Trump did not back down. “This has been going on for decades, by the way. Under many presidents,” he said. “But no other president has brought it up like I have.”
He was right.
In fact, within two years, the NATO secretary general insisted that Trump’s confrontational approach to member nations had made the organization stronger than it had ever been. The call for increased participation from allied nations was “having a real impact.” It was long overdue.
“Here is the ultimate example of American stupidity,” Trump told me. “We buy billions and billions of dollars’ worth of missiles. Then we give them away to our allies, our rich allies.
“So I challenge that. I say to the general, ‘Why are we doing that?’”
At this point in the conversation, Trump once again adopted the persona of a character in his story. He straightened up like a soldier and declared solemnly, speaking in the monotone, emotionless, staccato voice of his general, “Sir! They are our ally. They are our friends. Sir!”
Then Trump’s demeanor relaxed. “I say, ‘They are not our friends. They are ripping us off.’”
The president straightened up again, becoming the general. “‘Sir, they are our ally. Sir!’
“The worst part of this is the realization that the people who treat us worst are our allies.
With Trump as president, NATO nations that were the most flagrant abusers of their own agreement started coming into line. Trump’s action raised more than $40 billion for the United States—money that would have never come in without him. NATO nations added $100 billion toward their own defense. According to NATO’s secretary general, Jena Stoltenberg, the alliance was now stronger than ever.