- - Wednesday, June 29, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Like him or not, and a lot of folks say they don’t like him, but Donald Trump gets everybody’s attention. Hillary Clinton gets attention, too, teaming up briefly with Elizabeth Warren for “a girls’ night out.” But the Donald burns barns.

A new box-set television drama in Norway, called “Occupied,” is a hit not only in Oslo but in Moscow, too. Not only has Moscow taken the hit, but it smarts, and the pain goes all the way to the bone.

The play’s story line is suggested by the day’s news: Civil wars across the Middle East have turned off the oil spigot and the Norwegians simultaneously elect a deep-Green government. Panic invites a Russian expedition to Oslo, with a battalion of masked men in unmarked uniforms who capture the prime minister and make him “the offer he can’t refuse.” He accepts the Russian “assistance,” and the Kremlin starts pumping the oil. The European Union, flashing the usual bravado of the bunny rabbits in Brussels, submits weakly to Moscow.

“It’s clear why the real-life Russians are so angry,” observes Fraser Nelson in the London Daily Telegraph. “All this is far too close to the bone. The Scandinavians have been feeling the chill from Moscow for a while now. Vladimir Putin has been testing their defenses, sending fighters into their airspace and watching the reaction. He annexed Crimea by soldiers in unmarked uniforms and [has] a pliable politician ask for Russian help. No wonder the Baltic states are anxious, or that previously neutral Swedes and Finns are talking about joining NATO. The Russian bear is on the prowl.”

A prowling bear is the sort of unhappiness that Barack Obama once would have blamed on George W. Bush, who has only been gone for seven years and counting. The Norwegian drama, one critic says, should be called “a world without America.” It’s a warning, whether intended as that or not, that Europe could, but probably won’t, take to heart.

Donald Trump, the booger man of every European’s nocturnal imagination, promises to make Europe pay for the security blanket America has thrown over the continent. The United States spends 3.6 percent of its economic output on defense. Angela Merkel, who aspires to be the big dog of Europe, leads Germany to spend only a little more than 1 percent, and it can’t deliver much of that. When she ordered weapons to be sent to the Kurdish rebels to fight ISIS, the German cargo planes couldn’t even make it off the runway. Only half of the German cargo planes are fit to fly; just 41 of its 190 helicopters could be deployed in an emergency. Why spend money on defense when the Americans will do it?

Even Britain, special relationship be damned, can only make its NATO dues with imaginative bookkeeping, counting pensions as part of its military commitment. Perhaps it can contribute a crack combat brigade of elderly warriors on walkers, called back to duty from World War II.

The Donald, with his rough talk of making Europe pay its share of its own defense, frightens easy riders and freeloaders everywhere. When he retrieves his campaign slogan — “Making America great again” — Europe sneers that he’s exhuming an isolationist battle cry from the past.

The producers of the television melodrama “Occupy” get it. So do the Russians. So must the wise men of Europe.

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