Let’s Drop the Hysterics About Trump and NATO’s Article 5

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Is Donald Trump committed to NATO? Here’s what the press says about that today:

New York Times: “President Trump on Thursday once again refused to explicitly endorse NATO’s mutual defense pledge, instead lecturing European leaders on what he called their ‘chronic underpayments’ to the military alliance.”

Wall Street Journal: “Mr. Trump’s refusal to say he supports NATO’s common defense provision, known as Article 5, left European diplomats dismayed.”

The Washington Post: “Trump refuses to back NATO Article 5.” (This is from memory. It was something like that.)

The Washington Post quickly realized it was practicing pack journalism and rewrote their story. It doesn’t even mention Article 5 anymore.

As well it shouldn’t. At today’s unveiling of an Article 5 memorial at NATO headquarters, Trump said this about the aftermath of 9/11: “Our NATO allies responded swiftly and decisively, invoking for the first time in its history the Article 5 collective defense commitments.” Later he added: “This twisted mass of metal reminds us not only of what we have lost but also what forever endures: the courage of our people, the strength of our resolve, and the commitments that bind us together as one. We will never forget the lives that were lost, we will never forsake the friends who stood by our side.”

It’s true that Trump didn’t explictly say “We stand behind Article 5,” but it’s hard to read his comments any other way. Within a few minutes Sean Spicer confirmed this:

Everyone needs to calm down. Sure, Trump probably was trying to be cute. Alternatively, the failure to repeat our commitment to Article 5 might have been yet another example of Trump’s ham-handed approach to negotiation, trying to create leverage for more defense spending by making everyone in Europe nervous. Or it could be nothing more than Trump’s familiar resolve never to back down: If they want him to say he’s committed to Article 5, then that’s the one thing he won’t say. (He also insisted on doubling down on his much-mocked description of terrorists as “losers,” for example.) Or maybe Trump is just being a dick. He wants attention, and this is a way to get it.

Still, he was clear enough, and his press secretary was as explicit as he could be afterward. What’s more, before the speech his Secretary of State said without qualification, “Of course we support Article 5.” Campaign bluster aside, there’s really no indication that the Trump administration is any less committed to NATO than previous administrations. Here’s the whole speech:

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