Washington Free Beacon editor in chief Matthew Continetti said Friday that NATO continues to be critical in U.S. foreign policy.
Discussing President Donald Trump’s comments about NATO this week on EWTN News, Continetti said the mutual defense pact remains a bulwark against America's enemies. After his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Trump appeared to downplay his commitment NATO.
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"I personally believe that NATO continues to be instrumental to American deterrence," Continetti said. "It’s the idea of collective security, of building up a situation of strength, and creating a high cost for aggressive action that allows us to deter our adversaries, which unfortunately includes Vladimir Putin’s Russia."
He noted that Trump’s personal desire for a relationship with Putin seemed to be the critical driver of the decision to host the Russian president in the fall at the White House. Asked about whether Trump’s words strained his relationship with the intelligence community, Continetti said their relationship was already distant.
"I think the president and the intelligence community already had a strained relationship going into the Helsinki summit, and the comments that President Trump made during the press conference between himself and President Putin probably did not do much to help that," Continetti said.
Continetti said Trump was not likely to suffer much in the polls because the economy overshadows voters' foreign policy concerns. Because Trump has had to walk back some of his comments, however, he may still have political difficulties within the U.S. government.
"The problem, of course, is that the voters have their say every two years and in the meantime you have a government to run," Continetti said. "I think some of the statements the president made, statements which he has been trying to correct since the meeting in Helsinki, those statements have caused problems within the American government."
Asked whether Putin "outplayed" Trump, Continetti said it’s hard to make that conclusion because it’s unclear what was agreed to in their meeting. Neither side has publicly said it is making major concessions.
"It’s hard to say because, when we look at actually what happened substantively coming out of that meeting, it is not clear that President Trump gave anything up," Continetti said. "I think President Trump is very open to discussion, and I think when he talks to people, especially in a one-on-one situation, he will entertain a variety of ideas, but he never really commits to them."
He noted Trump’s openness has led to administration officials having to shoot down ideas Putin has brought up, such as allowing Russia to interrogate Americans.