Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Speaking out

Tadae Takubo

【#531】Trump Is Right in Bashing Germany

Tadae Takubo / 2018.08.01 (Wed)

July 30, 2018

     I never imagine that the Japanese nostalgically recall the Japan-Germany alliance during World War II. But not a small number of Japanese people favor Germany. While everyone is free to personally feel kin to any country, international relations should be treated carefully. At a summit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in July, U.S. President Donald Trump, notorious for controversial remarks, harshly bashed Germany for spending too little on defense and warned that Germany’s plan to enhance economic relations with potential NATO enemy Russia by buying its energy resources could do harm to NATO.

Depending on Russia for energy is dangerous
     Particularly, Trump criticized Germany over its planned Nord Stream 2 pipeline to transport Russian natural gas to Germany through the floor of the Baltic Sea. When the pipeline is completed, 80% of Russian natural gas for Europe will flow into Germany before being distributed from German hub to other European countries. Thus, Western Europe as a whole would depend on energy supply from Russia. Trump complained Germany is not only a free rider for defense but also extending a helping hand to an enemy, becoming a “captive” of Russia. He may be right in saying so.
     It goes without saying that energy is a strategic item. Russian political system is fundamentally different from Western democracy. Though being ostensibly democratic, Russia in which President Vladimir Putin alone can make decisions is left to take unforeseeable actions in emergency. If Russia abruptly disrupts natural gas supply to Europe, NATO may fail to work. Russia may take control of the fate of East European countries that take charges for natural gas and oil supply from Russia to Western Europe. Given that former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder serves as chairman of a company to operate the Nord Stream 2 project, German’s responsibility for such consequence would become all the more heavy.

U.S.-Russia confrontation
     Apparently for their self-defense, 12 East European countries surrounded by the Baltic, Adriatic and Black Seas created the Three Seas Initiative two years ago. President Trump attended their summit meeting in June 2017, vowing to provide them with U.S. natural gas at reasonable prices. Poland has refused to renew a natural gas contract with Russia and constructed terminals to import American gas. While having agreed to resume a bilateral summit, the United States and Russia have been confronting with each other behind the scenes.
     Japan has a painful memory of relations with Germany that joined the Triple Intervention (diplomatic intervention by Russia, Germany and France over the terms of a peace treaty) after the first Japanese-Sino war in the late 19th century, fought World War I as an enemy and fought World War II as an ally. International relations are sometimes ruthless.

Tadae Takubo is Vice President, Japan Institute for National Fundamentals.