Speed Reads

Trump v NATO

Since Trump did not say these 27 words to NATO allies, his top advisers are still cleaning up the mess

On Monday, Politico's Susan Glasser reported that President Trump's national security team was blindsided when Trump failed to commit to NATO's foundational Article 5 in his May 25 speech to fellow NATO leaders. On Tuesday, a senior administration source provided her the 27-word sentence that was included in Trump's final draft of the speech green-lighted by the Pentagon two days earlier, but which Trump omitted: "We face many threats, but I stand here before you with a clear message: The U.S. commitment to the NATO alliance and to Article 5 is unwavering."

Article 5 commits NATO members to mutual defense — if one of them is attacked, all members are attacked. It has been invoked only once, after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the U.S. "This was unambiguous," the source told Politico, "and it was taken out." Since Trump failed to mention Article 5 at all, his top advisers, including National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and Defense Secretary James Mattis, have been on "what aides are openly calling 'cleanup duty'" with close allies, Glasser reports. Vice President Mike Pence, for example, included a near-verbatim formulation of those 27 words in a speech he gave Monday to the Atlantic Council.

Some Trump aides have argued that the controversy is overblown and Trump's decision not to say those words doesn't matter, because of course the U.S. is committed to NATO. Glasser even notes an apparent lie by Stephen Miller, Trump's "strongly nationalist" policy adviser believed to have written the speech. In a background briefing on Trump's overseas trip, she says, "Miller not only told the journalists aboard Air Force One that it did not matter whether Trump reaffirmed the Article 5 commitment but also went further, claiming, 'the first time any of us ever thought about the issue of putting in a 'reaffirmation' was when we got inquiries about it after the speech. It was just not ever something that we even considered would be asked about because it just seemed to go without saying.'"

"Multiple sources across the administration told me in recent days that account is simply not accurate," Glasser said. You can read her full account at Politico Magazine.