For the Trump supporters reading this, back a long, long time ago, there was this big country called the USSR. And they were ruled pretty much the way Donald Trump wants to rule the United States. I mean they were YUGE and awesome. But, for reasons that aren’t clear, the losers who ran the United States and Western Europe didn’t like the USSR and decided to be mean to them. In 1949, that is Year 3 in The Year Of Trump, they created this thing called the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO. On of the main features of the NATO Charter is Article V, not unlike Article XII of the US Constitution it is the most important, which states, approximately, that an attack on one NATO member is an attack on all.
Let me end the sarcasm here.
The NATO alliance has proven to be a useful tool not only for the common defense of Europe but as a mechanism for integrating many former Soviet client states into the political and economic framework of Western Europe. In fact, in 2004, three former captive republics of the USSR, Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania, became actual NATO members.
Yesterday, however, Donald Trump threw NATO into a panic by stating that a Trump Administration might very well refuse to honor its mutual defense obligations under the NATO charter.
SANGER: Since your time is limited, let me ask you about Russia. You’ve been very complimentary of Putin himself.TRUMP: No! No, I haven’t.
SANGER: You said you respected his strength.
TRUMP: He’s been complimentary of me. I think Putin and I will get along very well.
SANGER: So I was just in ——
TRUMP: But he’s been complimentary of me.
SANGER: I was just in the Baltic States. They are very concerned obviously about this new Russian activism, they are seeing submarines off their coasts, they are seeing airplanes they haven’t seen since the Cold War coming, bombers doing test runs. If Russia came over the border into Estonia or Latvia, Lithuania, places that Americans don’t think about all that often, would you come to their immediate military aid?TRUMP: I don’t want to tell you what I’d do because I don’t want Putin to know what I’d do. I have a serious chance of becoming president and I’m not like Obama, that every time they send some troops into Iraq or anyplace else, he has a news conference to announce it.SANGER: They are NATO members, and we are treaty-obligated ——
TRUMP: We have many NATO members that aren’t paying their bills.SANGER: That’s true, but we are treaty-obligated under NATO, forget the bills part.
TRUMP: You can’t forget the bills. They have an obligation to make payments. Many NATO nations are not making payments, are not making what they’re supposed to make. That’s a big thing. You can’t say forget that.SANGER: My point here is, Can the members of NATO, including the new members in the Baltics, count on the United States to come to their military aid if they were attacked by Russia? And count on us fulfilling our obligations ——TRUMP: Have they fulfilled their obligations to us? If they fulfill their obligations to us, the answer is yes.
HABERMAN: And if not?
TRUMP: Well, I’m not saying if not. I’m saying, right now there are many countries that have not fulfilled their obligations to us.
Newt Gingrich, a top Donald Trump supporter and former speaker of the House, defended on Thursday the Republican nominee’s recent remarks setting conditions for honoring the NATO military alliance.
“[NATO] countries ought to worry about our commitment,” Gingrich said on “CBS This Morning” in an interview. “They ought to worry about commitment under any circumstances. Every president has been saying that the NATO countries do not pay their fair share.”
Of countries that aren’t “doing their fair share,” Gingrich said, “They’re a source of weakness, not a source of strength.”
When pressed on whether Trump and the U.S. would come to the aid of countries like Estonia in the case of a Russian invasion, Gingrich said he too “would think about it a great deal.”
“Estonia is in the suburbs of St. Petersburg. The Russians aren’t gonna necessarily come across the border militarily. The Russians are gonna do what they did in Ukraine,” he said. “I’m not sure I would risk a nuclear war over some place which is the suburbs of St. Petersburg. I think we have to think about what does this stuff mean.”
When asked whether he believed Trump meant to terminate the NATO agreement, Gingrich said he believed the GOP nominee wanted to have a “very serious conversation about us being the people who defend people who won’t defend themselves.”
In, Gingrich’s case, he goes further than Trump. Estonia is one of four European nations who meed the NATO target of spending 2% of GDP on defense.
The Baltic States are squarely in Putin’s sights and Estonia, because of its large ethnic Russian population, is nearly low-hanging fruit in terms of a separatists movement like the Russians used in Crimea. (there posts on the subject by me here | here | here | here) When one takes into consideration the close ties that people in Trump’s inner circle have with Putin and the mutual admiration society Trump and Putin have and overt actions by Trump and his Russophile cronies to snuggle up to Putin, this statement goes far beyond the musings of a deranged old man. This statement falls in the same class as the statement by the US Ambassodor to Kuwait, April Glaspie, to Saddam Hussein that the US had no position on inter-Arab conflicts.
By not firmly stating he will honor the NATO charter and by having his henchman, Gingrich, specifically point out Estonia as a case where we would not honor our treaty commitment, Trump has effectively gutted NATO.
If Trump is elected, he just green lighted Russian adventurism in the Baltic States and the demise of NATO.