Donald Trump continues to rewrite the political playbook — seemingly in real time – as he campaigns for president. With a bombshell comment in an interview with the New York Times yesterday, perhaps he has now shifted the media conversation away from a few sentences in his wife’s Monday speech to a much larger issue.The Hill reports, Trump told the New York Times on Wednesday that the U.S. should only help NATO partners who “fulfill their obligations to us.”
“We are spending a fortune on military in order to lose $800 billion,” Trump said. “That doesn’t sound very smart to me. We are going to take care of this country first before we worry about everyone else in the world.”
Trump was specifically responding to whether he would help the Baltic States should Russia attack them, the Times reported.
Those comments have set off a firestorm of concern from America’s NATO allies, and providing talking points to the Democrats and Hillary Clinton.From Toomas Hendrik Ilves, the president of Estonia:
We are equally committed to a l l our NATO allies, regardless of who they may be. That's what makes them allies.
— toomas hendrik ilves (@IlvesToomas) July 21, 2016
Estonia is 1 of 5 NATO allies in Europe to meet its 2% def expenditures commitment. Fought, with no caveats, in NATO's sole Art 5 op. in Afg— toomas hendrik ilves (@IlvesToomas) July 21, 2016
From Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations:
alliances, extended deterrence have served US, world well for 70 years. alternatives could be costly in many ways https://t.co/yCSWab5yee— Richard N. Haass (@RichardHaass) July 21, 2016
From Michael McFaul, a former U.S. ambassador to Russia:
We have had decades of bipartisan commitment to NATO, which has made it the greatest alliance in history. Trump is now threatening that.
— Michael McFaul (@McFaul) July 21, 2016
Politico reports, Trump’s interview was just the latest bombshell the Republican nominee has dropped on the world, as he offers a fundamentally different view of how the U.S. should engage with the world — one that is defined in purely economic terms.
Trump has long questioned whether other NATO states were carrying their share of the financial and military burdens that come with the alliance. And in the interview ahead of his speech Thursday night at the Republican National Convention, Trump suggested that if he became president the U.S. would only come to the assistance of a member state under attack if it “has fulfilled their obligations to us.”
Immediately, Hillary Clinton’s campaign put out this statement: “Ronald Reagan would be ashamed. Harry Truman would be ashamed. Republicans, Democrats and Independents who help build NATO into the most successful military alliance in history would all come to the same conclusion: Donald Trump is temperamentally unfit and fundamentally ill-prepared to be our commander in chief.”
While it’s not possible to presume Trump’s true intent in his comments, he is serving notice that the United States should not always be automatically picking up the check for everyone at the table. One would hope he’s not suggesting we turn our backs on our allies, but it doesn’t seem out of line to ask them to at least carry their own weight.
Clearly a Trump presidency – like the Trump candidacy – will not be “business as usual.” His popularity is precisely because of that fact, and taking a good, hard look at every line item on the federal budget is something our nation desperately needs.
With the right team of advisors in a Trump cabinet, one would hope we’d see a major course correction in a number of areas, because the course we’re currently on is heading for massive iceberg.
[Note: This article was written by Michele Hickford]