Observations of an Expat: Trump and NATO

July 22, 2016 OPINION/NEWS

Bill Pugliano



Tom Arms

So much of diplomacy is common sense. You make a promise. You keep it. That is a simple and easily understandable rule of life. You break the promise and you suffer the consequences.

On April 4, 1949 the United States, Canada and 10 European states signed the North Atlantic Treaty. Over the years the alliance the treaty created has collected another sixteen members.

The central plank of NATO is a promise called Article 5. It reads: “The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them…will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking…such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.”

This is a simple musketeers one for all and all for one pledge. It could not be more clear than if it had been written by Alexander Dumas himself. It is no lawyer’s dream of obscure ifs, ands and buts. And its simple clarity is one of the reasons that NATO has been one of the bedrock cornerstones of world peace for 67 years.

Donald Trump is preparing to chip away that cornerstone with a bulldozer. He made that clear this week in his interview with the New York Times. While Republican delegates in Cleveland were chanting his name, Trump was telling David E. Sanger and Maggie Haberman that if America’s NATO allies did not cough up more cash, then he is prepared to tell them: “Congratulations, you will be defending yourself.”

To be fair, there is some justice behind the unveiled threat. The defence budgets of NATO members are supposed to be at least two percent of each country’s Gross Domestic Product. Only four NATO countries meet that target: Britain, the United States, Greece and tiny Estonia. The United States is a staggering 4.4 percent of GDP.


NATO headquarters in Brussels  –  Virginia Mayo/AP


Both America and Britain have shouted loudly and for some years at other NATO members to cough up. But Trump is the only political leader to have threatened to destroy the alliance of America’s biggest trading partners and closest political allies.

The Republican nominee takes a businessman’s approach to diplomacy. He negotiates hard. His clearly stated tactic is to be absolutely honest about his goals and be prepared to walk away from the table if he doesn’t achieve them. That’s fine in business. In New York boardrooms you are dealing with one other executive or a small team of like-minded individuals.

Talks between countries are a bit more complicated. Negotiators have to take into account an array of special interests on both sides. And these special interests breed like nympho rabbits in the Western democracies which abound throughout NATO. In fact, it is these democratic systems that NATO was created to protect.

On top of that, if you walk away from a business deal you can always find another one. But there is only one Europe on the other side of the Atlantic. There is only one Japan, Australia, New Zealand and South Korea on the other side of the Pacific. In fact, there is really only one world.

Finally, I think it is worth pointing out that, over the years the main purpose of NATO has been to extend the American defensive umbrella over Europe. Yet, in the long history of the world’s most successful alliance Article five has only been invoked once. When it was invoked it had nothing to do with an attack on Europe. It was invoked on September 12, 2001—less than 24 hours after Al Qaeda brought New York’s twin towers crashing to the ground.







Tom Arms broadcasts on world affairs for a number of US radio stations including WTKF at http://www.wtkf107.com/. His Weekly Viewpoints discussion programme can be heard at 1830 EST on Wednesdays and his LookAhead at the next week’s main events on Fridays at 1800.


LookAhead Radio World Report for week commencing 25 July:







Tom Arms

I am a journalist, entrepreneur and historian with extensive experience in print, web and broadcast journalism. I started as a diplomatic correspondent, wrote several books (The Falklands Crisis, World Elections On File and the Encyclopedia of the Cold War), and then in 1987 started my own business (Future Events News Service, www.fensinformation.com) which over 25 years established itself as the world and UK media’s diary. Our strapline was: “We set the world’s news agenda.” I sold FENS in December 2012 but retained the exclusive broadcast rights to all of FENS data. To exploit these rights I set up LookAhead TV which produces unique programmes which “Broadcasts Tomorrow Today” so that viewers can “Plan to Participate.” LookAhead has appeared regularly on Vox Africa, Radio Tatras International, The Conversation and Voice of Africa Radio.

In addition to being a syndicated broadcaster and columnist on global affairs, Tom is also available for speaking engagements and can be contacted on TwitterLinkedin and email: [email protected]


1 Comment

  1. Kumarathasan Rasingam July 22, at 19:25

    I saw the convention where Donald Trump showed his power and energy. USA needs a tough leader not a politician. People are fed up of the lack of security and demand change in US policy to handle terrorism in USA and world. Encouraging terrorism for regime change will backfire.


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