The past week and a half has seen President Trump turn his back on the alliances that have formed the geopolitical balance of power for decades, treating our NATO allies with unprecedented and uncalled for hostility while openly excusing the aggressive behavior of the Russian Federation.
Last week’s NATO summit saw the President berate the assembled nations for not doing their part and not contributing enough money to their militaries and accused the most powerful European member, Germany, of being “controlled” by Russia through the purchase of Russian natural gas.
Monday saw the President meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin and then not once but twice refuse to condemn or challenge him for the annexation of Crimea or the elaborate cyberwarfare campaign that Russia waged against our nation during the 2016 election.
Tuesday saw Trump offer an obviously insincere and begrudging “acceptance” of the intelligence community’s assessment that interference took place during the 2016 election, but he refused to blame Russia for it, making sure to say that “it could have been other people also.”
Which is why the international community was stunned this morning to see the president had taken aim at the tiny NATO nation of Montenegro. During last night’s interview with FOX News’ white supremacy correspondent Tucker Carlson, Trump complained that the people of Montenegro were “very aggressive” and might start World War III by antagonizing Russia.
Carlson called into question the foundational principle of NATO, collective security, with a softball question to Trump: “Membership in NATO obligates the members to defend any other member that’s attacked,” Carlson said. “So let’s say Montenegro, which joined last year, is attacked. Why should my son go to Montenegro to defend it from attack?”
“I understand what you’re saying. I’ve asked the same question. Montenegro is a tiny country with very strong people. … They’re very aggressive people. They may get aggressive, and congratulations you’re in World War III” replied Trump.
Montenegro is currently holding fourteen people on trial for attempting a coup and installing a pro-Russian government, and the implication of Trump and Carlson’s discussion is that should Russia make a move on the tiny Adriatic nation, the United States would not be there to defend them.
To make matters worse, President Trump doubled back this afternoon and hit our intelligence communities when he walked back his walk back of his defense of Russian interference in the 2016 election, declaring that the Russian Federation was “no longer” targeting the United States and was not planning to interfere in the crucial 2018 midterms that are coming up in just a few months.
Is Russia still targeting the US? Trump says, "No." pic.twitter.com/L5ZY9DE4r1
— Meg Wagner (@megwagner) July 18, 2018
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats was forced to hold his own press conference following the President’s meeting with Putin in which he reiterated his agency’s conclusions that the Russian Federation is mobilizing to interfere in the 2018 midterm elections on behalf of the Republican Party.
“The role of the Intelligence Community is to provide the best information and fact-based assessments possible for the president and policymakers. We have been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and their ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy, and we will continue to provide unvarnished and objective intelligence in support of our national security.”
Those conclusions are echoed by both Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation and by President Trump’s own Department of Homeland Security, which apparently took a break from tearing families apart and ethnically cleansing the United States of undocumented migrants long enough to actually do some homeland defending.
Donald Trump’s incessant attacks on our allies and his refusal to say anything vaguely critical of Russia is one of the more perplexing and disturbing aspects of his disgraceful presidency, and it’s beyond a doubt that Russia is holding something over his head at this point.
There’s simply no other rational explanation for why he has consistently gone out of his way, in defiance of his own advisors, his critics, and the public, to defend Russia and raise havoc within the NATO alliance.
Today’s slights are just the latest in a long line of disgraceful behaviors that he must be held accountable for.