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Republicans at Putin’s service

Nothing favors Russia more than the erosion of NATO’s defensive credibility and trust among allies

Donald Trump, during a rally in South Carolina on February 10.
Donald Trump, during a rally in South Carolina on February 10.SAM WOLFE (REUTERS)
Lluís Bassets

We should listen to Trump. NATO partners must increase their defense spending. Not for the perverse reasons that the former president has put forth, but because of the high probability that he will win the election and, unlike his first presidential term, this time he will put into practice all his extravagant and dangerous notions about international agreements and commitments, in the style of those established by mafia gangs with the people they extort and at the same time protect.

Trump believes that countries that spend less than 2% of their budget on defense are at fault with Washington. According to the former president, this NATO guideline on military spending, which is merely indicative, has generated a debt with the United States. Consequently, non-compliant partners, described as “delinquents,” do not deserve the American solidarity derived from Article 5 of the Atlantic Treaty on mutual defense, which the former president interprets at his convenience and without binding force, exactly as it suits Putin.

We can all start bracing ourselves now, starting with Ukraine. Without weapons or ammunition, and above all without the solidarity of the United States, the war effort is going to be really uphill for Kyiv, no matter how hard the Europeans try, as they have done until now, and even if they continue to increase defense spending. Putin will soon test the strength of the mutual defense commitment between NATO partners with an attack or a provocation against one of the neighboring countries. Trump has made it very clear that he himself will call on Russian troops to act as mafia thugs against those who break agreements, or the famous deals, a specialty of the Trump house.

These unfortunate ideas have been well known for years, even before Trump sought the presidency. The novelty is in its application: in a second presidency he will not be watched over by the adults who surrounded him between 2017 and 2021, who toned down his nonsense and even imagined that the White House could change him. If he wins, he will be surrounded by the biggest Trumpist hawks imaginable, with an even more radical program and zero chances of power moderating him, given that exactly the opposite has happened before.

Nothing could favor Putin more than the erosion of NATO’s defensive credibility and trust among allies. The transatlantic bond is already broken for Trump and for the lawmakers under his command who haggle over aid to Ukraine. The Kremlin had an agent at its service in the White House during the four years of Trump’s presidency, but now it has the entire party of Eisenhower and Reagan on its side, with few and increasingly marginal exceptions. If Trump returns to the White House, Putin will finally have within his reach revenge for Russia’s defeat in the Cold War, which he described as “the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the 20th century.”

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