Editorial Roundup: Trump talk of leaving NATO threatens many

Published 8:50 pm Friday, February 16, 2024

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“In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want” — ex-President Donald Trump, giving Russia an invitation to invade allies

Those words were aimed at a U.S. ally and NATO member when Trump told the NATO member to pay more to the alliance.

“‘You didn’t pay? You’re delinquent?’” Trump recently recounted saying. “‘No I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them (Russia) to do whatever the hell they want. You gotta pay. You gotta pay your bills.’”

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Such bluster was dismissed by Republicans who say it’s just Trump being Trump. Others, including other Republicans and U.S. allies, are concerned about the resurfacing of this ugly, threatening, ineffective exchange, if it really happened. Republicans dismissing it recently said Trump would never risk breaking up the alliance.

But others, including some on Trump’s current team, say NATO has to be changed or dismantled.

Trump’s own website says he pledges to “finish the process we began under my administration of fundamentally reevaluating NATO’s purpose and NATO’s mission.”

He told Fox News he would not commit to NATO. That, he said, depends on “if they treat us properly.”

Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, a Trump adviser, has proposed the Article 5 clause in NATO, which defines an attack of one member as an attack on all, should only apply to those who pay their designated fee.

Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, Trump’s only rival for the GOP nomination, said she was “appalled” by Trump’s comment encouraging Russia to invade and questioned why he was opposing “our allies who were with us after 9/11.”

She told CNN that Trump “talked many times about getting out of NATO behind closed doors and publicly. So that’s just a fact.”

And from John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser: “To those who say this is just the way he bargains with NATO, I can tell you I was there when he damn (near) well withdrew,” he said. “He often referred to getting out of NATO. … He was looking for arguments to withdraw from NATO.”

And the facts suggest NATO allies are upping their financial contributions. Seven of the 31 allies are now meeting their 2% of GDP contributions. And more are making progress as their economies recover from the 2008 financial crisis and the pandemic. Many of the allies have increased their defense spending, including Germany, which has doubled it.

The NATO response force has gone from 30,000 to 400,000, according to American Legion magazine.

The urgent concerns about a second Trump term destroying the 75-year-old alliance, which has kept peace in the world and dictators from taking hold, are real.

We should not be led to believe they’re no big deal.

— Mankato Free Press, Feb. 14

About Editorial Roundup

Editorials from newspapers around the state of Minnesota.

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