Congress has invited the NATO Secretary-General to speak, which is a fine idea. But with the very public disagreement over funding between President Donald Trump and NATO allies, would today’s article try to cast the President in a bad light? What do you think?
The disparagement happens at the end of the article as printed in the paper (the online version is much longer): “…beginning with the candidate’s [Trump’s] assertion during his 2016 presidential campaign that he wouldn’t automatically come to the defense of NATO allies if they were attacked.”
Now this article is creating a false narrative, one that the pullout-quote reinforces: Donald Trump’s “nationalistic” foreign policy is wreaking havoc among our most trusted allies.
Stoltenberg, the NATO Secretary-General, has worked hard at building a friendship with President Trump, and the article says that this puts him in an awkward position, as Congress wants to strengthen and reaffirm our NATO commitment and leadership while Trump apparently wants to tear it down and may not honor the mutual-defense pact that is central to the alliance.
The article seeks to promote the illusion that Trump has isolated himself–from Congress, from NATO, and even from his closest allies. He is just out-of-control with these crazy NATO changes he wants to make, starting with scrapping the “mutual defense” promise. A bipartisan Congress is even opposed to Trump’s plans, or so we are led to believe.
During the visit, Pelosi said she was asked repeatedly by NATO and European officials whether the United States was having second thoughts about its membership given reports that Trump repeatedly floated withdrawing from the alliance. She promised them the United States was not considering an exit, arguing that Trump controlled only one branch of the government and that NATO had bipartisan support.
Now, let’s go back and examine the core and most damaging charge in this article, that Trump said “he wouldn’t automatically come to the defense of NATO allies if they were attacked.” If true, that would be quite damaging to the alliance.
I went back to 2016 and found the New York Times story that covered this. Here is the link: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/21/us/politics/donald-trump-issues.html
The article’s headline along makes it clear what Trump said on the campaign trail. “Donald Trump Sets Conditions for Defending NATO Allies Against Attack”. Does that mean he won’t defend an ally if attacked? NO.
What are the conditions he suggested?
Asked about Russia’s threatening activities, which have unnerved the small Baltic States that are among the more recent entrants into NATO, Mr. Trump said that if Russia attacked them, he would decide whether to come to their aid only after reviewing if those nations have “fulfilled their obligations to us.”
“If they fulfill their obligations to us,” he added, “the answer is yes.”
OK, so what candidate Trump said is that if NATO members fulfilled their financial commitments made to the NATO alliance, then the United States would defend them if they were attacked. In other words, no more free lunches. Member states cannot underspend their commitment and expect the full support of the United States.
Is this somewhat radical? Well, in the sense that Trump is making member-states live up to their commitments, I guess that is radical. Radical in a fiscally conservative, logical, and fair way.
The Times article goes on:
Mr. Trump’s statement appeared to be the first time that a major candidate for president had suggested conditioning the United States’ defense of its major allies. It was consistent, however, with his previous threat to withdraw American forces from Europe and Asia if those allies fail to pay more for American protection.
So Donald Trump has been consistent on this point. America is not going to keep paying for the free world’s defense without fair and promised spending commitments made by our allies.
Now let’s look at what NATO members have agreed to. This is reported in Forbes.com last summer (link: https://www.forbes.com/sites/niallmccarthy/2018/07/10/defense-expenditure-of-nato-members-visualized-infographic/#2da6c22814cf):
Ahead of this week’s NATO summit in Brussels, U.S. President Donald Trump launched a Twitter broadside against members of the alliance, calling on them to boost their defense spending. Trump tweeted that “the United States is spending far more on NATO than any other country. This is not fair, nor is it acceptable.” He went on to single out Germany for criticism, remarking that its budget contribution comes to 1 percent while the U.S. is at 4 percent. Earlier this year, Ursula von der Leyen, Germany’s defense minister, pledged to lift military spending to 1.5 percent of GDP by 2025. Even though this would be a sharp increase on current spending, it would still fall short of the 2 percent threshold NATO countries agreed to at the 2014 summit in Wales.
So President Trump is fulfilling another campaign promise, to get the rest of the free and prosperous world to pay their fair share of global defense spending to offset the totalitarian and aggressive dictatorships that are threatening the free world.
The Globe’s coverage of this issue is poor, because they are unfairly criticizing Trump by making his position seem nonsensical, unfair, and even unbalanced. His position instead is fair, logical, and consistent. And it is also the stated NATO policy, not something he is unilaterally trying to impose.
To put an exclamation point to this, take a look at the chart on the Forbes page (photo three) and compare the U.S. defense spending with the other NATO countries. Case closed.
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