Trump Policies and how that Affects NATO Relationships

Since Donald J. Trump was sworn in as the United States 45th President there have been some ideological changes that have affected the United States relationship with our allies and specifically North Atlantic Treaty Organization members. This paper will look into the effect that United States President Donald J. Trump has had on NATO since he was elected in 2016 and how this may affect the United States hegemony. This paper discusses the history of NATO, past and current NATO policies, rhetoric regarding NATO from President Donald Trump and numerous counterpoints regarding the rhetoric and policies of the US President.

Trump Policies and how that Affects NATO Relationships

Since Donald J. Trump was sworn in as Americas 45th President there have been some ideological changes that have affected the United States relationship with our allies and specifically North Atlantic Treaty Organization members, hereafter referred to as NATO. Even before Trump was elected President of the United States, he began to cite nationalistic language. In a March 21, 2016 CNN interview with Wolf Blitzer Trump responded to Blitzer’s question.

Blitzer: Do you think the United States needs to rethink U.S. involvement in NATO?

Trump: Yes, because it’s costing us too much money. And frankly they have to put up more money. They’re going to have to put some up also. We’re paying disproportionately. It’s too much. And frankly it’s a different world than it was when we originally conceived of the idea. And everybody got together. But we’re taking care of as an example the Ukraine. I mean, the countries over there don’t seem to be so interested. We’re the ones taking the brunt of it. So I think we have to reconsider keep NATO, but maybe we have to pay a lot less toward the NATO itself.

Blitzer: When we say keep NATO, NATO has been around since right after World War II in 1949. It’s been a cornerstone of U.S. National Security around the world. NATO allies hear you say that, they’re not going to be happy.

Trump: Well, they may not be happy but, you know, they have to help us also. It has to be — we are paying disproportionately. And very importantly if you use Ukraine as an example and that’s a great example, the country surrounding Ukraine, I mean, they don’t seem to care as much about it as we do. So there has to be at least a change in philosophy and there are also has to be a change in the cut out, the money, the spread because it’s too much. (Blitzer & Trump, 2016)

Trump than continued to tout and expand on this view in other interviews, press briefings and twitter tweets. During this paper, I will begin to start a dialogue that will allow us to see the history of NATO, key NATO interactions with previous US Presidents, Donald Trump’s pre and post-election rhetoric on this subject and the path that President Trump has taken regarding NATO so far. 

History of NATO

The official NATO website states, “It is often said that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was founded in response to the threat posed by the Soviet Union. This is only partially true. In fact, the Alliance’s creation was part of a broader effort to serve three purposes: deterring Soviet expansionism, forbidding the revival of nationalist militarism in Europe through a strong North American presence on the continent, and encouraging European political integration” (NATO). NATO was created in 1949 with 12 original members: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, The United Kingdom and The United States (“NATO / OTAN”). NATO has grown to 29 current members with the addition of Greece, Turkey, Germany, Spain, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Albania, Croatia and the most recent member, Montenegro (“NATO / OTAN”)

One of the most important aspects of NATO was that each member country agreed to articles within the treaty. The NATO website explains it this way, “In the Treaty’s renowned Article 5, the new Allies agreed “an armed attack against one or more of them… shall be considered an attack against them all” and that following such an attack, each ally would take “such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force” in response. Significantly, Articles 2 and 3 of the Treaty had important purposes not immediately germane to the threat of attack. Article 3 laid the foundation for cooperation in military preparedness between the Allies, and Article 2 allowed them some leeway to engage in non-military cooperation (NATO).

It is important to understand that the United States is a founding member in NATO and that the United States was active in creating NATO to not only help stabilize Europe but to secure the safety of the United States from the USSR, especially during the cold war. The concept of NATO evoked areas of concern, as author Laurence S Kaplan states in his book, The United States and NATO: The formative Years that “The treaty was one of a succession of actions taken by the Truman administration in which Congress and nation played passive and compliant roles. The Senate votes certainly indicated the administration’s success, but they masked the evasions, hesitations, and fears of all kinds that plagued American Planners as they embarked on a new adventure. For the military, an alliance could drain an already weak establishment; for Congress, it could arouse the isolationism which had been so virulent in the past; for supporters of the United Nations, it could undercut the growth of a new world order and lead to the very war it was designed to prevent; and for the administration, it could victimize American wealth and resources as Europeans utilized an alliance to bleed the superior power” (Kaplan, 2014, pp. 1-2).

