Foreign Policy

Report: Trump Was Freelancing on NATO

JM Ashby
Written by JM Ashby

When Trump visited NATO in late May, a crucial pillar of the organization's charter was noticeably absent from Trump's speech: Article 5, the declaration that an attack on one member of NATO is an attack on all members of NATO.

According to administration sources, support for Article 5 was actually in Trump's prepared remarks, but it was removed at the last minute.

“They had the right speech and it was cleared through McMaster,” said a source briefed by National Security Council officials in the immediate aftermath of the NATO meeting. “As late as that same morning, it was the right one.”

Added a senior White House official, “There was a fully coordinated other speech everybody else had worked on”—and it wasn’t the one Trump gave. “They didn’t know it had been removed,” said a third source of the Trump national security officials on hand for the ceremony. “It was only upon delivery.”

While some sources say Trump himself removed it from his speech, other sources say it may have been Steve Bannon. I personally doubt Trump could tell you what Article 5 is if you asked him, so I'm inclined to believe Bannon removed it. But in either case, I'm not sure if the distinction matters. Trump is ultimately responsible for himself and if he didn't know what he was saying (or not saying), that's his fault. No previous president would have left that out of their remarks. In fact, they didn't.

In any event, if National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and Secretary of Defense James Mattis were 'disappointed and surprised' by this, as Politico Magazine reports, and if reports that they were left out of the loop are correct, they should say so publicly.

They should protest. They should resign. They should do something more than nothing. Leaking this story to the press may be their idea of protest, but I don't know if that's enough.

The only nation that has ever invoked Article 5 is actually us, the United States. We invoked Article 5 after September 11th, 2001 and NATO countries responded by contributing to the war in Afghanistan. European nations are concerned today because they don't necessarily believe Trump will honor our commitments if Putin's Russia comes knocking.

I don't think Trump has honored a single commitment in his entire life.

  • Draxiar

    “They should do something more than nothing.”

    This statement applies to so many people in our political arena. In a recent video Keith Olbermann made a statement that, like the above quote, cuts to the heart of it all, “We now have two parties in America, Republicans and Americans.”. The Republicans are doing nothing to stop what they have to know is terrible for Americans.

  • muselet

    Omitting at the last minute a mention of Article 5 has Steve Bannon’s brimstone-and-Ripple smell to it, but Donald Trump believes NATO is freeloading off the US, and I’m sure he was sick of hearing that he was wrong from HR McMaster and James Mattis.

    Trump gets to stick a thumb in the eye of NATO and the US’s national security apparatus at the same time, so he’s happy. Bannon gets to undercut NATO and prove he’s got Trump’s ear again, so he’s happy. Since Trump and Bannon can muster maybe a dozen functioning brain cells between them, they don’t realize the ramifications of their actions, so Vladimir Putin’s happy.

    And no, Trump has never honored a commitment in his life. Just ask his ex-wives.


  • Dread_Pirate_Mathius

    He might… But only because it would make him look weak to do otherwise.

    And he’s too much of a sensitive snowflake to risk appearing weak.

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