Foreign Policy

Report: Trump Was Freelancing on NATO

SK Ashby
Written by SK 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.