SANGER: Or to take on the burden themselves.
TRUMP: Or, if we cannot make the right deal, to take on the burden themselves. You said it wrong because you said or — or if we cannot make the right deal for proper reimbursement to take on the burden themselves. Yes. Now, Hillary Clinton said: “I will never leave Japan. I will never leave Japan. Will never leave any of our ——” Well now, once you say that, guess what happens? What happens?
HABERMAN: You’re stuck.
TRUMP: You can’t negotiate.
TRUMP: In a deal, you always have to be prepared to walk. Hillary Clinton has said, “We will never, ever walk.” That’s a wonderful phrase, but unfortunately, if I were on Saudi Arabia’s side, Germany, Japan, South Korea and others, I would say, “Oh, they’re never leaving, so what do we have to pay them for?” Does that make sense to you, David?
SANGER: It does, but we also know that defending the United States is a harder thing to do if you’re not forward-deployed.
TRUMP: By the way, and I know what I’m talking about is massive. If we ever felt there was a reason to defend the United States, we can always deploy, and it would be a lot less expense. …
You need to click across and read the whole thing to get a real sense for just how far Trump is, in regards to what he is proposing as a foreign, defense, and security policy from not just the consensus in the US over the past 70 years, but the norms of both parties, and those of our allies and partners. What Trump is proposing is a major, unilateral transformation of the international system and global order. It isn’t merely a hypernationalistic vision of America’s interest overwhelming everything. Rather it is a pay for play security shakedown scheme.
What Trump is proposing is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of not just the North Atlantic Treaty, but also almost every other international institution that has been established since the end of World War II. NATO was not just about opposing the Soviet Union. Rather it was part of several institutions that the US either was directly involved with creating or supported the creation of in order to change, hopefully permanently, the pre WW I and WW II dynamics of Europe. NATO militarily binds the European nation-states to each other. Every member of NATO’s member state’s militaries have, at this point, grown up in a Europe and served in their state’s militaries within the context of France and Germany and Britain and Spain and Italy and Greece and Portugal, etc, etc, etc all being allies. They’ve been on joint NATO training missions, participated in high stress, little sleep joint NATO exercises, and been assigned to joint NATO billets. Almost all of the senior officers and general officers/flag officers have been educated at multiple levels of American Professional Military Education. And because of the EU they and/or their relatives work, travel, and play all over Europe. All of this is intended to forge strong, tight, and effective bonds to prevent the parochial political, social, economic, and/or religious ambitions of people within each of these states being wrapped into nationalism and gushing forth in the death, destruction, and waste of The Thirty Years War, World War I, and WW II. The goal of these institutions and arrangements, as well as similar ones in Asia and other parts of the world, is to prevent the region’s disputes from becoming wars and those wars from engulfing the world. For over 70 years it has worked. Trump proposes to wreck it because he doesn’t think the US is being paid enough and this is a sign that our allies and partners don’t treat us fairly.
Does NATO’s mission need to be regularly reassessed and periodically adjusted? Without a doubt. As do a number of the international security and economic institutions. But scrapping NATO, or any of these agreements, doesn’t make Europe or the world safer, it makes it less stable and more dangerous. And scrapping NATO and other agreements that form the basis of the current international system without any plan other than “nice country you’ve got there, be a shame to have anything happen to it, so the boys’ll be around every third Thursday to collect” is not just unacceptable, but stupendously reckless and dangerous. I am not arguing that the current system is perfect, that it hasn’t caused its own share of unintended negative outcomes, but it has been amazingly stable compared to what came before. What Trump is proposing isn’t. It is a sign of a superficial thinker who hasn’t spent much time grappling with the problem sets that the US, its allies, and its partners face and one who has no real idea how to appropriately deal with threats and attempt to turn challenges into opportunities other than to demand that his interlocutors knuckle under and give him what he wants. The transcript of Trump’s interview makes it clear that regardless of what anyone may think of him as a presidential candidate or what the effect of his candidacy and/or election may or may not be on the US in terms of its domestic affairs, his election would present a clear and present danger to the stability of the global order.