For full disclosure: I know more than most about the intersection between the Republican presidential candidate and national security.
No, I don’t work for Mr Trump, nor am I part of his campaign staff of advisors. But last summer, long before anyone outside of his own family took his candidacy seriously, Donald Trump reached out to me for advice on national security issues.
We met twice in his Manhattan office to discuss broad questions to do with national security, and I wrote him a selection of policy papers (the details of which fall under an NDA. Sorry!).
Now he is the official presidential candidate of the GOP, much to the surprise of many a RINO and the chagrin of a certain Texan senator who refused to endorse him (after pledging to endorse whoever became the GOP candidate).
Mr. Trump has successfully outwitted all the bookies and establishment grandees by speaking plainly and riding the wave of serial controversies that do far greater damage to his detractors than his own standing among the voters.
The latest storm was generated by the NYT interview he gave yesterday. When asked about coming to the aid of NATO nations under attack, Trump answered that that depends upon how they have fulfilled their obligations to us, and if they had done so, he would aid them, adding that “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.”
Well with that the chattering classes were off to the races. From Chris Matthews on down (or is it up?) the cries went out: “How can Trump say this?” “He’s endangering our allies.” “He’s emboldening Putin!” “Doesn’t he know we have treaty obligations?!”
Now I am not a Trumpster (I grew up under, and was formed by, the leadership of Maggie Thatcher, a very different kind of leader), but can we just stop for a moment and look at what the presidential candidate actually said?
He said: it if our allies keep to their commitments (hear an echo Senator Cruz?), we will defend them. How outrageous of Donald Trump! Or was it?
At the moment, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has 28 sovereign members, from the mighty America, to the lilliputian Estonian. Of the almost 30 countries, only 5 reach the consensus requirement for NATO members to dedicate just 2% of their GDP to their own defense (Estonia, interestingly being one of them).
The other 23 countries have decided for decades that they don’t want to pay for their own protection. They’ll just freeload on America’s good will. (I mean the yanks saved Europe from self-destruction twice, so they’ll do it again. Right. Right……??)
I cut my teeth on NATO issues when I still lived in Europe, and from experience can confirm that the majority of European nations have taken American goodwill – and our dollars – for granted.
Yes, NATO is an alliance based on values and not just parochial interests. But it is not a US-funded charity, and that is how it has been treated since the end of the Cold War by the majority of its members.
The Gray Lady’s follow-up piece today on the Trump kerfuffle is entitled: “Donald Trump’s Remarks Rattle NATO Allies and Stoke Debate on Cost Sharing.”
I can personally attest that Mr. Trump has a long way to go when it comes to being au fait with the intricacies of national security, but on this one he is 100% correct. And I, for one, am glad that after taking America for granted for so long, the freeloaders are “rattled” and talking about “cost-sharing.”
And I am quite certain that, should Donald Trump be elected the Commander-in-Chief of the United States of America, they won’t just be “talking” about it.