The Fraying of NATO Relationships

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Written by Samantha Thorne

Washington, DC—At Thursday’s National Press Club Newsmaker event, Governor John Kasich said that President Trump has adopted an “America Alone” rather than an “America First” approach to foreign policy. As his remarks promptly followed the close of the 2018 NATO Summit, Kasich remarked that President Trump’s unsustainable “wrecking ball strategy” to international diplomacy has exacerbated fraying NATO Ally relationships. 

The Current State of the NATO Alliance  

While discussing the summit and its action plan related to defense spending and fair-burden sharing, the Ohio governor noted that decisions reached at Wednesday’s summit were nothing new or groundbreaking.

“Every president has decided and made the case…that NATO needs to do more to support themselves,” Kasich stated. “What was achieved at this summit, from what I can tell, is that they agreed to what they had agreed to before,” in reference to the 2014 Defense Pledge to raise ally defense spending to 2 percent of GDP by 2024.

However, the manner in which President Trump interacted with fellow allies was alarming. Noting a stark difference between Marshall Plan-era diplomacy and current U.S.-ally interactions, Kasich expressed his concern that America is no longer perceived as a reliable ally to the rest of the world.

“When you run around and spend your whole time getting into these disagreements in a disagreeable way, it’s pretty hard to come back and ask your allies to support you when the going gets tough,” Kasich commented, noting that America needs strong allies when confronting China for their intellectual property abuses.

In addition to a tense interaction between President Trump and Secretary General Stoltenberg, Kasich keyed in on Trump’s discussion of Germany’s dependence on Russian energy as an example of poor diplomacy. Viewing the president’s statements as oblivious to its audience, the governor asserted that if the president is going to prioritize straight talk, he must do it right.

“If there’s anyone that understands the rule of communism in a leader in the world, it would be Angela Merkel, who grew up in East Germany and understood exactly what it was like to be a victim of communist rule,” Kasich asserted. “She doesn’t really need a lecture.”

The Upcoming Trump-Putin Summit 

As President Trump is poised to attend a “loose-meeting” with President Putin in Helsinki this Monday, Kasich hopes that arms control will be the meeting’s primary focus rather than concessions to remove troop rotations in the Baltics. Additional meeting agenda items that he hopes are discussed include Russia’s menacing involvement in Syria, its cybersecurity threats, and the country’s interference in U.S. elections.

Many have questioned whether the Trump-Putin summit will further unravel an already snagged ally unity. Kasich, however, noted that the two leaders need to have these conversations, but recommended that the president adopts an apprehensive view of Russia’s past aggressions and future advances.

“I think that Putin is a tremendous threat, but that does not mean…that we don’t talk to them,” Kasich said, asserting that Trump must solidify that Americans reject Russia’s threatening actions and recognize that the U.S. “has more not in common than in common” with Russia.

Though Governor Kasich recognized that NATO unity is fraying, a new seam of tactful diplomacy can tailor the Alliance’s current tattered state. He prescribed that the president refrain himself from bashing fellow allies and pursue hardline conversations in private. The governor additionally espoused that other U.S. politicians should voice to allies that not all American leaders share the president’s views in how to conduct foreign policy. Though the world has become increasingly erratic, alliances must be strengthened to sew together an unraveling world.