Donald Trump’s campaign manager blamed The New York Times for misquoting Trump’s claims that the U.S. might not come to the defense of NATO member countries, but in a transcript released by the newspaper, Trump minced no words.
Asked whether he would defend the smaller Baltic states if Russia attacked them, the real estate mogul said he would do so only if those countries “fulfilled their obligations to us.”
The Times’ David Sanger pointed out that the U.S. is obliged under Article 5 of the NATO treaty to provide immediate military aide to all countries in the alliance, but Trump refused to move past the bills that some member nations owe.
“You can’t forget the bills,” Trump said. “They have an obligation to make payments. Many NATO nations are not making payments, are not making what they’re supposed to make. That’s a big thing. You can’t say forget that.”
“My point here is, Can the members of NATO, including the new members in the Baltics, count on the United States to come to their military aid if they were attacked by Russia? And count on us fulfilling our obligations—” Sanger asked.
“Have they fulfilled their obligations to us? If they fulfill their obligations to us, the answer is yes,” Trump said.
“And if not?” the Times’ Maggie Haberman asked.
“Well, I’m not saying if not,” Trump replied.
NATO describes the principle of collective defense as “the very heart” of the alliance’s founding treaty.
Trump’s comments set off a firestorm, with foreign policy experts warning that his proposals threatened an end to decades of bipartisan support for NATO and could launch an international diplomatic crisis.
Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort told Mother Jones that Trump’s remarks had been misquoted and that the Times “got it wrong.”
Manafort tells me NYT misquoted Trump on defending NATO allies and respecting existing agreements. Says it does this a lot. NYT, got a tape?
— David Corn (@DavidCornDC) July 21, 2016
Manafort said that Trump’s position on NATO is “very clear:” he wants to “modernize” the alliance and sees a role for the group in “dealing with ISIS.”
Nothing in the Times’ transcript suggests that the reporters misconstrued the GOP nominee’s remarks.