Muftic: Trump’s NATO policy in 2016 has Grand County impact in 2018
It is rare that I repeat a column, but in the wake of Donald Trump’s attempt to wreck NATO, leaving open the question of whether the United States would come to the aid of a country attacked by Russia, and his attempt to blame Obama for Russian hacking of the DNC, I am doing it.
This column was published in Sky-Hi News on June 19, 2016. It could have been written this month.
To update: In July 2016, an Australian diplomat warned the FBI of Russian hacking and the FBI opened an investigation. In mid-August 2016, Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort was forced to resign because his Russian ties had become too public. He sits in jail now. In September 2016, President Obama ordered the FBI to launch a formal investigation, which the FBI kept secret until spring 2017.
The June 2016 column:
There are many in Grand County who have more than a passing interest in what happens to NATO. They still have family in eastern European countries that are current members of NATO and were once Soviet satellites. Lithuanians and Poles have settled here and have become respected members of our community. Those countries belong to NATO. Other Eastern European settlers in Grand County from countries not in NATO are Russians and Moldovans.
Lithuanians, Latvians, and Estonians (the three Baltic States) and Poles in particular must be looking at alarming statements from Donald Trump for his comments that “We don’t really need NATO in its current form. NATO is obsolete … if we have to walk, we walk.” Many look with raised eyebrows at the sometimes called “bromance” with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Putin called Trump “a brighter person, talented without a doubt.” Putin reiterated has admiration of Donald Trump June 19 on Fareed Zakaria’s CNN program, as well as asking why the West still needs NATO.
Trump’s public assertion that not only is NATO obsolete, but their members are not living up to their promises to contribute. There is far more at stake than money.
Russia is on the march in a seeming attempt to reassemble former Soviet satellites, restoring past glories. Russians also resent and fear their former neighboring buffer states becoming NATO members and permitting missile defense installations (even if the defense systems are turned toward the Middle East). Their grabbing or helping surrogates grab parts of non NATO members of Georgia, the Crimea and eastern Ukraine has been seen as a threat in particular to the NATO member Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. NATO was quick to move more forces to the Baltics in response as a warning to Russia not to mess with members of NATO. Without NATO, the small Baltic states in particular would be vulnerable to a Crimea and Ukraine like grabs, making Poland and Romania especially at risk. In his June CNN comments, Putin slyly ignored Russia’s land grabs which would have answered his question of Why NATO?
There may not be a conspiracy involved, just a case of Trump’s ignorance or isolationist advocacy or wanting to make a deal with Russia, but there is an interesting connection with his most inner advisor. It is his campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, who was a political consultant to once president of the Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych. Yanukovych was attempting to stop some in his country who wanted greater trade ties with the West, while he was closely connected to Russia and wanted his country to be more connected to them. A revolution followed in 2014. During that revolution, Yanukovych fled first to the eastern Ukraine and now resides in exile in Russia.
Many in the United States’ foreign relations community on both sides of the aisle look at Donald Trump’s foreign policy with alarm. A particularly large howl was raised in a March open letter by 121 GOP national security leaders. George W. Bush’s Secretary of State, Richard Armitage, announced this month, June 2016, he would vote for Hillary Clinton.
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