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Daniel Malloy

Donald Trump’s comments about NATO and Russia spark firestorm

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Donald Trump arrives at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland on Wednesday by helicopter. (AP/Evan Vucci)

Donald Trump arrives at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland on Wednesday by helicopter. (AP/Evan Vucci)

While Wednesday’s dramatics played out on the convention floor, the Republican nominee was chatting with the New York Times and dropped this bombshell:

During a 45-minute conversation, he explicitly raised new questions about his commitment to automatically defend NATO allies if they are attacked, saying he would first look at their contributions to the alliance. Mr. Trump re-emphasized the hard-line nationalist approach that has marked his improbable candidacy, describing how he would force allies to shoulder defense costs that the United States has borne for decades, cancel longstanding treaties he views as unfavorable, and redefine what it means to be a partner of the United States. …

He even called into question whether, as president, he would automatically extend the security guarantees that give the other 28 members of NATO the assurance that the full force of the United States military has their back.

For example, asked about Russia’s threatening activities that have unnerved the small Baltic States that are the most recent entrants into NATO, Mr. Trump said that if Russia attacked them, he would decide whether to come to their aid only after reviewing whether those nations “have fulfilled their obligations to us.”

He added, “If they fulfill our obligations to us, the answer is yes.”

The comments come in the context of Trump’s past praise for Russian President Vladimir Putin, his financial ties to Russia and his campaign’s extensive connections to Russian interests. Trump lieutenants reportedly had the Republican platform altered to get rid of anti-Russia language on Ukraine.

National security hawks and others were aghast.

Paul Manafort, the Trump operative who previously worked for pro-Putin Ukranian presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovych, told Mother Jones that Trump was misquoted. The Times says a transcript is on the way.

The news was a sideline to the Ted Cruz theatrics, but it has real long-term implications for Trump — and possibly the world — if he sticks with this position.