Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) criticized President Donald Trump after he made international headlines for comments which undermined the integrity of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and heightened political tensions with the United States' allies.
"The mindset that comprehends a trade deficit as a grievous offense or an unfair act of aggression is the same mindset that can upend vital security relationships that have been similarly misperceived," the veteran senator said.
And then he took a swipe at President Trump directly:
Sometimes, if I didn't know better I might say that we purposefully trying to destabilize the western alliance and to turn the world upside-down. I might come to this conclusion because, by a process of elimination, no other answer would make any sense.
Mr. President, if this is some kind of stratagem, what good could possibly be achieved by heedlessly making friends into enemies? And who, exactly would benefit?
Sen. Jeff Flake on Pres. Trump's aggressive posture towards NATO: "Sometimes, if I didn't know better I might say t… https://t.co/IU3EZ9nk12— ABC News Politics (@ABC News Politics) 1531419635.0
Earlier, Flake called out the president for his friendly regard for Vladimir Putin––a relationship which has continued to baffle national security experts and the world at large given that Trump is under federal investigation on allegations that he colluded with the Russian government to win the 2016 presidential election.
Trump and Putin are expected to meet Monday for a private meeting in Helsinki, and Trump has said his meeting with Putin "may be the easiest" moment of his trip to Europe.
“Singing his praises for no good reason sends a terrifying message to our allies. … Flattering such a man ... is simply bizarre. That the admiration comes from an American president, well, that is unconscionable,” Flake said. He observed the strangeness of the two men meeting face to face without staff present, particularly when the “world seems to be hanging in the balance.”
If the White House is as confused about the nature of the threat we face from Mr. Putin as it seems to be, a meeting between our president and his Russian counterpart for which there is no record could not be more concerning. It is vital that even the most private meetings between leaders not be lost to history...
Why … does the president’s complaint about our closest friends on the global stage unnervingly echo the Russian position? Mr. Putin’s singular foreign policy goal is to weaken democracies and destroy the Western alliance. Could we possibly be helping him any more in his quest than by baselessly attacking our own allies?
And attack them Trump has.
The president has often been accused of projecting his own guilt onto his critics, and the irony of the moment this week when he claimed that Germany “is totally controlled by Russia,” citing the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project, only heightened already fraught relationships with NATO allies.
“I think it’s very sad when Germany makes a massive oil and gas deal with Russia, where you’re supposed to be guarding against Russia and Germany goes out and pays billions and billions of dollars a year to Russia,” Trump said at the time.
He added: “They will be getting between 60 and 70 percent of their energy from Russia and a new pipeline, and you tell me if that is appropriate because I think it’s not.”
The president repeated these claims in several other tweets.
Billions of additional dollars are being spent by NATO countries since my visit last year, at my request, but it is… https://t.co/rrj6jUggJd— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump) 1531352013.0
Presidents have been trying unsuccessfully for years to get Germany and other rich NATO Nations to pay more toward… https://t.co/8jHyFJgO3y— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump) 1531375409.0
....On top of it all, Germany just started paying Russia, the country they want protection from, Billions of Dollar… https://t.co/4J4d3ctue6— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump) 1531375925.0
The president’s comments yesterday compelled German Chancellor Angela Markel to reject his claims of Russian control by recalling her own youth in Soviet-dominated East Germany and defending her nation’s independence and policies:
Because of given circumstances, I want to point out one thing: I experienced the Soviet occupation of one part of Germany myself. I am very happy that today we are united in freedom, the Federal Republic of Germany. Because of that we can say that we can make our independent policies and make independent decisions. That is very good, especially for people in eastern Germany.
Merkel also struck down Trump’s claims that the United States spends too much on defense, while other NATO members spend too little.
“Germany contributes a lot… Germany is the second largest provider of troops, the largest part of our military capacity is offered to NATO and until today we have a strong engagement toward Afghanistan. In that we also defend the interests of the United States,” she said.
She concluded her statements by announcing Germany’s plan to increase its defense spending.
The president was also caught in another lie when he claimed that NATO allies have agreed to boost defense spending beyond 2 percent of their gross domestic product.
"The additional money that they’re willing to put up has been really amazing,” Trump said yesterday, without providing specifics. “Yesterday I let them know that I was extremely unhappy with what was happening, and they have substantially upped their commitment.”
French President Emmanuel Macron, however, disagreed.
“There is a communique that was published yesterday. It’s very detailed,” Macron said. “It confirms the goal of 2 percent by 2024. That’s all.”
The document to which Macron refers, published Wednesday before an impromptu crisis meeting during which Trump claimed NATO is “stronger than ever,” states that allies have started to increase the amount they spend on defense in real terms and “some two-thirds of allies have national plans in place to spend 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense by 2024.”
The French leader stressed that he did not believe it would be a good idea for NATO allies to raise their defense spending to 4 percent of GDP from 2 percent, as Trump had suggested.
Macron also waved away reports that Trump threatened to withdraw the United States from the NATO military alliance over a funding dispute.
“President Trump never at any moment, either in public or in private, threatened to withdraw from NATO,” Macron said.