February 14, 2024

Trump and NATO

“Speaking at a rally Saturday… Donald Trump said that, as president, he warned NATO allies that he ‘would encourage’ Russia ‘to do whatever the hell they want’ to countries that are ‘delinquent’ as the front-runner for the Republican nomination ramped up his attacks on foreign aid and long-standing international alliances.” AP News

President Joe Biden on Tuesday blasted [Trump]… calling the remarks ‘dangerous’ and ‘un-American’ and saying they raised the stakes for the U.S. Congress to approve new funding to support Ukraine.” Reuters

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From the Left

The left condemns Trump’s comments, arguing that NATO is vital to US security.

“First, it’s very likely that no such conversation with ‘one of the presidents of a big country’ ever took place. It is sad and hilarious—an illustration of this powerful man’s astonishing need for relentless respect and esteem—that, in so many stories he tells, some person addresses him as ‘sir.’ That the person in this story is a fellow president makes it extremely unlikely. All presidents and prime ministers address one another by their first names; the social privilege goes with the title…

“Second, it is true that Trump pressed the allies to spend more on defense. But it is almost certainly untrue that he threatened to ‘encourage’ Russia to attack if they didn’t. Had he said something so provocative, it would have leaked to the press (like almost everything else he says). Trump was just bragging to his base. The disturbing thing is that he considers such an irresponsible remark to be a brag.”

Fred Kaplan, Slate

“[NATO’s purpose] suits the US profoundly: The White House invoked Article 5 after 9/11. And since NATO’s creation, US might has been often packaged globally as the expression of a dozens-strong consensus. NATO helps bolster the US’s ebbing position as the sole hyperpower. Strip away this vast alliance, and its diplomatic and economic might, and the US looks quite lonely on the world stage…

“In short, the US will almost certainly always spend much more than anyone else on its military, regardless of its allies. NATO gives it a global bedrock of legitimacy, support for the dollar, and the post-Soviet hegemony it thrives upon… Saturday’s incendiary comments feed a narrative of the US being exploited, under-appreciated, and in global decline as a result. Trump’s GOP feeds on this, perhaps unaware it is a self-fulfilling loop of grievance. The more the US bemoans its allies and their miserly neglect of NATO, and withdraw from it, the less powerful it is.”

Nick Paton Walsh, CNN

“It may be unlikely that Trump would try to take the U.S. out of NATO. For one thing, Congress last year approved legislation that would require an act of Congress or approval of two-thirds of the Senate before the president could withdraw the U.S. from the alliance…  

Yet that doesn’t make his comments any less destructive. If Russia believes Trump as president wasn’t committed to NATO and the principle of collective defense, it might be emboldened to move openly or through subversion against neighboring NATO countries.”

Editorial Board, Los Angeles Times

From the Right

The right is divided about Trump’s comments.

The right is divided about Trump’s comments.

“A charitable interpretation is that this is an extreme version of his boasts that he forced NATO countries in Europe to increase defense spending. There’s no doubt he coaxed more money from allies in his first term. But this isn’t 2020 any more. Russia has invaded Ukraine, bombed its cities and civilians, mused about using nuclear weapons, and threatened Finland and Sweden for seeking to join NATO…

“Mr. Trump’s riff also comes in the context of his lobbying against more U.S. military aid for Ukraine. He boasts about his admiration for Mr. Putin, and his bromance with the dictator during their 2018 Helsinki summit was a low point of his Presidency. Mr. Trump now says he’ll end the war in Ukraine in 24 hours, even before he’s inaugurated. The only way to do that is to deny Ukraine more weapons and tell President Volodymyr Zelensky to give Mr. Putin what he wants. The word for that isn’t peace; it’s appeasement.”

Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

“Prodded, doubtless, by the scale of Russia’s renewed attack on Ukraine, more of NATO’s European members are increasing military spending… Some NATO countries, however, have much more to do, and there is still reason enough for Trump to bring up again the issue of those that are not pulling their weight…

“But, however successful his past bludgeoning has been, he needs to tread more delicately now. The Pax Americana is visibly crumbling, making the world a more dangerous place. This means that the U.S. should take even more care not to give its enemies — or its allies — any reason to question its resolve. Casting doubt on NATO’s collective defense does just that.”

The Editors, National Review

“While Americans may not want the US to get out of NATO, they do find it objectionable that the US is doing most of the legwork in keeping Europe whole, free and at peace while the rest of the alliance — Britain, Poland and the Baltic states excluded — basically resembles a bunch of twenty-five-year-old couch potatoes sitting in their parents’ basement, taking indefinite support for granted…  

“Sure, this analogy will make a lot of Europeans upset, but how else to describe a situation in which almost two-thirds of NATO members are still failing to meet NATO’s 2 percent of GDP metric nearly seventeen years after it was first established? To believe a continent with a $17 trillion GDP doesn’t have the financial resources to fulfill those obligations is ludicrous, and we shouldn’t pretend otherwise.”

Daniel DePetris, Spectator World

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