Some may discount that as typical Trump rally bluster or write it off as a poor attempt at humor. Others may even cheer the hard line against supposedly deadbeat allies who in this view have taken advantage of American friendship for too long. But Mr. Trump’s rhetoric foreshadows potentially far-reaching changes in the international order if he wins the White House again in November with unpredictable consequences.
What’s more, Mr. Trump’s riff once again raised uncomfortable questions about his taste in friends. Encouraging Russia to attack NATO allies, even if he were not fully serious, is a stunning statement that highlights his odd affinity for President Vladimir V. Putin, who has already proved his willingness to invade neighboring countries that do not have the protection of NATO.
Long averse to alliances of any kind, Mr. Trump in a second term could effectively end the security umbrella that has guarded friends in Europe, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East for much of the nearly eight decades since the end of World War II. Just the suggestion that the United States could not be depended on would negate the value of such alliances, prompt longtime friends to hedge and perhaps align with other powers and embolden the likes of Mr. Putin and Xi Jinping of China.
“Russia and China have nothing to compare with America’s allies, and these allies depend on American commitment,” said Douglas E. Lute, a retired lieutenant general who served as ambassador to NATO under President Barack Obama and top adviser to President George W. Bush on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. “Casting doubt on the United States’ commitment to its allies sacrifices America’s greatest advantage over Russia and China, something that neither Putin nor Xi could achieve on his own.”
Undeterred by criticism of his latest comment, Mr. Trump doubled down on Sunday.
“No money in the form of foreign aid should be given to any country unless it is done as a loan, not just a giveaway,” he wrote on social media in all capital letters. “We should never give money anymore,” he added, “without the hope of a payback, or without ‘strings’ attached.”