President Donald Trump's speech at the opening of NATO's new headquarters in Brussels was not the one that his national security team worked on, to their surprise and disappointment, Politico reports.
Trump's national security adviser, defense secretary and secretary of state all made sure that the president's speech on May 25 included a section where he pledged the country's continued commitment to Article 5, the founding treaty of NATO which states that an attack on one member nation is an attack on all member nations, Politico reported.
In his speech, Trump said that America would "never forsake the friends that stood by our side" after 9/11, but did not explicitly lend his support to Article 5, in a break from every president since Harry S. Truman when speaking before NATO headquarters, according to Business Insider.
"They had the right speech and it was cleared through [H.R.] McMaster," Politico was told. "As late as that same morning, it was the right one."
A senior White House official told Politico, "There was a fully coordinated other speech everybody else had worked on," but that's not the speech Trump gave. "They didn't know it had been removed,” said another official. "It was only upon delivery."
The team of McMaster, James Mattis and Rex Tillerson reportedly lobbied for days to get Trump to reaffirm his commitment to Article 5 in his speech, but "the president appears to have deleted it himself, according to one version making the rounds inside the government,” Politico reports.
"The failure to say something has had a very dangerous and damaging effect on the most successful military alliance in history," Strobe Talbott, former deputy secretary of state under former President Bill Clinton, told Politico.
Talbott noted that Trump's top officials, McMaster and Mattis, had spent months reassuring allies and the public that Trump really was committed to NATO, despite his words criticizing it.
"All we needed was for the commander in chief to say it, and he didn't say it," Talbott said. "From that day forward … the Atlantic community was less safe, and less together."
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