It appears that President Trump’s controversial speech before our NATO allies last week wasn’t what his top security staff had planned to hear.
In fact, the only ones not disappointed with that speech were the diehard, “always Trump, forever” crowd and Russia.
After all, shaking up, and potentially breaking the unity of the NATO allies after 70-years only serves the interests of Russia, emboldening them to become increasingly aggressive in expanding their reach in the nations that border them.
And if our NATO allies were caught off guard, doubly so had to be Trump’s national security team, when they didn’t hear the speech they’d signed off on being recited that day.
Trump went off-script again.
What was expected was that the president would reaffirm the Article 5 provision, which basically states that an attack against one NATO ally is an attack against all of them.
That provision was put into play after 9/11, calling our allies to stand up in defense of the United States after a vicious attack.
It was included in the speech that was approved by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary James Mattis, and national security adviser H.R. McMaster.
According to a new report from POLITICO, however, it just didn’t happen. Trump’s decision to leave mention of Article 5 out of his speech came without informing them that he’d be leaving it out, or consulting with them about the consequences.
“They had the right speech and it was cleared through McMaster,” said a source briefed by National Security Council officials in the immediate aftermath of the NATO meeting. “As late as that same morning, it was the right one.”
Added a senior White House official, “There was a fully coordinated other speech everybody else had worked on”—and it wasn’t the one Trump gave. “They didn’t know it had been removed,” said a third source of the Trump national security officials on hand for the ceremony. “It was only upon delivery.”
Sources further say that Trump’s decision to delete that portion of the speech may have been based on his own, previously stated qualms about NATO, with a bit of coaxing from chief strategist Steve Bannon and policy aide Stephen Miller.
And it suggests Trump’s impulsive instincts on foreign policy are not necessarily going to be contained by the team of experienced leaders he’s hired for Defense, the NSC and State. “We’re all seeing the fallout from it—and all the fallout was anticipated,” the White House official told me.
They may be the “adults in the room,” as the saying going around Washington these past few months had it. But Trump—and the NATO case shows this all too clearly—isn’t in the room with them.
What good is assembling a stellar cast of cabinet and administration members if they’re only there to stand in the background for photo ops, maybe trotted out occasionally to do damage control, but otherwise, their expertise is not being utilized?
What our allies are seeing is instability in Washington.
Nobody knows if they should take Trump seriously, or should they listen to his cabinet? Right now, the message isn’t always the same, and Trump has repeatedly undercut his own team, often a day or two after sending them out to deliver a message to the world.
Now people with solid names and reputations are seeing those reputations tarnished, as they’re reduced to muck work, shovel in hand, following behind Trump to scoop up the messes he leaves on the world stage.