A death knell for NATO: Project 2025 calls for Trump to "restructure" US foreign policy

The plan is for Donald Trump to "reset the nation’s role in the world"

By Heather Digby Parton


Published July 10, 2024 9:00AM (EDT)

US President Donald Trump speaks during his meeting with Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at Winfield House, London on December 3, 2019. (NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump speaks during his meeting with Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at Winfield House, London on December 3, 2019. (NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)

We haven't seen much of Donald Trump lately but he did poke his head up Tuesday to speak at a little rally he held at his Doral golf resort, almost certainly paid for by his campaign so any profits are put directly into his pocket. (Too bad he's stiffed so many of the other venues that have hosted him but that's just his way.) It wasn't anything special. He sounded as unhinged as usual, delivering his greatest hits to a hot and wilted but adoring Florida crowd.

He admitted that when he became president he didn't even know what NATO was before he launched into his tiresome rant about making the alliance countries pay their dues (they don't have dues) and reiterating that he told some unnamed foreign leader that he wouldn't defend them against Russian aggression if they were "delinquent."

That stale lie is standard boilerplate at his rallies and hasn't changed since he first started saying it years ago. But it was especially crude of him to say it on the day the NATO meeting began in Washington D.C., marking the 75th anniversary of the alliance. He was speaking at roughly the same moment as President Biden, in fact, and the contrast couldn't be starker:

Setting aside all the current drama over Biden's candidacy, when it comes to his presidency there is simply no comparison between his performance on the world stage and Donald Trump's. Trump was a dangerously ignorant embarrassment with a strange need to beg and scrape for approval from dictators and tyrants like some sad little flunky trying to impress the playground bully. Part of his suck-up performance was to browbeat America's allies to impress the despots whose attention he craved. NATO was his favorite punching bag for obvious reasons. His idol Vladimir Putin is its sworn enemy. 

Biden, on the other hand, very deftly brought NATO together to meet the most acute threat it's faced since WWII, with the invasion of Ukraine by Trump's bosom pal, Russia's Vladimir Putin. The most striking evidence of just how important this was is the fact that Sweden and Finland joined the alliance after 50 years of neutrality due to the dire threat from Russia. His leadership has been, by all accounts, reassuring and stabilizing, the exact opposite of what they felt during Trump's administration and what they fear from another one. 

Right now NATO allied countries are in the midst of a massive military buildup and it has nothing to do with Trump's demands that they "pay their bills" despite Trump's boasts that he is responsible for forcing them to do it. It's because they rightfully fear that the US is no longer going to be a reliable ally should Trump win. He's made it pretty clear that he thinks treaty obligations are for suckers and losers. 

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Trump has been trying to distance himself from Project 2025, the MAGA Manifesto and detailed plan for his second term. It's ridiculous, of course. It was written by former Trump administration officials, most of whom are being mentioned for important roles in a second term. Nonetheless, Trump and his campaign managers are obviously worried about the fact that it's so extreme that it would be radioactive if people were aware of it so they are pointing everyone to the RNC platform, which is so puerile it reads like a 5th grade book report.

When it comes to foreign policy, this is all it says:

Prevent World War Three, Restore Peace in Europe and in the Middle East, and build a great iron dome missile defense shield over our entire country —- all made in America.

That sounds just great. How exactly any of it is going to be accomplished is unknown. When asked, Trump simply says that if he were president nothing bad would have happened and if he's re-elected everything will magically fix itself. His followers like to think it's because all the "bad guys" will slink away with their tails between their legs when they see his huge hands once more on the tiller, but the truth is that he will no doubt give the green light for his dictator buddies to do anything they want. 

There are people at Project 2025 thinking about how to change the direction of America's foreign policy, however, and it's not much better. Generally speaking those writing on national security and foreign policy are concentrating on many of the same culture war issues that the domestic policy planners are obsessed with. They want to take a wrecking ball to all the institutions and replace the personnel, including the officer corps of the military, whom they claim have weakened the services with their "woke" attitudes. Virtually the entire State Department will also have to go because they are similarly seen as a bunch of wimpy liberals who don't recognize the great strategic brilliance of Donald Trump. It recommends that all treaty negotiations halt immediately for re-evaluation by the president and it appears that they feel perfectly comfortable reneging on any agreements they don't believe serve "the national interest," which will be defined by Trump, the man who sees the entire world as one big potential real estate con. They say, "the next conservative President has the opportunity to restructure the making and execution of U.S. defense and foreign policy and reset the nation’s role in the world." Yikes.

One of the positive consequences to come out of the brutal conflagrations of the first part of the 20th century was the idea (only sporadically realized and often betrayed) that democracy and shared values among allies could prevent any more bloodbaths like the horrors of the two world wars. The various authoritarian movements that are growing throughout the world today present a serious challenge to those ideas and the consequence of the planet's only superpower joining them isn't just terrifying for those of us who live here. Much of the rest of the world is petrified at the prospect as well.

As NATO was preparing for the big meeting taking place in Washington, over the last two weeks we've seen Trump's favorite European neo-fascist, Viktor Orban of Hungary (a NATO member), travel to Moscow and then Beijing to meet with their respective autocratic leaders on a so-called "peace mission." (Putin put an exclamation point on that one by bombing a children's hospital in Kiev on the same day.) The Prime Minister of India, the largest democracy in the nation, was in Russia with Putin just this week. And Putin met with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un and President Xi of China recently as well. This is the club Donald Trump would like to join. These are his role models. There is no group of world leaders he admires more.  

By Heather Digby Parton

Heather Digby Parton, also known as "Digby," is a contributing writer to Salon. She was the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.

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Commentary Donald Trump Europe Nato Project 2025 Putin Russia