President Trump has made no secret of his disdain for NATO. Now, the New York Times reports that his displeasure has gone beyond making public criticisms. Quoting anonymous senior administration officials, the newspaper says Trump has repeatedly expressed his desire to withdraw from the alliance. Trump's national security team has largely kept a check on this, but the officials quoted in the story say the president might well return to the idea if he thinks NATO allies are not spending enough. The story is getting plenty of attention for one big reason: A US withdrawal from NATO is precisely what Vladimir Putin wants, and the president has recently had to fend off what he sees as "insulting" questions about whether he has ever worked on behalf of Moscow.
Critics were already lining up. "Only Vladimir Putin would be wanting the United States of America to withdraw from NATO," said MSNBC's Joe Scarborough in response to the Times report, per Mediaite. The Times piece rounds up similar quotes from those who feel the same, given that a NATO without the US would be significantly weakened and thus unable to provide much of a check on Russia's ambitions. "A geopolitical mistake of epic proportion" is how Retired Adm. James G. Stavridis, the former supreme allied commander of NATO, puts it. Trump, though, maintains that other nations aren't paying their fair share, and he reportedly "doesn't see the point" of the alliance, per the story. (Read more President Trump stories.)