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Trump gives Putin ‘gift of the century,’ FBI probes him as a Russian spy

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President Donald Trump spent the first two years of his presidency doing something Russian leaders have attempted since 1949: Pushing NATO to the brink of irrelevance.

And, reportedly, Trump has done so while under investigation by the FBI as a possible Russian agent under the entire time.

A trio of bombshell reports gave depth to years of reporting and public spectacles that indicate that Trump has an openly antagonistic, skeptical view of the military alliance that’s expanded American power and deterred a great war in Europe for 70 years.

First, the New York Times reported that the FBI began investigating Trump as a possible Russian asset after he fired FBI Director James Comey. Trump has twice made it clear that Comey’s dismissal at least in part owed to his refusal to drop the Russia probe.

It’s publicly known that Trump is under investigation for possibly obstructing justice by dismissing Comey.

Read more:Meet Marina Gross, the interpreter who was the only other American in the room for Trump and Putin’s 1-on-1 meeting in Helsinki

Trump’s presidential campaign maintained a dense web of ties to Russia and now 33 Trump associates have been charged with crimes while his former lawyer, campaign chairman, and national security adviser all cooperate with an investigation into whetherTrump conspired with Russian President Vladimir Putin to win the election.

Second, the Washington Post reported over the weekend that said Trump has gone to “extraordinary lengths” to conceal details of his conversations with Putin from senior officials in his administration

Third, a Times report cited senior administration officials as saying that several times throughout 2018, Trump privately said he wanted out of NATO. On Twitter, Trump has publicly waved that possibility repeatedly.

Read more:Trump torches allies, threatens NATO pullout after tense WWI memorial trip to Paris

Retired Adm. James G. Stavridis, the former supreme allied commander of NATO, told the Times that the US backing out of the alliance would be “a geopolitical mistake of epic proportion.”

“Even discussing the idea of leaving NATO — let alone actually doing so — would be the gift of the century for Putin,” he continued.

But Trump has, ad nauseam, discussed backing out of NATO and attacked the alliance’s core principals, and experts say Putin is loving it.

Disappearing Article 5

Donald Trump speaks in Warsaw, Poland on Thursday.
Evan Vucci/AP

The brass tacks of NATO is Article 5, which says that if one member nation gets attacked, that nation can count on the collective defense of all NATO members.

Only one nation has ever called for the full force of a mutual NATO response: The US in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. To this day, troops from across Europe in NATO countries fight and die alongside US forces in Afghanistan as a result.

Read more:Here’s how Donald Trump took shots at NATO in 2018 — and it spurred Jim Mattis to quit in protest

But standing in front of twisted steel left over from the wreckage of ground zero at an event honoring Article 5, Trump reportedly refused to speak a line in a written speech honoring that clause.

Trump campaigned on calling NATO “obsolete” and demanding the alliance’s 29 members meet a defense spending goal set for 2024 immediately. He then tried to double that spending goal.

Trump brought a NATO meeting in Brussels to an emergency meeting after reportedly getting undiplomatic with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Trump suggested that Montenegro, NATO’s newest and smallest member that accuses Russia of trying to assassinate its president, may cross over four countries to attack Russia do to the “aggressive” nature of its 622,000 inhabitants.

Trump then questioned why US soldiers should fight to defend Montenegro, a fledgling democracy struggling to fend off Russian influence.

Read more:Trump fundamentally undermines NATO, says ‘aggressive’ Montenegro could attack Russia to start World War III

In short, Trump has succeeded where decades of Russian nuclear saber rattling, spying, assassinations, and information warfare has failed: to fray the world’s foremost alliance, whose mission is to counter Russia.

“Trump’s criticisms of the alliance and the divisive steps he’s taken have made Europeans trust the US less, question the US alliance, and really helped Putin’s efforts to weaken NATO,” Jorge Benitez, the director of the Atlantic Council’s NATOsource told Business Insider.

But Trump has a point

Christophe Petit Tesson/Pool via AP

Merkel has since said that Europe can no longer rely on the US. Along with French President Emmanuel Macron, she has endorsed the plan for a European army, though experts agree the idea is dubious to the point of being incredible, and likely not strong enough to back down Russia.

US presidents for decades have urged NATO members to spend more on defense and contribute more to the alliance. NATO members that border Russia typically spend more on defense while countries like Germany don’t spend anywhere near the 2% they committed to hit by 2024 and have shown almost no willingness to spend more.

Read more:Macron’s ‘real European army’ sounds like a ‘nonsense’ force that would never deploy

But Trump’s approach to NATO looks more like a shakedown than a call to arms. Trump insists that NATO owes back pay for not meeting spending commitments they didn’t commit to.

“Other presidents have talked about making the alliance fairer, but Trump is talking about ending the alliance,” said Benitez.

“NATO central to US and European peace and deterrence. POTUS has savaged the utility of the alliance and embraced Putin — a threat to Western Europe and his own people. It is ALSO the case that our partners have shamefully not paid their share,” retired US Army General Barry McCaffery tweeted of Trump’s NATO bashing.

So while the US has legitimate grievances with NATO, Trump’s shady ties to Putin and his open bashing of the bulwark of the liberal world order have worried officials highest levels that the US president may be in the process of surrendering the West to Putin.

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