Trump’s discussion of NATO, by contrast, omitted any reference to a Russian threat and focused exclusively on the threat posed by America’s deadbeat allies. “I would not allow member states to be delinquent in the payment while we guarantee their safety and are willing to fight wars for them,” he boasted. “We have made clear that countries that are immensely wealthy should reimburse the United States for the cost of defending them. This is a major departure from the past, but a fair and necessary one: necessary for our country, necessary for our taxpayer, necessary for our own thought process.” Unlike the National Security Strategy, Trump said nothing in his speech about America’s obligation under Article 5.
Later, Trump did acknowledge that, “We also face rival powers, Russia and China, that seek to challenge American influence, values, and wealth.” But he then declared that, “We will attempt to build a great partnership” with them—hardly the language of someone girding for a new cold war. And he cited America’s assistance in foiling a terrorist attack in St. Petersburg as an example of how that partnership might work.
Rather than showcasing his National Security Strategy’s central theme, Trump’s speech buried it. National-Security Adviser H.R. McMaster may want Trump to rally the free world against the tyrants in Moscow and Beijing, but Trump likes strongmen and he likes flattery, and thus, he likes Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping.