But even knowing that, his interview with the New York Times "on NATO, Turkey's Coup Attempt, and the World" is astonishing. And very frightening.
I highly recommend Jeffrey Goldberg's piece in The Atlantic on exactly why Trump's comments are so alarming. An extended excerpt:
Trump is making it clear that, as president, he would allow Russia to advance its hegemonic interests across Europe and the Middle East. His election would immediately trigger a wave of global instability—much worse than anything we are seeing today—because America's allies understand that Trump would likely dismantle the post-World War II U.S.-created international order. Many of these countries, feeling abandoned, would likely pursue nuclear weapons programs on their own, leading to a nightmare of proliferation.It's terribly concerning that there are so many US voters who won't hear about this, won't understand it, won't care. We really are in unchartered waters, and they are incredibly stormy. Stormy enough to sink a ship of state.
...Now, in an interview with Maggie Haberman and David Sanger of The New York Times, Trump has gone much further, suggesting that he and Putin share a disdain for NATO. Fulfilling what might be Putin's dearest wish, Trump, in this interview, openly questioned whether the U.S., under his leadership, would keep its commitments to the alliance. According to Haberman and Sanger, Trump "even called into question, whether, as president, he would automatically extend the security guarantees that give the 28 members of NATO the assurance that the full force of the United States military has their back." Trump told the Times that, should Russia attack a NATO ally, he would first assess whether those nations "have fulfilled their obligations to us." If they have, he said, he would then come to their defense.
These sorts of equivocating, mercenary statements—unprecedented in the history of Republican foreign policymaking—represent an invitation to Putin to intervene more destructively in non-NATO countries such as Ukraine and Moldova, and also represent an invitation to intervene directly in NATO countries—the Baltic states, first and foremost. This is why the Estonian president tweeted in a cold panic immediately after Trump’s interview appeared online: "Estonia is 1 of 5 NATO allies in Europe to meet its 2% def[ense] expenditures commitment." The president, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, also noted that Estonia fought "with no caveats" with NATO in Afghanistan.
Unlike Trump, leaders of such countries as Estonia believe that the United States still represents the best hope for freedom. In his interview with Haberman and Sanger, Trump argued, in essence, that there is nothing exceptional about the U.S., and that therefore its leaders have no right to criticize the behavior of other countries: "When the world looks at how bad the United States is, and then we go and talk about civil liberties, I don't think we're a very good messenger."
As someone who has covered President Obama's foreign policy fairly extensively, I feel confident in stating that he has never expressed such a negative view of the U.S. We are truly in uncharted waters.