Trump questions need for NATO, outlines non-interventionist foreign policy
Donald Trump outlined an unabashedly non-interventionist approach to world affairs Monday, telling The Washington Post's editorial board that he questions the need for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which has formed the backbone of Western security policies since the Cold War.
The meeting at The Post covered a range of issues, including media libel laws, violence at his rallies, climate change, NATO and the U.S. presence in Asia.
Speaking ahead of a major address on foreign policy later Monday in front of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Trump said he advocates an aggressive U.S. posture in the world with a light footprint. In spite of unrest abroad, especially in the Middle East, Trump said the United States must look inward and steer its resources toward rebuilding domestic infrastructure.
"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."
He added: "I watched as we built schools in Iraq and they’re blown up. We build another one, we get blown up. We rebuild it three times and yet we can’t build a school in Brooklyn. We have no money for education because we can’t build in our own country. At what point do you say, 'Hey, we have to take care of ourselves?' So, I know the outer world exists and I’ll be very cognizant of that. But at the same time, our country is disintegrating, large sections of it, especially the inner cities."
For the first time, Trump also listed members of a team chaired by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) that is counseling him on foreign affairs and helping to shape his policies: Keith Kellogg, Carter Page, George Papadopoulos, Walid Phares and Joseph E. Schmitz.
Trump praised George P. Shultz, who served as President Ronald Reagan's top diplomat, and was harshly critical of current secretary of state John F. Kerry. He questioned the United States’ continued involvement in NATO and, on the subject of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, said America’s allies are "not doing anything."
"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.' "
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 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."
Trump sounded a similar note in discussing the U.S. presence in the Pacific. He questioned the value of massive military investments in Asia and wondered aloud whether the United States still was capable of being an effective peacekeeping force there.
“South Korea is very rich, great industrial country, and yet we’re not reimbursed fairly for what we do," Trump said. "We’re constantly sending our ships, sending our planes, doing our war games — we’re reimbursed a fraction of what this is all costing."
Asked whether the United States benefits from its involvement in the region, Trump replied, "Personally, I don’t think so." He added, "I think we were a very powerful, very wealthy country, and we are a poor country now. We’re a debtor nation."
Trump cast China as a leading economic and geopolitical rival and said the United States should toughen its trade alliances to better compete.
"China has got unbelievable ambitions," Trump said. "China feels very invincible. We have rebuilt China. They have drained so much money out of our country that they’ve rebuilt China. Without us, you wouldn’t see the airports and the roadways and the bridges. The George Washington Bridge [in New York], that’s like a trinket compared to the bridges that they build in China. We don’t build anymore. We had our day."