If you ever visit the State Capitol Building in Columbia, South Carolina, just before you mount the front steps to enter the building’s rotunda, you pass by a statue of James Byrnes. From 1931 to 1941, Byrnes served in the U.S. Senate, then went to the Supreme Court for a year, left the Court to run the Office of Economic Mobilization during World War II, served as Secretary of State from 1945 to 1947, then was Governor of the Palmetto State from 1951 to 1955. Quite a career, right?
In July, 1945 Byrnes accompanied Roosevelt to Yalta, where the post-War situation in Europe was ironed out. He was considered an ‘expert’ on European political affairs and Roosevelt relied on his advice during what were critical exchanges between the President of the United States and the Premier of the Soviet State. During those discussions, Byrnes was overheard talking about the Balkans and the Baltic as if they were one and the same place. So much for his expertise.
I was reminded of this story about Byrnes when I started reading John Bolton’s The Room Where It Happened, a book which I hope everyone who wants to see the current President serve only one term takes the time to read. I’m going to write several blogs about this very insightful and detailed work, but today’s blog will cover only a description of what happened at the meeting of NATO ministers and heads of state which took place in July, 2018.
You may recall that during the 2016 campaign, Trump went on and on about how we had to reduce our military commitments abroad and get our allies, particularly our NATO allies, to pay for more of their own defense. He was adamant that the 2014 agreement that every NATO country pay at least 2% of its GDP had not been enforced by Obama, and that either the other members would start meeting their obligations or the United States would pull out.
So Trump shows up in Paris on July 11, 2018 and immediately begins to take a hard line, reminding everyone that he had made the same demands at the 2017 NATO meeting but the spending goals had not been met. Throughout the two days of meetings, Trump kept telling everyone that the United States was making 80 to 90 percent of the entire “contribution” to NATO, and this gross disparity between the American “contribution” and whatever other NATO members were “contributing” had to stop.
There was only one little problem. The 2014 agreement negotiated by the hated Obama regime, did not cover any contributions to NATO. Rather, it was the amount that every NATO country was expected to spend for their own defense. Bolton and others tried on multiple occasions to explain this rather important point to Trump but it never got through. Furthermore, nobody in the entire American delegation had any idea who had told Trump that the U.S. was spending “80 to 90 percent” of all NATO “contributions;” Trump had evidently just made the number up.
During a press conference at the end of the meeting, Trump also said that the United States could not go on paying “100 percent” of all NATO costs. Again, neither Bolton or anyone else on the American team had any idea what Trump was talking about.
Several hours after the meeting ended, Trump sent out this tweet which Bolton reproduces on Page 147 of the book: “Great success at NATO! Billions of additional dollars paid by members since my election. Great spirit!”
On the way to the meeting, Trump groused endlessly about how none of the NATO allies were paying what they were supposed to pay, even if he didn’t understand what they were supposed to pay. On the way home from the meeting, these same NATO allies had been paying more than ever thanks to the election of Donald Trump.
This is the first of many gems from Bolton’s book that I intend to uncover and display. Stay tuned.