After the calamity of the Putin meeting and the disingenuous, ineffective attempt at damage control, President Trump today attempted to direct attention back to his recent NATO meeting. He boastfully, but without supporting evidence, asserted incredible success in Brussels. Well of course he did. President Trump continued to push two significant NATO falsehoods: That he “brought in” over 40 billion dollars owed to NATO and that the NATO leaders all left Brussels with the strongest relations. Then he went to Finland and actively worked against U.S. and NATO security interests.
President Trump is simply wrong when he claims the U.S. pays 90% of all NATO costs. He is also incorrect when he claims that he personally brought in over 40 billion dollars in “delinquent” debts from NATO countries. Just put these statements on the list… At its formation, NATO members agreed to a target of spending 2% of their GDP on defense. Every president has had to pressure at least some members to do a better job meeting the target. While it is true that most NATO members increased their spending, this trend began a few years ago, before Trump became President, and has simply continued. It is important to note, contrary to the President’s statements, this is not money “coming in” to NATO. This issue involves member nations’ domestic defense spending, some of which results in weapons purchases from U.S. defense contractors (hence his real interest). It is not money “owed” to NATO coffers. Europe is second only to the U.S. in military spending. There was no crisis…
Additionally, President Trump foolishly believed that after days of his bullying, berating, and ludicrous behavior, these respectable leaders left Brussels not only with positive feelings, but with the strongest relations of all time. Let’s ask Chancellor Angela Merkel, Prime Minister Teresa May, President Emanuel Macron, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, some of our most important, steadfast allies and friends, who have been on the receiving end of some extremely unprofessional and counter-productive, not to mention inaccurate and unfair, Trump attacks. What about the leaders of some of the newer members from smaller countries that Trump treated like they were his pet goldfish. At least there was no noticeable pushing this year. In all seriousness, these leaders represent our closest friends and allies, nations with whom we have partnered to defend democracy and freedom for many years. There will be disagreements and sometimes these challenges may be contentious. However, as allies, we conduct relations with respect, decorum, and with unyielding commitment to our collective defense.
During his meeting with Vladimir Putin, President Trump claimed they discussed multiple important issues, although as of today the administration has not offered any statement of what was discussed or any agreements or results thereof. Russia reported there was an agreement for a new international security arrangement and a new military strategy in Syria. These ominous statements do not bode well for long-term, widely accepted U.S. policy. What exactly did Trump and Putin discuss in their two-hour secret meeting? What is the impact on NATO from this alleged new international security arrangement and what are we giving Russia therein (e.g., which neighboring countries now face even more serious peril?)?
According to reports, the Russian military in Syria is already preparing to reposition in accordance with this mysterious new agreement. These reports allege the U.S. military will retreat from territory in eastern Syria, foregoing hard-fought victories in which lives were lost. Keep in mind several months ago Russian forces attacked U.S. forces there, despite being significantly outnumbered, and the U.S. forces soundly defeated them. Trump did nothing in response. Neither of these new developments seem to be in our best interest. The Trump administration needs to reveal the results of this meeting, specifically concerning these issues. Congress has oversight and funding responsibilities. They must immediately conduct hearings with administration officials to learn what happened and to what the U.S. may have agreed. We simply cannot trust anything the President says, especially on such critical national security issues.
It is shameful that President Trump’s extraordinary pattern of dishonesty is so noteworthy that there is scientific data that has measured it. In his first 18 months in office (putting aside the campaign and before), the President steadily escalated his pattern of deceit to the American people. The data shows he averaged 5 lies per week in his first months in office and after 18 months in office averages 40 lies per week, with the weekly average climbing at a steady rate over that time. The lies are found in speeches, interviews, tweets, etc., which leads to the conclusion that Trump cannot prevent himself from lying when he speaks regardless of forum or preparation. Nor can we trust anything he says. This data was reported separately by the Toronto Star and MSNBC.
Despite full employment for independent fact-checking services, this dishonesty is wholly intolerable, and we should demand better from any leader. The country cannot afford a president who not only regularly lies to the public, but also who humiliates himself by lying to our friends and allies, thus seriously degrading necessary relations. These secret, mystery arrangements with Russia would likely destabilize U.S. and NATO interests, at least as reported thus far. NATO has worked for over 70 years through the system of collective defense, trade, and economics. The feared Russian military attack never came. Yet President Trump has nothing but disdain for NATO and is working to weaken if not terminate the alliance. No more lies, NATO need’s firm commitment and dedication along with a solid voice in opposition to growing Russian aggression and interference.