Will Donald Trump give Russian leader Vladimir Putin the best of all possible gifts: pulling the United States out of NATO? As insane as that sounds, Trump has been making noises to other world leaders threatening to do exactly that. After opining to G7 leaders during their summit a few weeks ago backing Russia's claim to the now-occupied Crimea because, well, the people there speak Russian so there, Trump reportedly complained about the upcoming NATO summit on July 11:
"It will be an interesting summit. NATO is as bad as NAFTA. It's much too costly for the U.S."
This is part of Trump's continued inability to grasp what NATO even is; he continues to believe that other NATO nations not spending the sought-for 2 percent GDP on their militaries somehow represents a payment to the United States(?) that they're holding out on us for. Or something to that effect—he's been largely incoherent in his complaints about NATO and its member nations.
But that's not the only hint that Trump may genuinely be considering the insane proposition of pulling the United States out of NATO. In a private conversation with the Swedish prime minister last March, he went farther:
One European diplomat told me that in a private White House meeting in March, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven explained to Trump that Sweden, although not a member of NATO, partners with the alliance on a case-by-case basis. Trump responded that the United States should consider that approach. A senior administration official told me Trump was joking.
Let's get something straight here: Trump doesn't "joke." Trump says his thoughts out loud to see how his audience reacts. He wasn't joking, during the campaign, about rounding up immigrants. He wasn't joking about launching a trade war as an act of petty, dimwitted belligerence. He doesn't joke about his praise for dictators and his willingness to play ball with autocrats, and despite the damage-control efforts of an anonymous senior administration official, he ain't joking here. He's been blustering about either "renegotiating" the United States position in NATO or abandoning it since the campaign days.
Donald is in a very foul mood of late, and he has been even more eager than usual to publicly repeat Russian talking points over the objections of his own aides. It is more likely than not, during the upcoming NATO summit, that it's going to a repeat of the G7 meeting in which Trump roundly attacked U.S. allies like Canada while suggesting Russia has been getting an unfair shake.
But we can't discount the possibility that he's going to come out of the meeting with an announcement that our nation will be abandoning the NATO treaty. He has been telegraphing that move, as he has with multiple other insane opinions that later became new presidential orders, for a very long time. Given that NATO's major role is to deter Russian military aggression, that would be the ultimate gift to Trump's would-be friend Putin—the one man in the world Donald never, ever, has a bad word for.