As Lawrence writes about how isolationism was a concern in 1949 it is easy to argue that isolationism in the form of nationalism is a concern for those interested in preserving the NATO alliance in 2018.

Past and Current U.S. NATO Policies

Looking at today’s NATO we need to understand its history and how that history will lead us into the future. The history of NATO and the recent US policies regarding NATO need to be used as a guide going forward. In a journal titled Woodrow Wilson and the Origins of the Cold War, Authors Trani and Davis write, “From Presidents Bill Clinton to Barrack Obama, America and its European allies have brought the resurrected or newly created countries of Eastern Europe into the European Union (EU) and NATO. Their eastern borders form a new “red line” of demarcation between the East and the West-a line not to be modified or crossed by either side” (Trani, Davis, 2017).  

The former Soviet Union and Russia have always been NATO’s biggest concern. Today’s Russia is no different.  In regard to the conflict the United States faced in Syria, Defense Secretary Mattis stated in a 2017 speech, “Russia displays blatant disregard for human life and international law,” Mattis said. “And despite denials from the Kremlin, the international community clearly sees the reality. And the United States stands shoulder to shoulder with our Dutch, British and all NATO allies and like-minded countries against inhumane activity of chemical weapon use” (Friedl, 2018).
To echo the remarks that Russia is still a NATO threat, Mandelbaum writes , “In search of domestic support, Russian President Vladimir Putin has turned to aggression abroad, invading Ukraine and intervening in Syria. Since any one military adventure can provide only a temporary popularity boost, Putin will always need new victims. That makes him an ongoing threat” (Mandelbaum, 2017).

Putin is not averse to pushing the military envelope to find out exactly where the line is that NATO will be forced to cross. Keeping this in mind he may, according to K. Martin, “try to undercut NATO unity through military action in a non-NATO border state, such as Moldova, Belarus, or even the Swedish island of Gotland, in an attempt to sow panic and send NATO reeling in the face of Russian expansionism” (Martin, 2017). On April 11th President Trump signed paperwork formally agreeing to make Montenegro a member of the NATO alliance (“Federal policy on NATO, 2017-2020”) which provides NATO an ally next to Serbia and fairly close to Ukraine.

Russia is NATO’s biggest threat; however, there is concern among NATO members what President Trump would do if he needed to make a clear choice between Russia and NATO members. Lesley Stahl a CBS reporter asked him why he never had a harsh word for Putin publicly. He responded, “I didn’t? I’m the one that gave Ukraine offensive weapons and tank killers. Obama didn’t. You know what he sent? He sent pillows and blankets” Trump continued, “I think I’m very tough with him personally. I had a meeting with him. The two of us. It was a very tough meeting and it was a very good meeting” (Stahl, 2018).

In regard to invading Ukraine which is considered to be a buffer state Kirbaoglu writes, “Some argue that Russia’s invasion of Crimea and its provocations in the Eastern part of Ukraine prove that the threat remains, and that Russia should be contained and deterred as it was during the Cold War. Those who fear the Russian threat point out that such deterrence should include a nuclear component, preferably as close as possible to the Russian border” (Kibaroglu, 2017)

Another Emerging threat to the United States hegemony could be China as well as Sino-Russian relationships.  President Trump explains his view in an Interview with the New York Times.

HABERMAN: I just had one quick follow-up on what you were saying about the South China Sea. How would you counter that assertiveness over those islands? Among other things, it’s increasingly valuable real estate strategically. Would you be willing to build our own islands there?

