Another day, another Trump scandal

In his convention speech last night GOP vice presidential nominee Mike Pence promised Trump will ‘stand with our allies’: “Donald Trump will rebuild our military and stand with our allies.”

Maybe someone should have informed Pence ahead of time that “The Donald” had just given an interview to the New York Times in which Trump undercut key foreign policy commitments just before Pence pledged to uphold them:

At one point [in his speech], Pence addressed foreign policy.

nato-logo_8“We cannot have four more years of apologizing to our enemies and abandoning our friends,” he said. “America needs to be strong for the world to be safe. On the world stage, Donald Trump will lead from strength. Donald Trump will rebuild our military and stand with our allies.”

Shortly beforehand, Donald Trump addressed the same topic in an interview with the New York Times. But the man at the top of the ticket offered a distinctly different understanding of America’s foreign commitments.

[Trump] 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 the most 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.”

Article 5 of the NATO charter mandates that member nations come to the defense of allies if one is attacked. In response, the head of NATO described mutual defense and solidarity as a “key value” that is “good for European security and … good for U.S. security.” On Twitter, the president of one of the Baltic states, Estonia, pointed out that when NATO invoked Article 5 in Afghanistan, Estonian troops fought.

Why the unusual stance? Earlier this week, The Washington Post reported that the Trump campaign had played an active role in softening language on the American commitment to Ukraine (a non-NATO member that has tried to join), which is still locked in a tense situation with Russia. Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort, once worked as a lobbyist for the Russian-backed president of Ukraine who was ousted in 2014. (Asked by NBC’s Chuck Todd last year if he thought Ukraine should join NATO, Trump said that he didn’t really have a preference.)

That said, Trump’s antipathy to NATO isn’t new. In an interview with The Washington Post earlier this year he suggested that our role should be scaled back.

Turkey, a NATO member, got particular attention in the interview. Pence referred to the attempted coup in Turkey as evidence of “a world spinning apart.” When the Times asked Trump if he would demand that Turkey not violate the civil liberties of its citizens — an effort that seems to be increasing in the wake of the coup — Trump waved the question away. “I don’t think we have a right to lecture,” he told David Sanger and Maggie Haberman. “Look at what is happening in our country. How are we going to lecture when people are shooting policemen in cold blood?”

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Just as his vice-presidential pick was preparing to present a robust defense of the traditional Republican way of addressing foreign policy, Trump was apparently telling the Times that he preferred a Trumpier way.

The New York Times has provided a transcript of the interview. Here is the Times‘ report. Trump Questions Automatic Defense of NATO States.

More from The Washington Post: Trump says U.S. won’t rush to defend NATO countries if they don’t spend more on military, and Donald Trump says U.S. shouldn’t criticize Turkey’s Erdogan over post-coup purge.

And my favorite: NATO allies respond to Trump’s suggestion that the U.S. might not protect them from Russia:

Ojars Eriks Kalnins, chairman of the foreign affairs committee in Latvia’s Parliament, called Trump’s remarks “dangerous” in comments also reported by Diena newspaper. Kalnins noted that it was unclear whether Trump was talking about the spending commitments or about generally being helpful to the United States.

“Too bad the NY Times didn’t ask Trump if he would defend NATO member Slovenia if attacked,” the U.S.-raised Latvian politician wrote on Twitter, referring to the Eastern European state where the Republican nominee’s wife, Melania Trump, was born and has family.

Oh, burn!

The Turtle Man, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (who was booed at the RNC Convention by the way), tried to dismiss Trump’s NATO remarks a ‘rookie mistake’. Other GOP senators were not so flippant. GOP senators blast Trump over NATO:

Republican senators blasted Donald Trump on Thursday for suggesting he would not defend NATO allies if they are attacked, a core purpose of the transatlantic alliance.

“Statements like these make the world more dangerous and the United States less safe,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), himself a former Republican presidential candidate.

“I can only imagine how our allies in NATO, particularly the Baltic states must feel after reading these comments from Mr. Trump. I’m 100 percent certain how Russian President Putin feels — he’s a very happy man,” he added.

* * *

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), a staunch critic of Trump, issued a statement touting the importance of NATO allies.

“Our friends should draw strength and our adversaries should take pause from this simple fact: Americans keep our word,” he said. “As Mr. Putin revives Soviet-style aggression and the threat of violent Islam looms over European and American cities, the United States stands with our NATO allies.”

Graham, a member of the Armed Services and Appropriations Committees, called upon Trump to “correct” his statements on Thursday night when the Republican convention addresses national security.

“If Mr. Trump is serious about wanting to be Commander in Chief he needs to better understand the job which is to provide leadership for the United States and the free world,” he said.

And what does Sen. Graham’s good buddy, Senator John McCain, have to say about the latest Trump scandal? Does he still endorse the Putin-loving Trump for president? Does he really believe this clown is fit to be commander-in-chief? Or is McCain still willing to jeopardize America’s safety  for his personal political benefit, like he did when he selected Sarah Palin as his running mate?

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