HOWARD KURTZ: Trump’s NATO comments trigger fierce media, European opposition


Donald Trump made news that went around the world.

He wasn't the one who said – after Kansas City's incredible Super Bowl comeback – that he signed a law increasing musicians' incomes so Taylor Swift wouldn't have to support Joe Biden (also “Like her boyfriend, Travis).

It wasn't “we're going to get rid of the sick political class that hates our country, we're going to rout the fake media, we're going to drain the swamp.”

It's not that he said at a South Carolina rally that “Biden's thugs are still trying to put me in jail based on trumped-up charges for crimes they openly admit Crooked Joe has clerk. for something to happen to this guy.”

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No, it's NATO.

Trump recalled a conversation with the president of “a great country” who asked him if they were not increasing their defense contribution to the North Atlantic alliance “and we are under attack by Russia, will you protect us?”

Sharing his response at the rally, Trump claims he said: “You didn't pay. You're a delinquent… No, I wouldn't protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever they want.”

The idea that Vladimir Putin could do “whatever he wants” has set off alarm bells, not only among foreign policy makers in Europe, but also in most major national media. One potential impact would be on Ukraine, as Trump has refused to approve increased military aid to the weakened country, which would allow Russia's unprovoked invasion to succeed or retain its territorial gains along the eastern border. , or to capture the sovereign nation as a whole.

And yet there is more evidence, if any were needed, that the Republican Party is now the party of Trump. Some of the biggest Republican hawks, who have strongly supported NATO in the past, say they have no problem with the former president's remarks.

Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump at a Get Out The Vote rally at Coastal Carolina University on February 10 in Conway, South Carolina. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

As the Washington Post As Lindsey Graham points out, when he ran for president in 2016, Trump's comments made Putin a “very happy man.”

On Sunday, the senator said he was “not at all concerned” about Trump's latest remarks.

Tom Cotton, another prominent hawk, said in 2016 that America must “make sure we support NATO and defend countries like Ukraine and Georgia” that face “the Russian aggression and recognize Vladimir Putin as the adversary that he is.

On Sunday, the senator said NATO countries that aren't paying their full share are “already encouraging Russian aggression, and President Trump is only sounding the alarm.”

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Marco Rubio said in 2018 that Trump had gone too far by “questioning the value of the alliance”, tweeting: “The end of #NATO would be a dream come true for #Putin.”

On Sunday, the senator said he had “no” concerns about Trump's latest comments and suggested he didn't mean them: “We've been through this before. You'd think people would have it understand now.”

And here's the most interesting part: Rubio and Graham passed a bill prohibiting any president from withdrawing from NATO. I wonder who they might have been thinking of?

Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump comes out to speak at a Get Out The Vote campaign rally held at Coastal Carolina University in Conway, South Carolina on February 10. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Listen, I understand. This is how Trump negotiates. During his first term, he regularly questioned the value of the NATO alliance as a means of getting certain countries to meet their commitment to spend 2% of their GDP on defense, with some success. It's an approach he perfected as a businessman when he threatened to walk away from a deal if certain conditions weren't met.

But when Trump took office with little foreign policy experience, retired generals like Jim Mattis and John Kelly dissuaded him from withdrawing.

The New York Times relates this anecdote:

“Shortly after former President Donald J. Trump took office, his aides explained how NATO's mutual defense obligations worked.

“You mean if Russia attacked Lithuania, we would go to war against Russia? ” he has answered. “It's crazy.” Mr. Trump never believed in the fundamental concept of “one for all and all for one” of the Atlantic alliance. »

But Trump made clear that in a second term, he would surround himself with loyalists who would not try to prevent such decisions.

Senior Advisor Jason Miller says Biden has reversed Trump's approach to NATO:

“The Democrats and the media seem to have forgotten that we had four years of peace and prosperity under President Trump, but Europe saw death and destruction under Obama-Biden and now even more death and destruction under Biden.”

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Much of the media is leading the charge against NATO. CNN's Christiane Amanpour called Trump's latest comments “crazy.”

It is also true that senior European officials have been publicly cited for criticizing Trump's language. They would be irresponsible if they didn't start developing a plan B.

European Union flags fly in front of the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, September 28, 2022. (Reuters/Yves Herman/archive photo)

The crux of the argument is that the alliance created in the aftermath of World War II worked well to deter war and does not need repair. I happen to be in this camp – and the only time the mutual defense pact was invoked was when our allies helped us after 9/11.

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Yet it is also true that Trump has a habit of making seemingly exaggerated statements that give him more clout.

Footnote: Trump now says on Truth Social that “NO MONEY IN THE FORM OF FOREIGN AID SHOULD BE GIVEN TO ANY COUNTRY UNLESS IT IS MADE AS A LOAN, NOT JUST A GIFT.” »



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