TRUMP: Well what you have to do – and you have to speak to Japan and other countries, because they’re affected far greater than we are – you understand that – I mean, they’re affected far – I just think the act is so brazen, and it’s so terrible that they would do that without any consultation, without anything, and yet they’ll sell their products to the United States and rebuild China, and frankly, even the islands, I mean, you know, they’ve made so much economic progress because of the United States. And in the meantime we’re becoming a third-world nation. You look at our airports, you look at our roadways, you look at our bridges are falling down. They’re building bridges all over the place, ours are falling down. You know, we’ve rebuilt China. The money they’ve drained out of the United States has rebuilt China. And they’ve done it through monetary manipulation, by devaluations. And very sophisticated. I mean, they’re grand chess players at devaluation. But they’ve done it – (Haberman & Sanger, 2018)

President Trump has spoken about the trade imbalance numerous times but usually this is in the form of transactional thinking.  While tit-for-tat diplomacy may be beneficial at times, it is important to utilize foreign policy that has proven to be successful in the past. This includes soft diplomacy from the State Department. Lin writes, “The expansionism arm of primacy, more specifically, suggests preclusion of a hostile hegemon in Eurasia by hedging against Russia and China and the preservation of Washington’s commanding military lead (Khalilzad 1995, 95). But primacy is not all about building a preponderance of material capabilities, it is also about wielding soft power to manage a liberal international system, promote an open economic order, and lead global institutions (Brooks et al. 2012-2013, 11). Hard power and soft power in primacy achieve different things, but both are ultimately conducive to the ends of this grand strategy-global hegemony” (Lin, 2016).

With the obvious exception of the trade war it is tough to fully see a strategy that President Trump will employ in regard to China’s growing hegemony. The journal article, The Sino-Russian Partnership and Its Impact on U.S. Policy toward Russia may shed some light. “Donald Trump suggested that it was important for the United States to improve relations with Russia because closer ties might induce Moscow to join Washington in pressuring Beijing to change its policies. In 2015, he had said, “I think [Putin’s] dislike of President Obama is so intense, that it really has affected the whole relationship. We’ve driven them into the arms of China, so that now these two are together, which has always been the great sin. Don’t ever let Russia and China get together. We’ve driven them together”(Stent, 2018).

In addition to Russia and China, the United States and its allies disagree over Iran. The effects of the United States pulling out of the Iran Nuclear Agreement are still to be determined. K.B. Kanat argues, “Some experts have termed this rupture the worst crisis in relations since the Iraq War in 2003. Some others even suggested, “For the first time arguably since the Suez crisis, the United States and key European powers will be actively seeking to undermine each other in a region they consider central to their foreign policies.” The repercussions of the withdrawal of the U.S. from the nuclear deal are yet to be seen. Both the leaders of individual European countries and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini have expressed their criticisms and regrets about the decision” (Kanat, 2018). 

Looking at President Trumps day to day military strategy we begin to see some of the United States militaries successes and failures and how his hands-off leadership style as described in this BBC article affect the troops. “The most notable use of US military force during Mr. Trump’s first year was his missile strike on a Syrian air base in response to that nation’s use of chemical weapons. The highest-profile incident of US combat casualties, on the other hand, came when a group of special forces were ambushed in Niger leading to four deaths – drawing attention to the increased US military presence in Africa. In Syria and Afghanistan, Mr. Trump has given his generals a free hand to prosecute the ongoing military engagements. Over the course of the year, the so-called Islamic State has been largely defeated on the battlefield and its influence curtailed. The conflict in Afghanistan drags on, however, as the president increased the number of US troops there to 14,000. He also recently threatened to cut off aid to Pakistan if it does not do more to support the US fight against Islamic militants” (Zurcher, 2018).

NATO is an active alliance and in the press briefs for the December 4th, 2018 meeting we find that NATO will address more challenges relating to Russia. The NATO release states, “On Tuesday (4 December 2018), Allies will meet with two of NATO’s closest partners, Georgia and Ukraine. “They both face serious security challenges from Russia, and we will continue to give both countries practical and political support,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. In view of Russia’s use of military force against Ukraine near the Sea of Azov, ‎NATO Allies have called on Russia to release the Ukrainian sailors and ships it seized, and to allow freedom of navigation and unhindered access to Ukrainian ports.” 

