Donald Trump has been in Europe for three days and he’s already accused Germany of being a Russian slave state, embarrassed Theresa May and, perhaps most disconcerting of all, threatened to pull the United States out of NATO.
There was no ambiguity with regard to whether Trump would strike a characteristically combative tone while in Brussels.
He’s long railed against what he says is a one-sided defense deal with NATO allies (he couches everything in terms of “deals”) and according to reports, he sent letters to the leaders of multiple countries ahead of his overseas tour that suggested he would be making specific demands with regard to defense spending.
But while everyone knew he would up the ante on the inflammatory rhetoric, no one (including and especially Trump) knew precisely what he would say. While there are competing reports as to exactly how he delivered the message, multiple accounts suggest that Trump at least alluded to the prospect of America leaving NATO, a move that would completely reshape the geopolitical landscape and call into question the security of Western Europe.
On Friday, NBC is out reporting that according to current and former officials, the Pentagon was forced to “embark on a full-scale damage control operation” following Trump’s trip to Brussels, as military leaders scrambled to reassure European allies that the U.S. would stick to its figurative and literal guns when it comes to insuring the safety of America’s closest allies. Here’s NBC:
The outreach, directed by the Pentagon leadership, came after Trump threatened to reassess commitments during a gathering with NATO allies in Brussels.
The overall message from senior military officials in a series of phone calls to members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has been that U.S. military bases in their countries will remain open and American troop levels in the region will not be reduced.
It goes without saying that the Pentagon should not be having to make those calls. The idea that the United States would leave Europe to fend for itself against Russia is wildly far-fetched and seemingly underscores the extent to which the President is either completely oblivious to how unshakable America’s commitment to European security truly is, or else has ulterior motives in attempting to undermine that commitment.
Here’s what one U.S. official told NBC about the calls to NATO:
[The communications] were designed to reinforce alliance commitments [after Trump] made it clear those commitments were on the table.
According to another official, Trump told NATO that if member countries did not increase their defense spending, the U.S. would “do our own thing.”
Sources also said Jim Mattis was concerned ahead of the summit that Trump could aggravate an already tenuous situation and had planned to effectively chaperone the President to avoid a scenario where Trump said something untoward.
Mission not accomplished, Jim.