Sunday, February 11, 2024

What Trump thinks of NATO and the concept of mutual responsibility

We've a pretty good idea of what Donald Trump might do if he's ever let anywhere near the White House again (insofar as that can ever be known). But, just for good measure, he has given us a little insight into his views on NATO.

During his first term, Trump repeatedly threatened to take the USA out of NATO. But, at a rally in South Carolina recently, he elucidated his current thoughts on the crucial intergovernmental organization.

Trump says that, if a country doesn't meet NATO's defence spending guidelines (Canada, for example, not to mention Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Turkey, Netherlands, Portugal and Denmark - in fact, two-thirds of NATO members), he would feel no responsibility to protect them, and would actively withold American aid, regardless of the Article 5 collective defence commitment built into the NATO charter. 

So, if Russia, for example, were to invade a NATO member which is not paying its way (i.e. 2% of GDP), Trump's response would be: "No, I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want. You got to pay. You got to pay your bills." 

In fact, the 2% figure is just a NATO guideline, not a requirement. Countries are not billed by NATO, and are not in debt to the organization. Thus, they cannot be considered to be "delinquent" for not paying at least 2% of GDP. As so often, Trump has misunderstood, or he is deliberately trying to misrepresent the situation for his own ends.

I'm sure this elicited a huge cheer from the hyper-partisan crowd, which after all is all Trump really wants. Probably nobody there actually stopped to think about what that might entail, caught up as they were in all the showmanship, chest-thumping and testosterone. 

And of course, you never really know if Trump means what he says. Hell, you never really know if he's even aware of what he says. But there's always the possibility that he actually does, and that's how he has us all hanging on his words.

President Biden's White House spokesperson called Trump's remarks "appalling and unhinged". Most other thinking people just looked on in disbelief. But thinking is not what the Republican base is about these days. It's all about the show. And the fate of the world be buggered. 

In a world where the equally unhinged Putin might well make a move on Poland or one of the Baltic states after he's finished decimating Ukraine, not being able to rely on the USA in the event of such an attack on a NATO member changes the calculus significantly.

Maybe he didn't mean it literally, or maybe he did, but he should not be joking about this kind of thing. This is quite literally traitorous talk. It's hard to believe that many millions of Americans will still vote for someone who speaks publicly in this way. 

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