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Trump Willing to Abandon NATO Allies to Putin

Far more common than “Vote your conscience” as a refrain at the Republican National Convention is “Hillary Clinton doesn’t believe in borders” (see Scott, Ingraham, Gingrich). That claim is false.

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].

Make Vlad Glad—Vote Trump!
Make Vlad Glad—Vote Trump!

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.


  1. Loren 2016-07-21 10:17

    He certainly lives up to his reputation of attending as many PHOTO OPS as possible. Still hasn’t said much of anything!

  2. Rorschach 2016-07-21 11:01

    Trump did not say he wouldn’t honor our NATO obligations. He sent a message to our NATO partners saying “you have obligations too.” That’s a message that President Obama has also sent, apparently to no avail. I don’t fault Trump for sending that message. The fact is, NATO works only if everybody is doing what they are supposed to do. The message that free riders need to pull their weight is a good one. And I’m sure that Putin did not read into that message any green light to invade anyone.

  3. Steve Sibson 2016-07-21 11:05

    So Cory, Hillary, and the Democratic Party has given up on McGovern’s legacy and are now with the Neo-Cons and the Military Industrial Complex?

    I think it is time to reconsider America’s role as the world’s police force. And speaking of standing up to dictators, we have one in the White House right now.

  4. Eve Fisher 2016-07-21 11:17

    Two questions immediately leap to mind:
    (1) If we are going to go to a pay-for-protection foreign policy, who’s got the money to hire us? Obviously Saudi Arabia, which has been doing it for years; but what about the Sultan of Brunei? Jose dos Santos of Angola? Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe? Because if anyone thinks this means we’re going to stay OUT of wars, I think they don’t understand the idea of “play for profit”. Especially if Trump can make one single dime off of it.
    (2) When Newt Gingrich said on CBS News this morning that he’d hesitate to defend, say, Estonia, from Russian invasion because it was “a suburb of St. Petersburg” how widely did Vladimir Putin smile?

  5. Steve Sibson 2016-07-21 11:29

    And the Obama administration has left Hillary off the hook for helping Putin:

    U.S. intelligence agencies are said to be closely watching Russian online blogs and other postings for any signs that Moscow hackers have covertly obtained the bulk of Hillary Clinton’s email messages stolen from her private email server and are preparing to make them public.

    I think we have more to worry about the Democrats helping out Putting and not standing up to them than we do Trump.

  6. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-07-21 12:50

    I disagree, Ror. The statement on face indicates a willingness to sit idle while Putin marches over the Estonian or Polish border. That idling is conditional, not absolute, but it’s there, and it indicates that Trump’s primary concern is not morality or democracy but money.

  7. Roger Cornelius 2016-07-21 12:53

    Sibson, if President Obama was a dictator you wouldn’t have the freedom to spread your insanity on the pages of Dakota Free Press.

  8. Steve Sibson 2016-07-21 13:13

    “Trump’s primary concern is not morality or democracy but money.”

    People who don’t pay their bills are stealing and have a moral problem. And can a democracy work if the government does not collect money? What happens if everybody else refuses to send money to the IRS?

  9. Steve Sibson 2016-07-21 13:30

    Looks like NATO’s main concern is money:

    One of the 3,000 Hillary Clinton emails released by the State Department on New Year’s Eve (where real news is sent to die quietly) has revealed evidence that NATO’s plot to overthrow Gaddafi was fueled by first their desire to quash the gold-backed African currency, and second the Libyan oil reserves.

  10. Rorschach 2016-07-21 13:37

    Trump’s statement says nothing of the sort, Cory. While it is designed to create unease for free rider countries, Putin is smart enough to know that Trump is spoiling for a fight with him.

  11. Rorschach 2016-07-21 13:44

    I disagree with your premise, Cory, that the US should be unconcerned about the fact that our allies everywhere have come to count on US taxpayers digging deep to cover their expenses while they shirk their treaty responsibilities. Treaties are a two-way street. President Obama has been less than subtle about his displeasure with free riders. If his pressure hasn’t been enough to produce results it’s time to ratchet up the pressure. Trump struck the right note on this one.

  12. bearcreekbat 2016-07-21 14:17

    Rohr, Article VI, clause 2 of the US Constitution provides that treaties are the supreme Law of the Land:

    “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, any Thing [sic] in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.”

    [Thanks Cory for the tech lesson! Now can you explain how <a ref works?]

    Doesn't this mean our leaders have to obey our treaties? What does our Constitution require or permit if we ratify a treaty, and we think the other side isn't complying with its obligations? Does a President have the unilateral power to disregard the supreme law of our land?

  13. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-07-21 14:22

    We should be concerned about allies’ dependency. We should encourage all of our allies to lift their own weight. But we should not indicate a willingness to let Russian troops treat Estonia like Crimea or other despots to go Saddam on Kuwait because of one outstanding bill. I don’t think we strengthen our allies or our alliances by saying to our allies, “Pay up, or we might feed you to Putin.”

