Trump vs. NATO
By Jeffrey T. Kuhner
President-elect Donald Trump is right: NATO is obsolete. In a recent interview with European newspapers, Trump stunned German public opinion with his claim that NATO has become “obsolete.” He warned that unless the military alliance is fundamentally reformed to meet modern threats it risks becoming irrelevant. Moreover, he urged European nations, such as Germany, to stop “freeloading” off the United States.
Trump took aim at German Chancellor Angela Merkel, rightly saying her “open-borders” policy of allowing countless Muslim migrants, who have not been properly vetted, to flood Germany has put all of Europe at risk. Merkel fired back. She argues that Trump’s presidency threatens America’s commitment to NATO—and by extension, the security of the Continent. In other words, Merkel is peddling the political establishment line: Trump is a dangerous demagogue who cannot be trusted with power.
Yet, this begs the question: Has NATO outlived its usefulness? The obvious answer: yes. The transatlantic military alliance was created in 1949. Its goal was to deter Stalin’s Soviet Union from invading Western Europe. And for over 50 years, NATO accomplished its mission. The Soviet empire in Eastern Europe was contained; communism was eventually defeated; and the U.S.S.R disintegrated into 15 nations. The Soviet Union is long gone. The Red Army was rolled back from Central Europe. Lenin’s statue has fallen. NATO, however, remains.
Instead of dismantling the military alliance, Washington—drunk with power following the end of the Cold War—expanded NATO to Russia’s borders. President George H.W. Bush promised Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev that should the Russians pull out of Eastern Europe the West would not take advantage and push the alliance to Moscow’s doorstep. America lied. Under the administrations of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, the United States brought former Soviet satellites under NATO’s umbrella—Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Romania and the Baltic States. In fact, many inside the Beltway have even called for Ukraine and Georgia to join NATO. This means that, had we been foolish enough to let this happen, we’d be obligated to be currently at war with Russia.
NATO expansion has not only needlessly enflamed and humiliated the Russian bear, but it represents a worldview frozen in the past. Military alliances are not meant to last forever; they have a particular aim for a particular time. The Cold War is over. The West’s biggest threat—contrary to the hysteria of the liberal media—is not Putin’s Russia. It is the rise of radical Islam. And in this existential struggle against Islamist terrorism, Vladimir Putin (for all his flaws) is not an enemy. He is a potential ally—especially, against the Islamic State in Syria and across the Middle East.
Trump understands something our political elites do not: We are broke. The America of 2017 is not the America of 1947 or even the America of 1987. The United States has a crippling $20 trillion national debt. Our military has been hollowed out. Our healthcare system is crumbling. Our infrastructure is falling apart. Our manufacturing base has been gutted. Our southern border is a porous sore; we are being invaded by millions of illegal aliens. We cannot afford to be the world’s policeman. Trump is correct. It’s time to put America First.
It is also time for the proud peoples of Eastern Europe—Poles, Czechs, Hungarians, Croats, Ukrainians, Lithuanians—to take responsibility for defending their own countries. American boys should not (and will not) die to protect Warsaw, Vilnius or Zagreb. NATO has become a globalist organization. It is now nothing more than a racket, whereby the Europeans piggyback off of our security guarantees and high military spending so they can continue to subsidize their lavish welfare states. Some arrangement: America pays for much of the alliance and does most of the fighting and dying, while European member states continue to freeload. Those days are over. Under Trump, Uncle Sam will no longer be Uncle Sucker.
No wonder Merkel is upset. Germany’s defense spending is woefully inadequate. She thunders against Putin’s annexation of Crimea and his support for pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine. Yet, which flag flies over the Crimean peninsula is not in America’s vital national interest. As for Ukraine’s civil war, it is in Germany’s backyard—not ours. If she feels that strongly about Kiev’s cause, then Berlin should be providing military support. But she won’t. The reason is obvious: Merkel would rather that Washington, not Berlin (or Brussels), foot the bill for Europe’s defense. If Merkel has the money to fund and provide public housing, healthcare, welfare benefits and even monthly cash payments to the army of Muslim refugees she has invited into Germany, then the Germans can certainly underwrite their military security.
Merkel is the last major globalist leader in the West. She is pro-open borders, pro-free-trade and a staunch defender of the European Union. She despises Trump because he is a nationalist-populist, who refuses to bow to the gods of globalism. Yet, Merkel is part of the old, decrepit order being washed away by the rising tide of populism—both here and on the Continent. She represents the past; Trump the future. Like NATO, she deserves to be swept into the dust bin of history.
-Jeffrey T. Kuhner is host of “The Kuhner Report” on WRKO AM-680 in Boston.