At a rally in South Carolina, Donald Trump said he was approached by the head of a big country that has not paid enough to NATO and asked if his country was attacked, would the U.S. come to its aid. Trump said: "You didn't pay? You're delinquent? No, I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want. You gotta pay. You gotta pay your bills." It is one thing to ask NATO members to contribute their share. That is certainly legitimate. It is something entirely different to encourage Russia to attack U.S. allies. It is also unheard of for a presidential candidate to say he would violate a treaty ratified by the Senate. That is borderline close to saying that he will violate any law that he finds inconvenient. Here are Trump's remarks:
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg reacted with: "Any suggestion that allies will not defend each other undermines all of our security, including that of the U.S., and puts American and European soldiers at increased risk." Trump was also hammered by Nikki Haley, Chris Christie, John Bolton, and numerous Democrats.
NATO experts are saying that Trump has fundamentally misunderstood the value of NATO to the U.S. It is not about pay to play. It is about protecting the U.S. from a World War III that could originate in Europe. Maybe Trump thinks he could let the war rage there and the U.S. would just stay out. He probably doesn't know that France and the U.K. have nuclear weapons and, if invaded, would probably use them. Germany doesn't have them, but is considering developing them. If Russia attacks a NATO country, good luck avoiding a nuclear war (and the radioactive fallout from it, which doesn't stop at national borders).
How will this play out politically? Trump's base will probably eat it up. But college-educated voters in the suburbs are probably not going to react well to Trump telling Putin to go invade any country he wants to. They know that the U.S. simply cannot go it alone. Too much of the economy depends on trade. All manner of critical raw materials are imported. Millions of jobs depend on products that are exported. Putting a wall not only on the southern border but also on the eastern, northern, and western borders and letting Russia and China divvy up the rest of the world as they wish would be a disaster for the U.S.
Trump's remarks also help Joe Biden indirectly by replacing all the news stories about Biden being senile with stories about Trump inviting his buddy Putin to conquer whatever piece of the world China doesn't want. This is just another example of "stuff changes" and what is big news today may not be big news tomorrow. It is also true that many Republicans in Congress really don't like Russia or Putin. They may not be willing to go after Trump right now on this, but the time may come when they do. (V)