A not so innocent abroad
Trump gets NATO allies to pony up
According to many in the media hyperventilating prior to the event, President Donald Trump’s sit-down with our NATO allies at the NATO summit in Brussels could not result in anything but disaster.
After all, we were told, the president is boorish and rude when he meets with other leaders.
He will press our allies, they said, to pay more for their defense as previous presidents have done — or at least the meager 2 percent they have promised to pay (only five were actually paying even that) — but he will not do it right.
He will tell them the U.S. will not carry the major burden of NATO any longer. It will be awful. The alliance will be damaged. It may not even survive.
Well, the president wasn’t rude. At times, he was charming.
But he certainly wasn’t intimidated.
He made his case plainly and persuasively.
The president delivered this zinger, aimed at Germany:
“Germany, as far as I’m concerned, is captive to Russia because it’s getting so much of its energy from Russia.” And this even tougher one: “We have to talk about the billions and billions of dollars that’s being paid to the country we’re supposed to be protecting you against.”
The Washington Post, aghast, pronounced this to be unprecedented and unnecessary truth telling, and Jens Stoltenberg, secretary-general of NATO, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel did look like they were auditioning for one of those “want to get away” commercials.
But, guess what? The president got his money. He extracted a promise from our allies to pay not only the 2 percent but more. And in turn pronounced his own commitment to NATO and its future, which can really only be two things now: Working together to combat terrorism, and working together to contain Vladimir Putin’s adventurism and dirty tricks outside Russia.
NATO does have to be reinvented, and everyone knows it. Mr Trump said it.
It was never explained why presidential bluntness would destroy or even hurt NATO, but if anything, in this case at least, NATO was strengthened. The president congratulated and thanked our major allies, and they realized that Mr. Trump is no patsy and that the U.S. apology tour is over.
No, the president is not big on international organizations, for their own sake. He is transactional, not traditional and not doctrinal. But if the U.S. can benefit from any membership or partnership, the president will engage. He will always insist, however, on fair and equal treatment for the U.S. — that’s doctrine, and it seems pretty reasonable to most Americans.
As for Mr. Trump’s bluntness and his skepticism regarding all international organizations, both paid off in Brussels, hyperventilation notwithstanding.