Trump and Putin at G20 in Hamburg
Credit: Алексей М/Flickr

It’s getting sad watching people thrash around for explanations for the president’s behavior that don’t involve him being essentially captured by Vladimir Putin. The latest comes from the Washington Post‘s editorial board. They begin by advancing the argument that Donald Trump is simply too stupid to understand how NATO is funded which is supposed to explain why he continuously says moronic things about Europe not paying the United States their dues. Perhaps as a private citizen and candidate, Trump suffered under the misimpression that NATO countries owe America money, but he was disabused of that notion at some point since he’s become president. If no one else has informed him (and they surely have), the foreign leaders within NATO have let him know in one-on-one conversations. Even Trump’s own words confirm he understands, as he asked European countries to commit to spending four percent of their GDP on defense. That’s a ridiculous request but it shows that he knows what the real bone of contention is, and it isn’t that NATO countries aren’t paying us directly.

Trump attempts to cover for his own NATO-destroying rhetoric by accusing Germany of being too friendly with and dependent on Russia, but that’s ludicrous. Germany has been steadfast in defending Ukraine while the president has rhetorically ceded Crimea to Russia and called for them to be reinstated to the G7.

It’s almost humorous to watch the Post’s editorial board dance around the elephant in the room.

Ms. [Angela] Merkel and other European leaders probably are aware that Mr. Trump’s deep skepticism toward NATO is shared by virtually no one in his own administration or Republicans in Congress; the Senate passed a resolution in support of the alliance by 97 to 2 on Tuesday. The president is also at odds with the American public. According to a 2017 survey by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, 69 percent — including 54 percent of core Trump supporters — say NATO is “essential” to U.S. security.

Perhaps that’s why, despite his outbursts, Mr. Trump did not stand in the way of NATO’s adoption at the summit of new plans to defend against Russia and terrorism. But his hostile rhetoric does its own damage — and it will be compounded if it is followed by an unseemly show of comity with Mr. Putin at their meeting next week.

Why would a president adopt these anti-NATO positions when they do not reflect the consensus of opinion within his own State Department, Defense Department, intelligence services, or his top advisors and congressional members of his own party?

Why would a president who stands accused of conspiring with Russia to win election want to nakedly adopt policies that suit Russia more than his own country and that are opposed by our allies? Why would he want to have a summit with the Russian leader? Why would he want to have a private meeting with no witnesses present with that Russian leader? An innocent man would avoid making himself look so clearly guilty and a guilty one would be more deceptive. Only a captured man would act like this.

And it’s getting silly how far people will go to avoid facing up to that simple fact.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at