The report continues to describe another challenge with Russia as far as non-compliance with the INF treaty, “NATO Foreign Ministers will also discuss the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. “This Treaty eliminated an entire category of weapons, but it has been put in jeopardy by Russia,” said the Secretary General. He noted that Russia has developed, produced and deployed a new missile, which “could reach European cities with little or no warning.” Mr. Stoltenberg added that the United States is in full compliance with the INF Treaty. “There are no new US missiles in Europe, but there are new Russian missiles,” he said (NATO, 2018).

As NATO continues to look at Russia and China with skepticism, the organization is training for the time that military force is needed, and President Trump has ordered the United States to take part in these actions. Navy Admiral James Foggo III spoke these words to the NATO troops in Norway as the Trident Juncture began its wrap up phase. “The strength of the alliance is our ability to come together as an alliance at least once a year for a summit, but all the time as military members and conduct self-assessments and improvements,” (Friedl, 2018). The Trident juncture was the largest NATO exercise since the cold war and displayed strength with 70 ships and 250 aircraft. 2,100 containers from about 250 cargo ships were offloaded in Norway as well as about 10,000 vehicles, tanks, heavy equipment transporters and portable bridges. Over 31 nations sent over 50,000 participants (Friedl, 2018).

Looking back since NATO was founded to defend the United States and its allies against forces that would do harm, it is evident that Russia, an original foe, continue to provide NATO reasons to meet and perform military exercises in the need it needs to defend it member nations. 

Candidate and President Trump’s NATO Rhetoric

As candidate Trump (and later President Trump) commented on various aspects of NATO it became apparent that he looked at NATO as a transactional alliance where cost is the deciding factor.  As a candidate, Trump took to Twitter and tweeted, “My Statement on NATO being obsolete and disproportionately too expensive (and unfair) for the U.S. are now, finally receiving plaudits!” (realdonaldtrump, 2016).

In an interview with the Washington Post, candidate Trump states about NATO, “I do think it’s a different world today, and I don’t think we should be nation-building anymore,” Trump said. “I think it’s proven not to work, and we have a different country than we did then. We have $19 trillion in debt. We’re sitting, probably, on a bubble. And it’s a bubble that if it breaks, it’s going to be very nasty. I just think we have to rebuild our country” (Rucker & Costa, 2016).

Trump continues his thoughts on NATO as he espouses on NATO member Ukraine, “Ukraine is a country that affects us far less than it affects other countries in NATO, and yet we’re doing all of the lifting,” Trump said. “They’re not doing anything. And I say: ‘Why is it that Germany’s not dealing with NATO on Ukraine? Why is it that other countries that are in the vicinity of Ukraine, why aren’t they dealing? Why are we always the one that’s leading, potentially the third world war with Russia” (Rucker & Costa, 2016). Continuing on his transactional theme candidate Trump said to the Washington Post reporters in regard to NATO, “We certainly can’t afford to do this anymore,” Trump said, adding later, “NATO is costing us a fortune, and yes, we’re protecting Europe with NATO, but we’re spending a lot of money” (Rucker & Costa, 2016).

Just to emphasize that these are not one-off comments by the political candidate, Trump, follows up those quotes with this statement in response to a question from David E. Sanger of the New York Times, “I’ll tell you the problems I have with NATO. No. 1, we pay far too much. We are spending — you know, in fact, they’re even making it so the percentages are greater. NATO is unfair, economically, to us, to the United States. Because it really helps them more so than the United States, and we pay a disproportionate share. Now, I’m a person that — you notice I talk about economics quite a bit, in these military situations, because it is about economics, because we don’t have money anymore because we’ve been taking care of so many people in so many different forms that we don’t have money — and countries, and countries. So NATO is something that at the time was excellent. Today, it has to be changed. It has to be changed to include terror. It has to be changed from the standpoint of cost because the United States bears far too much of the cost of NATO” (Sanger, 2018).

