Hillary Clinton is much more supportive of NATO and Europe than all the other presidential candidates. Yesterday, Hillary Clinton gave an impressive speech describing NATO as "one of the best investments America has ever made". She stressed the need for US leadership and collaboration with allies in the struggle against ISIS. Bernie Sanders has yet to give a major speech on NATO. Donald Trump's opinion on NATO reflects widely held sentiments in the US.
Hillary Clinton's speech was impressive because she spoke at Stanford on the Pacific coast, and not on the Atlantic. She spoke to students, not the old Cold War generation with a stronger attachment to Europe. Often accused of pandering to the desires and needs of her given audience, Hillary Clinton here did not talk about opportunities in Asia-Pacific region, but about the threats in Europe and the Middle East and the need for strong US engagement in these regions. Moreover, the speech comes shortly after recent statements by Donald Trump and President Obama who criticized Europeans as mainly free-riders on defense in interviews with Washington Post and The Atlantic respectively.
Watch Hillary Clinton's full speech at Stanford:
Or read the key parts from CNN's rough transcript of Hillary Clinton's speech:
On 9/11, NATO treated an attack against one as an attack against all. On September 12th, headlines across Europe, most notably in Lamont (ph), proclaimed we are all Americans. There were very few planes in the air that day, but one was a British jet carrying the U.K.'s top national security leaders to Washington to offer any help they could. Now it's our turn to stand with Europe. We cherish the same values and face the same adversaries. So we must share the same determination.
This is especially true at a time when Europe faces multiple overlapping crises, from president Putin's aggression in Ukraine to the massive influx of refugees, to continuing economic challenges, to the rise of right-wing nationalist parties. We have made so much progress together toward the goal of a Europe that is free, whole, and at peace, and we can't risk letting it fall apart now.
For decades, Republican and Democratic administrations have understood that America's alliances make us stronger. Secretary Schultz compared the slow, steady work of building diplomatic relationships to gardening. He knew that when you cultivate effective partners, you can harvest real rewards. Allies extend our reach, share intelligence, provide troops in conflicts like Afghanistan, offer bases and staging areas around the world for our military, and serve as a bulwark against competitors like Russia and China.
And by the way, both Moscow and Beijing know our global network of alliances is a significant strategic advantage they can't match. NATO, in particular, is one of the best investments America has ever made, from the Balkans to Afghanistan and beyond, NATO allies have fought alongside the United States, sharing the burdens and the sacrifices.
In the 1990s, Secretary Perry helped guide NATO's expansion based on the alliance's core tenets of collective defense, democracy, consensus, and cooperative security. They became known as the Perry Principles. And they are still at the heart what have makes NATO the most successful alliance in history.
Turning our back on our alliances or turning our alliance into a protection racket would reverse decades of bipartisan American leadership and send a dangerous signal to friend and foe alike. Putin already hopes to divide Europe. If Mr. Trump gets his way, it will be like Christmas in the Kremlin. It will make America less safe and the world more dangerous.
When it comes to the struggle against ISIS, we need our allies as much as ever. We need them to be strong and engaged, for they are increasingly on the front lines. London, Paris, Madrid, Brussels, Istanbul -- they have all been hit by terrorism. And as we saw when a terrorist cell in Hamburg carried out the 9/11 attacks, what happens in Europe has a way of making it to America. So it's essential that we have strong partners who can work with us to disrupt plots and dismantle networks in their own countries before they lead to attacks in ours.
Hillary Clinton also appealed to the European members of NATO to spend more on defense and surprisingly cited Germany as a possible example:
There's also more they can do to share the burden with us. We'd like to see more European countries investing in defense and security, following the example Germany and others have set during the Obama administration.
Bernie Sanders has yet to publish his official foreign policy "statement", thus it's difficult to assess his positions on Europe and NATO without speculation. I do not see him as an isolationist as some do. Sanders certainly has some very smart foreign policy advisors. Lawrence Korb, who has served as an assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration, is one of them and has written in Politico: Bernie Sanders Is More Serious on Foreign Policy Than You Think. There are many more advisors of Sanders, who I respect.
Donald Trump would be a horribly president, but it appears to me that his comments on NATO have been partly misrepresented.
The Washington Post interviewed Donald Trump and then published an article with the headline: "Trump questions need for NATO, outlines noninterventionist foreign policy" The transcript, however, does not support such a conclusion. He said that he considers NATO "as a good thing to have" and does not want to pull the US out of NATO. He just wants the Europeans to contribute more and the US to spend on NATO. Hillary Clinton has made a similar call in her speech. US presidents, defense secretaries, senators, journalists, and think tankers have called upon the European members of NATO for decades to spend more on defense.
From the transcript:
TRUMP: Look, I see NATO as a good thing to have – I look at the Ukraine situation and I say, so Ukraine is a country that affects us far less than it affects other countries in NATO, and yet we are doing all of the lifting, they're not doing anything. And I say, why is it that Germany is not dealing with NATO on Ukraine? Why is it that other countries that are in the vicinity of the Ukraine not dealing with — why are we always the one that's leading, potentially the third world war, okay, with Russia? Why are we always the ones that are doing it? And I think the concept of NATO is good, but I do think the United States has to have some help. (…)
TRUMP: No, I don't want to pull it out. NATO was set up at a different time. NATO was set up when we were a richer country. We're not a rich country. We're borrowing, we're borrowing all of this money. We're borrowing money from China, which is a sort of an amazing situation.
Trump is ignorant as Germany is working very hard on Ukraine and Russia diplomatically and via the EU with the economic aid and sanctions respectively.
It is imporant for Europeans to note, however, that Trump's opinon on US spending on NATO and on Europe's insufficient defense spending is a widely held sentiment in the US. Europeans should not take for granted that the US will continue to contribute more to Europe's security than the European NATO members are willing to do.