Trump ignored top national security officials on NATO speech
Donald Trump’s decision not to mention Article 5 was found specially egregious as the only time it was ever invoked in the alliance history of 70 years was in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on the US on September 11, 2001world Updated: Jun 05, 2017 23:11 IST
President Donald Trump ignored advice from his top national security officials when, in a recent speech in Brussels, he refused to reaffirm US commitment to a key clause of the military alliance that commits member nations to treat an attack on any one of them as an attack on all of them.
Defence secretary James Mattis, secretary of state Rex Tillerson and National Security Adviser HR McMaster had all strongly pushed for the speech to include a line on US commitment to the clause, Article 5, and had believed they had been heard, but were shocked at its omission when Trump finally spoke.
That was the not the speech they had worked on and they were not even informed of the change, that they came to know of only on its delivery. This could have major consequences for an alliance already unsettled by Trump’s skepticism and insistence on members meeting their payment obligations.
Reported by Politico news site on Monday, the revelation, which had gone uncontested by the White House for most part of the day, sent shock waves through the US foreign policy establishment and is bound to worry governments around the world about who to deal with in this White House.
Indian officials, for one, have had multiple exchanges with these officials, and others in the Trump administration, and may wonder if meetings that they believed were fruitful and productive, standard bureaucratese for such interactions, were indeed so. No Indian official has met Trump yet.
Trump’s failure to include Article 5 in his speech disappointed NATO allies, specially its members from eastern Europe worried by an aggressive Russia, and deepened concerns about fissures in the 70-year-old military alliance caused mostly by questions he has raised about its relevance, and not so much the bills.
The three national security officials — Mattis, Tillerson and McMaster — had believed till the day before that the speech would include that line. McMaster had cleared a draft of the speech. “As late as that same morning (May 25), it was the right one,” an unidentified official told Politico.
Trump took it out himself, according to one account of the drafting process reported by Politico. Chief strategist Steve Bannon, whose “America first” nationalism defines many of Trump’s more controversial decisions including the Paris Accord pullout, was held responsible in a rival account.
“The failure to say something has had a very dangerous and damaging effect on the most successful military alliance in history,” Strobe Talbott, who as President Bill Clinton’s deputy secretary of state is said to shaped the modern-day NATO, told Politico. He now heads Brookings.
Trump’s decision to not mention Article 5 was found specially egregious as the only time it was ever invoked in the alliance history of 70 years was in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on the US on September 11, 2001.