After Trump became president the rhetoric on NATO hasn’t slowed down. In a speech to NATO members at the new NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium on March 25, 2017, he spoke about what he would like to see NATO become, “The NATO of the future must include a great focus on terrorism and immigration as well as threats from Russia and on NATO’s eastern and southern borders. These grave security concerns are the same reason that I have been very, very direct with Stoltenberg and members of the alliance in saying that NATO members must finally contribute their fair share and meet their financial obligation. But 23 of the 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying and what they’re supposed to be paying for their defense. This is not fair to the people and tax payers of the United States and many of these nations owe massive amounts of money from past years and not paying in those past years” (Trump).

President Trump continued this speech with more specific financial examples, “Over the last 8 years, the United States spent more on defense than all other NATO countries combined. If all NATO members had spent just 2% of their GDP on defense last year we would have had another 119 billion dollars for our collective defense and for the financing of additional NATO reserves. We should recognize that with these chronic underpayments and growing threats that even 2% of GDP is insufficient to close the gaps in modernizing readiness and the size of forces. We have to make up for the many years lost. 2% is bare minimum for confronting today’s very real and very vicious threats. If NATO countries made their full and complete contributions then NATO would be even stronger than it is today, especially from the threat of terrorism (Trump).

President Trump continued this theme in Brussels, Belgium on July 11th, 2018, just before the NATO plenary session when he said, “”Many countries owe us a tremendous amount of money from many years back, where they’re delinquent as far as I’m concerned, because the United States has had to pay for them. So if you go back 10 or 20 years, you’ll just add it all up, it’s massive amounts of money is owed” (Welna, 2018). looked at many of Trump’s statements during his time in Brussels at the NATO summit, such as when he talked about defense spending by NATO allies. On July 12th, the second day of the summit Trump stated, “Prior to last year, where I attended my first meeting, it was going down — the amount of money being spent by countries was going down and down very substantially” (Kiely, Gore, & Farley, 2018). took issue with this statement. The website said this wasn’t true. “The president falsely said, “prior to last year” the amount other NATO countries spent on defense “was going down and down very substantially.” In fact, NATO Europe and Canada increased defense spending in 2015 and 2016” (Kiely, Gore, & Farley, 2018). also laid out a graph showing defense expenditures from 2011-2018.

NATO Europe and Canada Defense Expenditure explains this, “As shown in the chart below from a July 10 NATO report, NATO Europe and Canada responded by increasing defense spending by 1.83 percent in 2015 and 3.14 percent in 2016 before Trump attended his first meeting” (Kiely, Gore, & Farley, 2018).

Defense Expenditure Graph 2

These charts clearly show that spending has increased since Donald Trump became President; however, it began to increase during the Obama Presidency.

On July 11th, President Trump stated, “And, frankly, many countries [in NATO] owe us a tremendous amount of money for many years back, where they’re delinquent, as far as I’m concerned, because the United States has had to pay for them. So if you go back 10 or 20 years, you’ll just add it all up. It’s massive amounts of money is owed” (Kiely, Gore, & Farley, 2018). also discounted this statement,” The president’s statement “is not accurate,” Christopher Preble, vice president for defense and foreign policy studies at the libertarian Cato Institute, told us in an email.
            “NATO countries do not owe the United States money. And the commitment they made to reach the 2% of GDP threshold was to have done so by 2024,” Preble wrote. “NATO member states fund their own militaries. They don’t pay us to fund ours,” he said (Kiely, Gore, & Farley, 2018).
     Trump’s rhetoric seems to continue nonstop as he states, “Trump said that U.S. involvement in NATO may need to be significantly diminished in the coming years, breaking with nearly seven decades of consensus in Washington. “We certainly can’t afford to do this anymore,” Trump added later, “NATO is costing us a fortune, and yes, we’re protecting Europe with NATO, but we’re spending a lot of money “(Rucker & Costa, 2016).
            The rhetoric towards NATO by President Trump has proven to be inaccurate in many cases. In addition to the focus on defense spending, he has been outspoken in other areas. For instance, Trump wrote on Twitter, “The European Union makes it impossible for our farmers and workers and companies to do business in Europe (U.S. has a $151 Billion trade deficit), and then they want us to happily defend them through NATO, and nicely pay for it. Just doesn’t work!” (realdonaldtrump, 2016).

