Republican nominee Donald Trump, however, appears not to believe in protecting our European allies’ borders if they don’t pay us:
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 [David E. Sanger and Maggie Haberman, “Transcript: Donald Trump on NATO, Turkey’s Coup Attempt and the World,” New York Times, interview conducted 2016.07.20, published 2016.07.21].
Jordan Weissmann of Slate points out that Trump’s statement that he might not stand by our allies contradicts his running mate Mike Pence’s assertion from the convention podium last night that Donald Trump “will… stand by our allies.” Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic notes that Trump’s NATO-maybe runs counter not only to the RNC theme of Making America Great Again but, far more importantly, to decades of Republican foreign policy that prioritizes protecting and expanding the number of free nations and instead puts Vladimir Putin’s imperial aspirations first.
Team Clinton says condemnation of Trump’s alliance-busting Putinism should span all partisan divides:
Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign put out a statement invoking Republican darling Ronald Reagan to blast Trump.
“Ronald Reagan would be ashamed. Harry Truman would be ashamed. Republicans, Democrats and Independents who help build NATO into the most successful military alliance in history would all come to the same conclusion: Donald Trump is temperamentally unfit and fundamentally ill-prepared to be our commander in chief,” Clinton senior policy adviser Jake Sullivan said in the statement [Nahal Toosi, “Trump’s Remarks on NATO Set off Freakout,” Politico, 2016.07.21].
America in NATO was a beacon of freedom to the peoples of the Warsaw Pact. When the Iron Curtain fell, nearly all of the Warsaw Pact nations clamored to join our alliance, not Yeltsin’s or Putin’s Russia. America under Trump sounds like a two-bit thug running a protection racket in Queens—if you don’t pay, I can’t be held responsible for what might happen to you.
Thanks to decades of study and experience, Hillary Clinton believes in borders and alliances. The incurious, inattentive Donald Trump believes in nothing but money and himself… and that’s not enough to stand up to dictators.