Congress must act now to save NATO from Trump

Congress must act now to save NATO from Trump
© Getty Images

The possibility that any president of the United States would seriously consider withdrawing the U.S. from NATO, thereby killing the alliance, was unimaginable — until The New York Times made it real in reports of credible statements by senior administration officials that President Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpThorny part of obstruction of justice is proving intent, that's a job for Congress Obama condemns attacks in Sri Lanka as 'an attack on humanity' Schiff rips Conway's 'display of alternative facts' on Russian election interference MORE has been considering just that.

Such an extreme decision by Trump would destroy the international foundation of U.S. security that has kept Americans safe for 70 years, and would fully justify the initiation of constitutional penalties by Congress against Trump.

ADVERTISEMENT

The United States has other important, even vital, relationships in the world, but none are as critical to our security as the bond with democracies of Europe. In that regard, the strongest security coalition for the U.S. is with Canada and the major European democracies committed to NATO. 

Any real separation of the U.S. from our European allies and NATO will put the security of all at risk.

What this country gains in security and influence from NATO far exceeds any cost to the United States. Further, NATO is much more than a security alliance for the United States. It is a powerful example of the strength of democracy and of American leadership in the world. 

The president’s contempt for NATO and for democratic allies in Europe is well established by his destructive behavior at NATO meetings and his belittling and humiliating treatment of America’s closest democratic leaders in Europe.

In fact, Trump has no legitimate cause to consider abandoning NATO. His complaints that European nations to do not spend enough on their national forces is an issue, but seem little more than an exaggerated excuse for him to attack the alliance.

Furthermore, Russia would be the primary beneficiary of the demise of NATO. From 1989, when the Berlin Wall came down, until Vladimir Putin came to power in the Kremlin in 1999, the U.S. and NATO have worked closely with Russia to help with its transition from communism. Putin ended that cooperation, choosing corrupt Russian nationalism instead of democracy, invading Georgia and Ukraine, moving into Syria to prop up the Assad regime, building hypersonic nuclear weapons to defeat U.S. defenses, and undermining democracy in the U.S. and Europe.

If Putin’s wildest dream comes true and Trump destroys NATO, the damage to American security would be extreme.

For starters, Putin would be emboldened to threaten the security of the Baltic nations and the rest of Ukraine. Russian influence to undermine fledgling democracies in Eastern Europe and in the West could increase, and the unity of Europe is likely to fracture over time as Russia promotes division and extremism on the continent.

Strategically, the destruction of NATO would signal the immediate decline of American power and leadership that would damage the appeal of democracy worldwide and promote the ascendancy of Russian and extreme nationalist ideology in international affairs.

For the United States, the national consequences would be extreme:

  • American defense industries who produce quality NATO standard equipment purchased by allies will sustain losses in Europe as cheaper, non-standard military equipment becomes an alternative.
  • NATO would no longer be the foundation for U.S. military force structure and American military planning would be thrown into disarray.
  • Critical national intelligence relationships now in place with allies would be damaged.
  • The availability of U.S. air, naval and army bases throughout Europe, now part of the NATO commitment and critical to American strategic interests worldwide, would become more restricted, costly, or lost altogether.
  • The U.S. security commitment to allies in Asia would immediately be suspect.
  • The effect on international financial markets would be uncertain.

Trump, by his actions as president of the United States, is a destroyer of U.S. national security, not a builder. He has wrecked relationships with close democratic allies and neighbors, abrogated  treaties and torn up economic agreements. And for all this destruction and chaos, Trump has produced nothing positive to enhance U.S. national security, including no reduction of North Korean nuclear arms.

ADVERTISEMENT

Credible reports that Trump is considering U.S. withdrawal from NATO only add to the growing suspicion that the president may be an agent of influence for Putin’s Russia. But setting aside the possibility that the president is willingly acting on behalf of Putin, a presidential decision to destroy NATO alone is more than sufficient grounds to open impeachment proceedings against him without regard for special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE’s findings.

Given the potential security disaster that pulling out of NATO would create, both houses of Congress should move now to pass resolutions stating that withdrawing from NATO puts U.S. national security in grave danger and would violate the president’s oath of office to protect and defend the constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic. Congress should consider such a decision to be considered legitimate grounds for impeachment.

In addition, former presidents, secretaries of Defense and State from both parties and former senior U.S. military officers should inform Trump of their opposition to such a decision.

Further, the Joint Chiefs of Staff should formally notify the president of their opposition to any decision to withdraw from NATO if it becomes a serious presidential proposal.

The survival and viability of NATO is a matter of U.S. national security of the highest order. Influential American leaders and Congress should not wait until Trump’s apparent goal to destroy NATO becomes real. Congress should inform the president of the consequences now.

James W. Pardew is a former U.S. ambassador to Bulgaria and career Army intelligence officer. He has served as Deputy Assistant Secretary General of NATO and is the author of "Peacemakers: American Leadership and the End of Genocide in the Balkans."