Trumps’ NATO Comments

So before I hose the RNC slime out of my brain in preparation for bashing the Democrats this week, I want to focus on what must be on the dumbest and most dangerous things Trump has said so far.

He even called into question whether, as president, he would automatically extend the security guarantees that give the 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 among the more 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.”

Hot Air has the full transcript of the interview and this is not a misquote. Trump says he doesn’t want Putin to know what he’d do and then waffles on defending NATO nations that haven’t “paid their bills” (which is rich, coming from a man who has routinely stiffed contractors). The issue of NATO nations contributing more to their defense is legitimate; waffling on whether we would defend them if attacked is … not.

Trump defenders are saying he would defend the Baltics since they are up to date. But Gingrich said the Baltics weren’t worth a war. And the Trump defenders are ignoring the biggest problem with Trump’s remarks: it’s not about whether he would defend the Baltic or not; it’s about the uncertainty he is creating in a volatile region.

Trump has done this repeatedly on foreign policy, refusing to give straight answers to straight questions because, he says, he wants to be “unpredictable”.

“Unpredictability” is a good thing if you’re the Offensive Coordinator for Ohio State. It’s a bad thing in foreign policy. It’s a very bad thing. Because uncertainty about the US’s intentions and actions encourages bad actors to act badly. It encourages aggressors to test our resolve. Many of the bloodiest conflicts of the Cold War erupted because the Communists didn’t know if we’d support our allies.

Morrissey again, from the link above:

This kind of talk from prospective Commanders-in-Chief is no mere academic or political exercise; it’s actively dangerous. In fact, one needs no better example than the fumbled diplomacy of the George H. W. Bush administration in regard to Kuwait and Iraq, and that didn’t even involve Bush directly. As Hussein built up forces along the Kuwait border in the summer of 1990, the Bush administration seemed to go out of its way to express its indifference.

All of the incentives for Putin are set up for another “liberating” action, except for the fact that the US has pledged to act to defend the Baltic states militarily. One can argue that Putin’s expansionism has been set in motion in part through the vacillation and incompetence of the Barack Obama/Hillary Clinton “reset” policies with Russia and doubts about Obama’s intestinal fortitude after the Syrian “red line” retreat. But at least Obama has never publicly suggested that we would fail to honor Article V in Europe itself.

Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia have already done quite a bit for us lately. Anyone aspiring to lead the US shouldn’t have to have that, or the ramifications of a retreat from Article V, explained to them on the campaign trail.

We want the world to know what we will do. We want them to know we will defend our allies. We want them to know we will respond when attacked. We want them to know that we will not tolerate bald aggression. We want the response of the world’s most powerful nation to be as predictable as the sun rising in the East. Because that keeps bad actors at bay. If aggressive leaders know that our response will be quick, decisive and overwhelming, that makes them far less likely to challenge us.

We know this. Republicans know this. If Hillary Clinton or John Kerry or Barack Obama had said anything like this, the Right would be going apeshit (and, to be fair, many conservatives like Morrissey are).

This is what I mean when I say that Trump could start a war by accident. It’s not just that he’s inexperienced and ignorant; it’s that he’s shown absolutely no interest in becoming unignorant. Trump has been running for President for a year and been the presumptive nominee for months. He should know more about these issues than … well … than I do.

This problem is only going to propagate. This week, we are going to see the DNC roll out one of the most breathtakingly socialistic platforms we have ever seen from a major candidate: public option, expanded Medicare, expanded Medicaid, “free” college, $15 minimum wage, “free” daycare, “free” pre-K, expanded Social Security. It is possible to turn the public against a candidate offering them a boatload of free stuff. But it takes skill and knowledge. I have seen little evidence that Trump has either. It would not surprise me at all if, in the debate, he went ahead and ceded major portions of the DNC’s agenda.

So … as I keep saying, here we are. Two leftists vying to see whether they can bankrupt us before the next great war. Charming.

Post Scriptum: Trump’s comments, in combination with a possible Russian role in the hacking of the DNC’s e-mails, has lead to conspiracy theories that Trump is a Russian stooge. I find these theories … far-fetched to say the least. Trump is many things but he’s not a traitor.

