Intelligence and law-enforcement officials among America’s allies in Europe and the Middle East told Insider they were aghast at the heavy-handed tactics used by Trump and US police forces against George Floyd protesters.
“It has been chilling watching the United States devolve into the same strongman-style policing and rhetoric we have been opposing together as allies in the Middle East and Eastern Europe,” a NATO military intelligence official told Insider.
They fear that the US president is not an ally of European democracy, sources told us.
“The Germans are openly done with this president,” a law-enforcement official said.
Intelligence and law-enforcement officials among America’s allies in Europe and the Middle East told Insider they were aghast at the heavy-handed tactics and rhetoric used by US police generally, and by the president specifically, to suppress demonstrations against police abuses of African Americans.
“It has been chilling watching the United States devolve into the same strongman-style policing and rhetoric we have been opposing together as allies in the Middle East and Eastern Europe,” a NATO military intelligence official who has deployed to the Middle East, Africa, and Afghanistan in support of various anti-terrorism campaigns told Insider.
The source’s view is widely held.
Some European officials have started to side openly with the protesters.
“The peaceful protests that we see in the US … are understandable and more than legitimate. I hope that these peaceful protests won’t slide further into violence, but even more than that I hope that they will make a difference in the United States,” Heiko Maas, Germany’s foreign minister, told reporters on June 2.
In eight days of angry protests over a series of deaths of black Americans at the hands of police, demonstrators across the country have shut down major cities, including New York, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, and Washington, DC. State and local officials facing these outbursts have also had to contend with widespread incidents of looting and property damage. The vast majority of the protests have been peaceful.
But Trump’s performance on Monday and Tuesday — in which he berated local government officials and called them “weak,” threatened to use the active-duty military to stop domestic unrest, and had security forces violently clear peaceful protesters from a church near the White House for a photo opportunity — left America’s partners disappointed and shocked.
‘Trump has responded to the protests almost exactly like our opponents’
“Look at the critical issues the NATO alliance faces together: containing an increasingly belligerent and aggressive Russia, reducing the threat of terrorism both in Europe and the Middle East, and confronting China over its heavy-handed approach to Hong Kong,” the official said.
“In each of these critical areas, Trump has responded to the protests almost exactly like our opponents in each of these fields: He refuses to take responsibility and blames outside agitators, he threatens physical force against the press, he demands harsher crackdowns on the protesters from local officials and uses the backdrop of nationalism and religion in the church stunt to look like a dictator,” the official said.
“Tell me again how the president of the United States is better than [Russian President Vladimir] Putin or [Turkish President Tayyip] Erdogan?” the official asked. “Because the view from Europe is that they’re all a bunch of undemocratic strongmen best kept at arm’s length.”
The fear: The US president is not an ally of European democracy
Another senior law-enforcement official for a European Union member said the visuals of peaceful American protesters and media being repeatedly attacked by police and security forces over the past week has forced Europe into formally addressing a fear that has lurked behind the US-EU relationship for over three years: The US president is not an ally of European democracy.
Democracy is increasing in European countries like Turkey, Ukraine, and Hungary.
“Publicly everyone will be as nice as they can, but with the already tense domestic situations over COVID lockdowns, there’s little interest in using the US-EU relationship as a good thing these days,” the law-enforcement official said. “The Germans are openly done with this president. This is why [German Chancellor] Angela Merkel refused Trump’s offer to host the G7 at the White House this fall. Between her concerns, he would demand Putin be invited. It was obvious that Trump was only interested in an election-year photo op just before the election.”
“Merkel has always avoided these sorts of major political stunts, but this time it was almost insulting,” the senior law-enforcement official said. “Trump really thinks the members of the G7 would stand with him in the White House Rose Garden as he sends security forces to gas protesters outside a church? Europe has enough of its own problems. It’s not going to let itself get caught up in the blame for this administration’s sheer incompetence.”
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