Politifact calls this statement into question. They state, “The EU does impose a slightly higher average tariff on agricultural goods than the United States, but according to the World Trade Organization, approximately 30 percent of agricultural products are shipped into both the United States and the EU tariff-free.

As a result, the 28 countries of the EU made up the fifth-largest export market for U.S. agricultural goods in 2017, according to the Department of Agriculture. The United States exported $11.5 billion worth of agricultural goods to the EU” (Trump & D, 2018).
             President Trump’s rhetoric on NATO may not have slow down, but there are signs of it evolving. During a press briefing after the NATO summit in July President Trump responds to a question from Bloomberg reporter Margaret Taley who asked if he could pull out of NATO without Congresses support and approval. The President responded, “I think I probably can, but that’s unnecessary.  And the people have stepped up today like they’ve never stepped up before.  And remember the word — $33 billion more, they’re paying” (2018). 

Counterpoints Regarding President Trumps Rhetoric

Now that we have looked at a sample of President Trumps rhetoric regarding NATO, it feels necessary to share the counterpoints proffered in regard to President Trumps rhetoric. The President of the United States has shown a willingness to spend political capital by espousing rhetoric while his administration seems to either explain or clean up what he really means. For instance, in reference to his remarks on Article 5 of the NATO Treaty that made European leaders nervous, Secretary Mattis spoke these words, “I register the concern in European capitals about America’s commitment to NATO and the security of Europe. I also understand our long-term European allies and friends are seeking reassurance and clarity about American intentions. I join you today representing America’s commitment and President Trump’s “strong support” for our Alliance” (Anonymous, 2017).