The Bear Roars

Vox has a long think-piece about the potential for a war with Russia, which could include a nuclear conflict. I think the article is a bit alarmist but it’s worth a read. The essential point is that Russia trying to re-establish itself as a premier power and is consumed with the idea that the United States wants to weaken and topple its leadership. To that end, they are engaging in more and more provocative action and have lowered the bar for the use of nuclear weapons. There is a real fear that they might attack the Baltics to try to break NATO, with the threat of nuclear attack backing it up. And the lowering of nuclear thresholds has made an accidental nuclear war more likely.

A few scattered thoughts:

First, I’m old enough to remember when Mitt Romney was openly mocked and derided for declaring that Russia was one of the chief dangers we faced. There’s a part of me that wonders if Romney didn’t actually win the 2012 election and is keeping Obama in as a figurehead. We certainly seem to be, in the inept Obama way, pursuing every foreign policy initiative Romney advocated.

Second, the idea that the US would invade Russia and topple the regime is insane. But, as Robert Heinlein noted during the Cold War, the defining element of Russian foreign policy has always been paranoia. It still is. And we need to be careful in how we deal with them.

Third, I think this means that missile has moved from critical to even more critical, especially given the danger of an accidental war.

Fourth, we need to seriously think about what we’re going to do if Putin attacks the Baltic states. Do we let him take them and risk having NATO fall apart? Do we defend them and risk a large-scale war? This is the kind of issue that needs to be front and center in the 2016 presidential campaign.

Toward a European War

Over the last week, Russia has been slowly dropping the pretense and invading the Ukraine with active troops, tanks and artillery pieces. Many of these soldiers, as with the earlier incursion into the crimea, are pretending to be rebels, which is technically a war crime.

As has been pointed out, the Ukraine is not the limit of Putin’s ambitions. He has claimed that he will rescue all ethnic Russians who are “threatened” which means the baltic states and Poland could be on their target list.

The West is finally responding. The plan is to deploy troops to the new NATO bases in Eastern Europe as well as to provide military aide to the Ukraine. I would suggest that reviving missile defense would be another good step.

This sets up the potential for a wider war. But it’s something we are obligated to do under the NATO treaty. We’ll just have to hope that the prospect of tangling with an actual military force is enough to give Putin some pause.

Oh, how things change….

Rumsfeld on “Old Europe” then:

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld Wednesday dismissed French and German insistence that “everything must be done to avoid war” with Iraq, saying most European countries stand with the United States in its campaign to force Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to disarm.

“Germany has been a problem, and France has been a problem,” said Rumsfeld, a former NATO ambassador. “But you look at vast numbers of other countries in Europe. They’re not with France and Germany on this, they’re with the United States.”

Rumsfeld also said Germany and France represent “old Europe.” The expansion of NATO in recent years means “the center of gravity is shifting to the east,” he said.

He was pilloried by the MSM for pointing the lack of commitment from the Europeans in NATO to any sort of defense, and the reliance on US tax payers to do the heavy lifting.

Gates on the same now:

Perhaps most significantly, Mr. Gates issued a dire warning that the United States, the traditional leader and bankroller of the alliance, is exhausted by a decade of war and and its own mounting budget deficits, and simply may not see NATO as worth supporting any longer.

“The blunt reality is that there will be dwindling appetite and patience in the U.S. Congress — and in the American body politic writ large — to expend increasingly precious funds on behalf of nations that are apparently unwilling to devote the necessary resources or make the necessary changes to be serious and capable partners in their own defense,” Mr. Gates said.

And the MSM nods in agreement.

I guess the difference was that Bush was going into Iraq and that was going to hurt the sweet deals for Oil Hussein many of “Old Europe’s” capitals had, and starting war #2. Gates is now speaking for people trying to get rid of Gaddafi so Europeans don’t have to worry about him doing what all others in Africa are doing – selling to the Chinese – and these tools are on war #4, 5 if you want to count Pakistan, and that makes this all better.

Don’t get me wrong: I think both are right about telling the Europeans to stop not only expecting free rides, and Rumsfeld was doubly so for telling them not t to screw us when it is convenient for them, but then I remember what it was like when the Europeans could defend themselves. Do we want more of what we had at the beginning of the previous century? And, no, I don’t think Europeans have abandoned those ways, they have become pussies, by necessity, as they allowed US tax payers to pay for their defense, but I would not be surprised to find out that they are still bloodthirsty bastards deep down in there.