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Trump's latest lie at NATO blows up his idea of 'winning'

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As President Trump’s disastrous engagement at NATO continues, a chorus of voices has argued that Trump is merely fulfilling his campaign promises — he’s doing exactly what he said he would do. But if we are going to repeat this idea, it needs to be taken seriously. Trump didn’t merely claim he’d shake up the terms of our engagement with the rest of the world. He also said this would make America great — he’d get America “winning” again. And that second half of the great promise at the core of Trumpism — the much more important one — is getting unmasked as a massive lie.

This morning, Trump held a presser that is being widely described as a reaffirmation of his commitment to NATO. In reality, this reaffirmation can only be seen as conditional. Trump proclaimed our NATO allies had agreed to “substantially” increase their commitment to defense spending, asserting he’d be “very unhappy” if they failed him. But only moments later, French president Emmanuel Macron flatly declared that they hadn’t agreed to any such increase; our allies remain committed to reaching two percent by the middle of the next decade, as previously agreed upon.

In other words, our commitment to NATO is contingent on Trump’s ability to leave the summit proclaiming victory. Yet that victory hasn’t actually materialized yet. It is possible that Trump will simply continue to declare victory over spending that’s already been secured, and that his base will believe it. Or it is possible that at some point, our allies really will jack up their spending to whatever level Trump says they promised, at which point Trump will proclaim an even bigger win than the imaginary one he’s claiming now.

But even if that latter scenario were to happen, it wouldn’t really matter, and the reason why is that there is a big, gaping contradiction at the core of Trump’s approach to this whole fiasco. As Max Fisher writes, there is no reason to believe that Trump’s hostility towards NATO would be mollified even if his demands (whatever they may be) are met, because he doesn’t value the whole point of NATO in the first place — he places no value in the very idea of collective self-defense. As Fisher puts it, “this collective defense is the point of European defense spending, so more defense spending cannot appease him because he does not value its results.”

For years, Trump has cast this collective defense as a veiled scheme for other countries to rip off the United States. In this telling, it would be a “win” for America if Trump managed to get our........

© Washington Post