Trump Tries to Overthrow International Order by Preferring Enemies Over Friends

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In his bid for re-election, former President Donald J. Trump hinted that he might incite Russia to launch attacks against “delinquent” U.S. allies, thereby portending potentially profound transformations in the global order.His staff outlined the operation of NATO’s mutual defense obligations as soon as former President Donald J. Trump assumed office.

He responded, “Do you mean that if Russia attacked Lithuania, we would declare war on Russia?” “That is absurd.”

Mr. Trump has never held the fundamental tenet of the Atlantic alliance, which is “one for all and all for one.” In fact, he dedicated a significant portion of his four-year presidency to undermining it while coercing members to honor their pledges to increase spending on their respective militaries by threatening to withhold his assistance if they failed to do so.However, he escalated the situation significantly over the weekend by announcing at a rally in South Carolina that he would not only abstain from defending European nations that he considered to be in jeopardy of being attacked by Russia, but would even “encourage” Russia to “do whatever the hell they want” against them. Prior to this, no president of the United States, including a former president seeking re-election, has expressed the intention of inciting an adversary to launch an assault against American allies.

Trump Tries to Overthrow International Order by Preferring Enemies Over Friends
Trump Tries to Overthrow International Order by Preferring Enemies Over Friends

Certain individuals may dismiss that as customary Trump rally hyperbole or dismiss it as a rudimentary attempt at humor. Others may even applaud the firm line against ostensibly dormant allies who, in their opinion, have for too long exploited the alliance between the United States and these nations. Nonetheless, in the event that Mr. Trump reclaims the White House in November, his rhetoric portends potentially unprecedented and far-reaching changes in the global order.

Furthermore, Mr. Trump’s remark prompted unsettling inquiries once more regarding his preferences in companions. It is astonishing that he would advise Russia to launch an assault on NATO allies, even if he were only partially sincere. This statement underscores his peculiar affinity for President Vladimir V. Putin, who has previously demonstrated a readiness to invade neighboring countries without NATO protection.
Former United States ambassador to NATO and senior adviser to George W. Bush on the Afghanistan and Iraq wars Douglas E. Lute, a retired lieutenant general, stated, “Russia and China are incomparably weak in comparison to America’s allies, and these allies depend on American commitment.” Undermining the United States’ dedication to its allies jeopardizes the country’s most significant advantage over Russia and China, which neither Xi nor Putin could independently attain.

Sunday, undeterred by the backlash against his most recent remark, Mr. Trump doubled down.

“No money should be given to any country in the form of foreign aid unless it is a loan and not a handout,” he wrote in all capital letters on social media. “We should never again give money without the expectation of receiving something in return or with’strings’ attached,” he continued.

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Adamantly opposed to alliances of any kind, a second term for Donald Trump could effectively dismantle the security umbrella that has protected American allies in Europe, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East for the majority of the nearly eight decades following World War II’s conclusion. Merely implying that the United States lacks dependability would render such alliances futile, incite enduring allies to exercise caution and potentially form alliances with other superpowers, and invigorate individuals such as Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping of China.Mr. Trump has consistently expressed his intention to withdraw the United States from NATO, and he would no longer be supported by the type of advisors who previously obstructed his decision to do so. Angering then-chancellor Angela Merkel, he attempted to withdraw American troops from Germany at the end of his presidency; this withdrawal was thwarted only by the timely inauguration of President Biden, who revoked the decision.Mr. Trump previously considered withdrawing American troops from South Korea, but was dissuaded from doing so. However, he has stated since leaving office that a re-election would prioritize such a move unless South Korea increased its compensation. In addition to potentially severing military assistance to Ukraine in its efforts to repel Russian incursions, Mr. Trump has not expressed endorsement for increased assistance to Israel in its conflict with Hamas.

Trump Tries to Overthrow International Order by Preferring Enemies Over Friends
Trump Tries to Overthrow International Order by Preferring Enemies Over Friends

In light of the potential for a United States withdrawal from global engagement upon the re-election of Mr. Trump, Congress recently enacted legislation that prohibits any president from terminating the NATO treaty without prior approval from the Senate. However, Mr. Trump could have rendered the alliance futile without even formally withdrawing.

Furthermore, other nations that have established mutual security agreements with the United States, including Indonesia, Thailand, Japan, the Philippines, Costa Rica, and Panama, could hardly rely on its assistance if it fails to support its partners in Europe, the region where it has the most significant historical connections.Peter D. Feaver, a former national security aide to President Bill Clinton and a professor at Duke University, stated that Mr. Trump could “regularly disparage the U.S. commitment” and “reduce American troops in Europe to a level that would render any military defense plans hollow” in order to persuade Mr. Putin that he had unrestricted authority.

“By merely committing those two acts, NATO could be wounded or even destroyed,” Mr. Feaver warned. “Having violated NATO, few allies or partners in other parts of the world would believe any U.S. commitment thereafter.”

Historiography suggests that this may lead to further conflict rather than a reduction in it. Dean Acheson, the then-secretary of state, delineated an American “defensive perimeter” in Asia excluding South Korea in 1950. Five months later, North Korea launched an invasion, instigating a violent conflict that enticed the United States nonetheless.

Mr. Trump’s communication to NATO allies including Poland, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania is that they may be independent as early as January of the following year. A few days prior to this, Vladimir Putin told Tucker Carlson that Poland was to blame for the 1939 invasion by Adolf Hitler. As a result, the atmosphere in Warsaw could not have been more tense.

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