Conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer was not fond of President Donald Trump's speech before NATO on Thursday, and he set forth many criticisms including the important omission of a very simple phrase.
"Well, I think we're looking at the wrong thing," Krauthammer said to Martha MacCallum Thursday on Fox News. "I think the scolding was unnecessary, although it has a long history. American congressional leaders going back to the 50s have complained about NATO's lack of contribution, lack of support. There's nothing new there.
"But what was new, and I think the real headline was, was that after everything had been teed up for the president of the United States to reassure NATO that we would stand with them, the president refused to say the simple phrase, 'We will honor Article Five,' which is, if one of us is attacked, all of us is attacked.
"And the fact that he was speaking at a ceremony to commemorate the fact that it's only been invoked once, when the European states..."
"Which he pointed out," MacCallum interrupted.
"He pointed it out but that's not why he was there — to remember some history," Krauthammer agreed. "The reason he was there was because he campaigned talking ambivalently about NATO, saying it was obsolete, threatening American withdrawal, he had sent his surrogates to Europe to say, 'Oh yes, of course we're gonna honor Article Five.' He didn't say it.
"It's the omission that is the huge news here and it's fairly incomprehensible. Because it means whatever deterrent exists from the United States is thereby weakened by simply not saying the phrase everybody was waiting for."
MacCallum defended Trump from Krauthammer's criticism by giving a list of the concessions Trump was able to get the Europeans to agree to, and asked, "Do you not see those as small victories at the very least?"
"Small, extremely small," Krauthammer answered. "And very symbolic, very little substance. NATO was not constructed to fight terrorism."
"But that happens to be the where we live right now," MacCallum interrupted again, "that's the threat that faces them that is more immediate than any other!"
"No, it's not the most immediate," Krauthammer disagreed, "the most immediate is a Russia that's on patrol. That's on the prowl. That's invaded Georgia and detached two provinces. Invaded Ukraine, detached the Crimea, annexed it, has all these threatening gestures toward Eastern Europe, Estonia is defenseless if the Russians decide to take it over.
Krauthammer went on to explain to that the increase in expenditures from the NATO countries would not deter Russia any more than had they stayed at their present levels. He also gave historical reasons why NATO was successful in its mission despite unequal buy-in from its members, and pointed out that many of the countries had a higher per capita military casualty rate in Afghanistan.
Trump had criticized NATO during his presidential campaign as being "obsolete" because it was not fighting terrorism efficiently enough, spurring many to cite his critique as more evidence of his pro-Putin bias.