Not all of those commenting on Trumps norm-breaking tactics think that it only does a disservice to his own credibility and will provide zero results. Some think his rhetoric may produce profitable results. In regard to President Trumps tactics to “encourage” NATO members to cough up more money, Newton, in his article titled More than Burden Sharing writes and quotes a British ambassador, “President Trump’s harsh “name and shame” tactics have had some effect on NATO allies’ renewed interest in meeting their goals. According to former British Ambassador to NATO Adam Thomson, “Nobody could quite have expected the way it has been taken up in such an unsophisticated fashion by Trump, but that, too, has had a real impact” (Newton, 2018).
Scholars have used terms like “unsophisticated” or simply “breaking norms” to describe Donald Trump’s rhetoric. One thing is certain, there isn’t a shortage of explanations and comments regarding the Presidents way of issuing foreign policy.  As is this comment by Panke and Pershohn in their paper, President Donald J. Trump: An agent of norm death? “The president is moving away from established diplomatic practices and is, at times, relying on “Twitter-diplomacy.” He does not consult his foreign policy team to develop a well-crafted policy which is then announced through the normal channels, but will spontaneously tweet about foreign policy matters, e.g. foreign relations with Mexico on the border wall issue. Moreover, the coherency of the administration’s messages is often compromised as the president and his team send different signals. At one point, for instance, Donald Trump suggested the US would not cover the costs of an Air Defense system in South Korea, which was later corrected by his national security advisor”.
Looking at President Trumps statements have led some European leaders into declaring that having a true European Army should be on the European agenda, S.M Walt writes, “The U.S. interest in Europe is fairly straightforward. In addition to their mutually beneficial trade and investment relations, the United States has long sought to preserve an overall balance of power in Europe. Washington did not want any single country to dominate Europe, or unify it under its leadership, because a regional hegemon of this sort would be a peer competitor and might eventually try to establish a substantial security role in the Western Hemisphere and force Americans to worry more about defending their own shores” (Walt, 2018).
The shortsightedness towards the EU that President Trump displays is detrimental to the United States long term objectives. Rajon Menon adds to this counterpoint, “Europe may be the world’s second most important center of economic power, but its dependency on Washington for its security has long ensured that it would play second fiddle to the United States. Moreover, NATO is a central element in the worldwide network of military bases the United States uses for projecting its power far and wide (Menon, 2018). By understanding that Europe, if not united as a hegemony, will rely on U.S. for protection will allow the United States to have military locations spread throughout Europe which leads to economic gains as trade continues uninterrupted. In addition, absent a nuclear war, this will help to assure that traditional fighting will remain on continents other than North America.
In addition to military might, there is an opportunity for Europe to take the lead in soft power issues that the United States has traditionally led. Carlos-Reiner argues in his article Sweden is a World Leader in Peace, Security and Human Rights that, “While NATO member and partner nations reevaluate their defense policies, they simultaneously leverage their critical role in international soft power politics. Northern European nations are poised to take on the leadership mantle of human rights and other policy issues that the Trump administration increasingly eschews” (Carlson-Rainer, 2017).
One of the arguments by critics within the United States and those abroad, is that it is tough to take President Trump seriously. He seems to respond to events as they happen without much forethought and will later have his statement corrected by those in his administration to clarify what the actual White House policy is. Sometimes this make his policy seems even more jumbled. Yarhi-Milo speaks to the declining international credibility of the United States, “Unfortunately, the reputation of the U.S. presidency has eroded in recent years. Trump deserves much of the blame-but not all of it. The United States’ signaling reputation began to decline in the summer of 2013, after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad breached U.S. President Barack Obama’s “redline” on chemical weapons. In August 2012, Obama had stated that the mobilization or use of these weapons would “change [his] calculus” on Syria, a remark that many interpreted as a threat of military action. In August 2013, Assad launched a series of sarin gas attacks against rebel strongholds, killing 1,400 Syrians. Yet instead of responding with military strikes, Obama agreed to a Russian-brokered deal in which Assad pledged to dismantle his arsenal of chemical weapons” (Yarhi-Milo, 2018).
We have seen how Putin successfully pressed his luck against Obama, especially now that we see the pledge by Assad wasn’t truthful. President Trump though, has created his own international doubts. “Instead, Trump has complicated the situation by showcasing both toughness, which may have some strategic advantages, and impulsivity, which undermines his credibility. By bombing Syria, reengaging in Afghanistan, and applying more pressure on North Korea, Trump may have gained a general reputation for resolve and conveyed that he is more comfortable using military force than his predecessor. Yet the president’s track record of flip-flopping on key campaign pledges, his bizarre and inaccurate outbursts on Twitter, his exaggerated threats, and his off-the-cuff assurances have all led observers to seriously doubt his words” (Yarhi-Milo, 2018).
Inasmuch as Trumps rhetoric may be an enigma, there may be a more salient point. Some have argued that he has plans to build buildings in Moscow and that information will come out after the Special Counsel Investigation, led by Robert Mueller releases their report; however, his National Security Advisor John Bolton has a different view. “his softer language — whether about Russia or North Korea — merely reflects his conviction that he should cultivate a positive relationship with the leaders of those countries” (“Federal policy on NATO, 2017-2020”, 2018).
Asked why Mr. Trump rarely, if ever, sounds the alarm about Russia’s election meddling, the national security adviser, John R. Bolton, told reporters: “The president has made it abundantly clear to anybody who has responsibility in this area that he cares deeply about it and that he expects them to do their jobs to their fullest ability” (“Federal policy on NATO, 2017-2020”, 2018).
It is arguably, still too early to completely comprehend the motive behind President Trumps rhetoric; however, his rhetoric, although outside of traditional norms, has pushed our allies to remain on the path to pay 2% of their GDP into their own military to help shoulder the burden of a military event or crisis. In addition, despite his friendly tone with Russia’s Vladimir Putin, he has authorized military armaments sent to Ukraine and the United States participation in military exercises in Norway and has taken military action in Syria. The question to consider is will the short term gains by President Trumps rhetoric regarding NATO involvement , come at a long term diplomatic cost to the United States. That still remains to be seen.


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