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Casey: Trump’s Attacks Have Allies Doubting U.S. Commitment To NATO Alliance

March 2, 2019
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Casey: Trump's Attacks Have Allies Doubting U.S. Commitment To NATO Alliance

Scranton — President Donald Trump’s “benign” view of the Russian Federation and public attacks on NATO have member nations doubting America’s commitment to the alliance, Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Casey told the Times-Tribune editorial board. Reflecting Friday on a February foreign trip to the Munich Security Conference in Germany and other diplomatic stops in Paris, Cyprus and Vienna, Austria, Casey said he reassured foreign officials that NATO relationships are “essential,” regardless of what they may have heard from the president or other American officials. Trump’s sometimes bellicose rhetoric and attitude toward NATO has in some cases been like a “wrecking ball,” threatening the 70-year-old alliance and other American trans-Atlantic relationships, Casey said. “It’s remarkable that there’s that much either doubt or concern about whether or not we are going to continue to support NATO because of what the president has either said or done or not done,” Casey said, noting much of that concern regards NATO’s Article 5, the collective defense doctrine stating an armed attack against one NATO member shall be considered an attack against them all. Trump failed to explicitly commit to honoring Article 5 at a May 2017 NATO summit in Belgium, though he did so about a month later. Prior to his swearing in, Trump worried member nations by calling the alliance “obsolete.” He also has repeatedly blasted NATO members for not contributing enough money for defense, noting rightly the U.S. bears the majority of that shared burden. While Trump should raise the issue of defense dues, Casey argued he should do so privately so as not to create dissension that ultimately benefits Russia, its president Vladimir Putin and other “bad guys.” “I just wish (Trump) would make those arguments behind closed doors, but in front of the world say ‘we’re with you, we’re against Russian aggression,’ ” Casey said. In addition to criticizing Trump’s sometimes harsh treatment of NATO allies, Casey charged Trump with not being tough enough on Putin and the Russians. He called Trump’s now-infamous 2018 summit meeting with Putin in Helsinki, Finland, “one of the lowest points in American history.” At that summit, Trump publicly accepted Putin’s denial that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. election despite the American intelligence community’s conclusion that it had, sparking outrage among both Democrats and Republicans. Trump later said he misspoke and that he accepted the intelligence community’s conclusion. And while Casey feels European leaders and heads of state understand that there’s often a difference between what “Trump says and does and what Democrats and Republicans in both houses of Congress want to do” in terms of sanctions and other issues, he fears European citizens may not realize that. “I’m more worried about the populations,” he said. “If that posture remains, will populations over time think ... ‘those Americans aren’t on our side?’ ” Contact the writer: jhorvath@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9141; @jhorvathTT on Twitter