    And yes, Trump did say that. Asked if he would provide military aid to NATO members attacked by Russia, Trump replied, “If they fulfill their obligations to us, the answer is yes.” That response tells allies that non-response on behalf of some allies attacked by Russia is possible.

  14. Steve Sibson 2016-07-21 14:26

    “The Parties to this Treaty reaffirm their faith in the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and their desire to live in peace with all peoples and all governments.”

    Sounds we are already violating the treaty:

    According to knowledgeable individuals this quantity of gold and silver is valued at more than $7 billion. French intelligence officers discovered this plan shortly after the current rebellion began, and this was one of the factors that influenced President Nicolas Sarkozy’s decision to commit France to the attack on Libya. According to these individuals Sarkozy’s plans are driven by the following issues:

    1 A desire to gain a greater share of Libya oil production,

    2 Increase French influence in North Africa,

    3 Improve his internal political situation in France,

    4 Provide the French military with an opportunity to reassert its position in the world,

    5 Address the concern of his advisors over Qaddafi’s long term plans to supplant France as the dominant power in Francophone Africa

    Conspicuously absent is any mention of humanitarian concerns. The objectives are money, power and oil.

  15. Rorschach 2016-07-21 14:42

    Once again, Cory, to make your point you are cherry picking one part of Trump’s statement and ignoring the part that undermines your argument. The very next question and answer after your quote was: And if not [paid up]? “Well, I’m not saying if not.” He made no statement or suggestion that he would “feed [our allies] to Putin.”

    I hope Trump is not elected. But if he is, and I were a free-riding ally, I would be shoveling boatloads of money to NATO between November and January. As they should have been doing all along.

    I’m fed up with our allies taking advantage of our generosity, and Trump’s voters are too. Hillary ignores this at her own peril.

  16. Roger Elgersma 2016-07-21 15:59

    Putin was telling Fareed Zacaria that he likes Trump. Because Trump called Putin up and told him he would like to go back to the old way where we agree on everything. That means that Trump would agree to lose Ukraine’s freedom and democracy just to appease Putin into being friends with Putin. Long term lose for Ukraine and short term gain for Trump. Same selfishness as Trump always had.

  17. Steve Sibson 2016-07-21 16:10

    “That means that Trump would agree to lose Ukraine’s freedom and democracy just to appease Putin”

    Or would Putin agree to allow Ukraine’s freedom and democracy? Trump wants to restore America’s freedoms.

  18. Donald Pay 2016-07-21 16:43

    My guess is if Trump refused to come to the aid of the Baltic states should they be attacked by Russia, he would be summarily impeached with a near unanimous bipartisan vote and convicted in the Senate. Pence would be President in about two weeks.

    See, the Baltic states would be the first, but other countries would soon follow. Putin would like nothing better than to have a cipher like Trump sit in the Oval Office while he reconstitutes the Russia’s Cold War Empire. Republicans think Obama is weak? Ha. Trump is a Putin’s toady, or, at the very least, he is sending dangerous signals of weakness, similar to what the GHW Bush administration sent before Sadam’s Kuwait invasion.

    And it wouldn’t just be Russia. China would see the weakness and pounce in the South China Sea and maybe the East China Sea. We would have a two front disaster.

    It’s not just treaty obligations working here; it’s Republican interests. Nothing fills Republican campaign coffers faster than when taxpayers shovel money to the defense industry, which they recycles it to the Party.

  19. Sam@ 2016-07-22 07:31

    Just another twist of words by the liberals. Trump stated they need to meet their obligations. I guess when all the liberals have left is a candidate that should be in jail this all they can do is distort represent the facts.

  20. Eve Fisher 2016-07-22 09:18

    Just a note: Estonia – which both Gingrich and Trump have said they’d throw to Putin like an old bone – DOES meet its obligations, fully.

  21. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-07-23 17:25

    Really, Sam? Please tell me how Trump’s words, quoted above, do not mean, “If you haven’t paid your dues, I will consider not coming to your aid.” Don’t talk about Clinton; don’t talk about liberals; talk about the language on the page, the words from Trump’s mouth, in the context of the questions asked.

  22. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-07-23 17:28

    Ror, you’re overinterpreting Trump’s “I’m not saying if not” to fit the argument you want to make. He wasn’t saying, “I’m not saying I won’t support members who are behind in their dues.” He was saying he was going to answer that question. He’s dodging; I’m taking words at face value. Even your scenario about scared allies shoveling boatloads of money our way confirms that the intent of his main statement: to scare allies into thinking he wont’ back them. Trump can’t make that statement to scare allies without also emboldening potential attackers.

  23. mike from iowa 2016-07-23 17:52

    @ Sam@ just exactly what crime has Clinton been duly convicted of-besides being smarter than everyone of you right wing nut jobs? In a Democracy you need to be arrested, tried and convicted, by a jury of her peers, before you nuts get to jail her or kill her.

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