Guest editorial: Trump’s stance on NATO comes straight from Russia
President Trump addressed our NATO allies in Brussels today, giving a speech that perfectly well could have been written by Vladimir Putin. Why Putin? Because it was brazenly inappropriate for the NATO venue and almost certainly was badly received by those allies and their constituents.
Forget his boorish, egocentric behavior in abruptly and rudely shoving a fellow NATO member out of the way so he could move to the front of the assembling pack of dignitaries. Focus instead on what he actually said and did not say during his speech and on the likely effect that those words, or lack of words, would have on his fellow NATO presidents and their people.
The president hit hard on his view of the need for NATO members to tighten their immigration procedures. That is one of his ongoing complaints and one on which most of the Europeans disagree with him. It is an issue on which he has minor support around the world or even at home. It was hardly appropriate for that particular meeting of NATO heads of state.
In addition, he used the occasion to complain bitterly about the ongoing disinclination of many NATO member countries to pay their way, thus saddling the American taxpayer with expenses that should have been borne elsewhere. All of that is true and it is a theme that has been addressed by every American President since Harry Truman. This was a message well known to NATO and one which, under two of Trump’s predecessors, was beginning to have a positive impact resulting in rising contributions. His harping is not likely to help his cause.
What would have been appropriate for Trump to cover was a reiteration of America’s support to its fellow NATO members to accept and support the provisions of Article 5. That NATO provision commits every member to support any and all attacks against any of its fellow members. It was Article 5 that prompted the entire NATO membership to sign on with America after 9/11.
We are now at a moment in time when Russia is behaving very aggressively with most of the western world, most emphatically including NATO’s European members. We have seen it in the Ukraine and in Crimea. Additionally, the Russians have clearly been meddling in European elections. Here at home we have seen it in their covert meddling in our primary election process.
Under present circumstances, what our fellow NATO members wanted from the United States president was a clear, unequivocal statement that we still support NATO and adhere to the provisions of Article Five. They got neither.
What they got was a speech that never seemed to contradict Trump’ previous negative statements on NATO or the European Community. It never stated this new American administration’s commitment to NATO and the provisions of Article 5.
In short, it was very much along the lines of ongoing Russian policy on Europe, NATO and the West. It was almost entirely negative and non-supportive on those issues on which the NATO members wanted, needed and expected to hear — a strong reiteration of America’s past supportive policy.
America will find diminishing support for its leading role in NATO and the world, including in the counterterrorism arena, one of great importance and one of Trump’s favorites.
Just what Putin would have wanted if he had written the speech himself.
Editor’s note: Haviland Smith, of Williston, is a retired CIA station chief who spent most of his career focused on the Soviet Union.
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