- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 11, 2019

The Trump administration has been pushing our European allies to take a bigger role in Syria in the final campaign to mop up the last vestiges of the once-vaunted Islamic State caliphate. France and the United Kingdom have agreed to step up (modestly) their military presence in Syria to replace the departing Americans, reportedly down to around 400 troops.

Germany, by contrast, has flat out refused Washington’s request.

“When I say that the government intends to maintain its current measures in the context of the anti-ISIS coalition, then that certainly includes no ground troops,” Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief spokesman, Steffen Seibert, told reporters in Berlin.

In light of recent trade and energy disputes between Berlin and Washington, this development is simply shocking — and highly predictable.

Germany does not have the will or sufficient forces to defend itself. After decades of chronically deficient defense spending, Germany’s military is a shell of its Cold War self. After promising President Trump to significantly boost defense spending, Berlin simply hasn’t delivered. Military expenditures hover around 1.2% of GDP — far below the agreed NATO target of 2%.

Known for having very few combat aircraft that can actually fly, German readiness for any kind of actual conflict is laughable. This all comes as Ms. Merkel’s government inks deals with Russian President Vladimir Putin to import more natural gas via the soon-to-be-completed Nord Stream II pipeline, making Germany dependent on the Kremlin for over 30% of its energy needs and bringing fresh security concerns for both Germany and the broader NATO alliance.

Ms. Merkel’s contempt for Mr. Trump is well known. She would much more prefer Barack Obama, who said all the right globalist, elitist things while never calling out Germany for its complete reliance on the American military and the American taxpayer for its protection.

Many so-called “Never Trumpers” continue to criticize the president for having the gall to utter the words that NATO may be irrelevant. But some of us think the honesty coming from the Trump White House represents a badly needed breath of fresh air.

Largely alone, America has shouldered the security burden in the Middle East for years. Germany has welcomed millions of Islamic migrants and faces a massive criminal and terrorist problem for years to come. Choosing to ignore the problem that is the jihadi political movement will not end well.

On the trade front, Mr. Trump has threatened tariffs on German automobile imports to address clearly unfair trade patterns. Those who fear the consequences of Mr. Trump’s policy should ask themselves: What do we have to lose? Germany won’t take care of herself militarily and won’t even help relieve the pressure on American soldiers in Syria. Why should we defend them?

For all the talk about Mr. Trump’s shortcomings by “woke” Europeans, Berlin sure seems to be thinking only of Germany and its own economy.

If Mr. Trump does levy tariffs, there will be the usual wailing and gnashing of teeth from the establishment media. But it will not be Mr. Trump who is tearing apart the NATO alliance. It won’t even be Vladimir Putin. It will be the Germans, who boast the biggest economy on the continent but can’t be bothered to act responsibly and fulfill their obligations to their NATO allies.

Angela Merkel grew up in East Germany and has struck up a good working relationship with Mr. Putin. Perhaps the fears of secret “collusion” with the Russians should be focused on Berlin, not Washington.

L. Todd Wood is a former special operations helicopter pilot and Wall Street debt trader, and has contributed to Fox Business, The Moscow Times, National Review, The New York Post and many other publications. He can be reached at LToddWood.com.

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