resolving the tensions within the system without resorting to reducing politics to mere power and will.

The Sydney Morning Herald: Out with Turkey, in with Australia: How to fix ‘brain dead’ NATO

Above all is the question of whether a regional alliance even makes sense in a globalising world. There is a strong argument that leaders would be better off supporting a worldwide alliance built on shared values, rather than geographical proximity.

For what it’s worth, my view is that if NATO were reoriented around the defence of values as well as territory it would secure a greater element of unity. Current members have far more in common with the likes of Australia, New Zealand and Israel than they do with Turkey. Expelling members who flout democratic principles while welcoming those who hold these values dear would give the alliance the chance to punish Erdogan. Meanwhile, using the promise of future membership as leverage would encourage more of the world’s despots to adopt democratic and human rights reforms.

This guy gets it.

Good read, too, with more context situating this point in what’s actually going on in the world, which you would barely even know about if you only watched the NATO summit.

So yeah, the summit happened and it appears that the problem NATO felt it faced was resolved when Erdogan agreed to the new defense plan.

And then everyone went home pissed off and nothing happened.

But NATO blinked.

That’s the sum total, it seems, even though it can’t be spotted in any single event. But it appears that Erdogan went home satisfied while retaining his stance of grievance.

Huh. Maybe he actually did go home happy. We know Trump was feigning indignation too.

These quarrels are convenient distractions from Syria, to say nothing of other problems that are much larger in scope than how they appear to have been addressed at the summit—stuff like China, Iran, the fact that Russia is waging Cold War II.

Stuff like that.

So let’s finish by wrapping up a few loose ends.

First of all, while kind of jumping the gun in my opinion, or counting chickens before they are hatched if you will, the issue of who is responsible for ISIS prisoners that Trump brought up is a real thing.

Here’s a reasonably good read on the issue

So yes, it’s an issue. A much more pressing issue is the SDF having to pull people off of camps like Al Hol to defend against Turkey, which allows ISIS members to escape.

So this seems a bit premature and more “high tea” diplomacy stuff, but as per video from yesterday, Trump emphasized what a super important point he believed it was, so I wanted to offer a link that addresses it.

Meanwhile, it’s becoming increasingly clear that basically everyone in Syria, not just Rojava and the SDF, hate Erdogan’s plans for Syria and the (enormous) refugee problem.

Finally, I don’t know what this is about, but clearly this situation needed more Iran—and there we have it.

That’s pretty clearly the recently opened border crossing to Iraq. So it’s inherently interesting, just not sure what’s going on.

 

 

 

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