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John Bolton: Trump Genuinely Wants to Pull Out of NATO

John Bolton was Donald Trump's National Security Advisor and has a pretty good idea of what Trump actually thinks about national security issues. In his book The Room Where It Happened, Bolton notes that Trump doesn't understand basic facts and often shoots off his mouth about lots of things he doesn't necessarily care about. Nevertheless, in a recent interview with a Politico reporter, Bolton said that Trump's recent threats about withdrawing from NATO are real. Bolton said: "Look, I was there when he almost withdrew, and he's not negotiating. His goal here is not to strengthen NATO, it's to lay the groundwork to get out." When Bolton hears Republicans say that Trump doesn't mean it and he is just bluffing, Bolton responds: "I'm telling you, I was there in Brussels when he damn near did it."

According to Bolton, Trump has three beefs with Europe:

Trump does have a point on spending. Here are the data. Here they are as a chart.

Defense spending as a fraction of GDP by NATO countries

It is true that most NATO countries are short of the 2% that is expected (but not required) and Trump is correct to point this out and push them to increase it. Even bluffing would be legitimate since they all suggested they would spend 2% of GDP on defense and most haven't. But Bolton knows Trump well and says he really wants out. Bolton also knows that if the U.S. withdraws from NATO, Russia will invade and take over Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania in a flash and then might go after Poland. Poland will resist with everything it's got (including attacking Russia) and that risks starting World War III.

Bolton goes on to say that a U.S. withdrawal would be devastating for U.S. security. He said Trump didn't know anything about what the alliance did when he entered office and didn't know anything about what it did when he left office. Then he explained that the world does not have a "natural order." The order is imposed by the U.S. and its allies and the U.S. is not doing this out of charity. It's doing it because it is in the country's national interest. Bolton is a big believer in Ronald Reagan's motto of "Peace through strength." He doesn't think Trump gets it and is nervous about what could happen in the world if Trump wins in November. (V)

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