Yesterday, Donald Trump spoke at a rally in Jacksonville, FL. He started out by bullsh**ing about his lead in the polls and then he took after his whipping boy du jour, NATO (I guess the Mexicans no longer attract him). The fun starts at 1:56.
So, then we talk about NATO, and I said no, no. NATO, you have 28 countries and the countries many of them aren’t paying what they’re supposed to be paying and I want them to pay. I want them to pay if they don’t pay. If they don’t pay, what are we doing? Sort of funny. We’re defending them and they’re not paying. Figure that one out.
So we’re defending and then I said no, they gotta pay. So the newspapers left that out, they left that out about the payment. They said Donald Trump wants to get rid of NATO.
I want to get rid of NATO. But, but you always have to be prepared to walk. It’s possible, okay. Then they said, then they said what happens if one of these countries, take a smaller one that nobody in this room is ever heard of, gets attacked by Russia, are you saying you’re not going to protect them. I say well, let me ask you, have they paid? Have they paid? Right? Have they paid?
So we’re going to save a fortune and they are going to pay, and if they don’t, sorry.
But the stupid people back there, they go like, ‘we have a treaty.’ ‘We have a treaty to protect these countries, we have a treaty.’ And I say, we have a treaty where they are supposed to be paying and they’re not paying.
This is not only factually wrong, it is profoundly dangerous.
First, the NATO treaty is a mutual defense pact. As Erick points out, the mutual defense provision, Article V, has only been invoked one time. That was in the aftermath of 9/11. NATO’s real value has been in making Europe, outside the Balkans, a peaceful place for the first time in recorded history. Cynics have said that the purpose of NATO is “to keep the Americans in, the Russians out, and the Germans down,” but the fact remains that the mutual membership in NATO has probably prevented at least two wars between Turkey and Greece. It has effectively stymied the perpetual Russian pipe dream of owning the Bosporus and Dardanelles. It fostered the European Common Market and the EU. There is a good argument that the NATO alliance could use reexamination but the current purpose is critical in light of the fact that Vladimir Putin seems hellbent on reestablishing the Soviet Empire.
Second, while the NATO treaty requires a lot of things, one thing it doesn’t require is “payment.” It doesn’t. Read the treaty documents. There is no treaty requirement that a member nation spend one red cent on defense. The “payment” Trump harps on is a goal of spending 2% of GDP set by the member nations. That expenditure could be changed to any number tomorrow and it would not constitute a change to the treaty.
Third, Trump’s understanding of a treaty appears as limited as his understanding of just about any other subject you want to pick. Let’s go to Article VI, not to be confused with Article XII, of the US Constitution:
This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.
Trump doesn’t have the power to decide to not to abide by the NATO treaty unless he convinces the Senate to renounce it. The NATO treaty is the law of the land.
Lastly, Trump seems to confuse arbitrary actions, like walking away in a snit from a treaty the US has signed, with strategic ambiguity. They aren’t the same thing. Just yesterday we were treated to another instance of Trump’s inability to distinguish them when we found out that he really doesn’t see any reason to take first use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear opponents on the table despite the 70 year history of that US policy.
It is bad enough that Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, his chief foreign policy adviser, Carter Page, and his chief military adviser, retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, all have close ties to Vladimir Putin or the Russian oligarchy and the first two may still be on the payroll of Russian companies. But telegraphing to Putin that President Donald Trump will not honor treaty commitments if Russia desires to seize Estonia (one of the few NATO nations that has “paid”) is creating a negative type of ambiguity that encourages adventures and miscalculation by an aggressive power. This is the type of ambiguity that existed in September 1939 over how committed France and Britain were to defending Poland.
There are a lot of problems with Donald Trump’s candidacy. If they were merely limited to his asinine pronouncements on the economy, etc., I’d be at least ambivalent to him. But the real problem with Donald Trump’s candidacy is that he is a completely undisciplined individual with no ability for either critical thought or impulse control. Domestically, this might be merely painful and probably no more painful that the savage mismanagement of the economy by Obama… and it would be a helluva lot more amusing. Internationally, however, Trump is going to get tens, if not hundreds of thousands of people killed. Anyone who continues to support this clown is just as responsible for the coming bloodshed as Trump himself would be.