WASHINGTON -- The U.S. State Department’s No. 2 official made a robust defense of alliances like NATO, pushing back against public discussion about whether the United States should pull back from such relationships.
The remarks by Deputy Secretary of State Anthony Blinken appeared to be a response in part to the presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who has said NATO is too expensive for Washington to maintain.
They also come a week before NATO leaders gather for a summit in Warsaw, where they are expected to endorse larger forward forces of alliance troops in Poland and some Baltic states -- a direct response to European fears over Russian belligerence.
Speaking June 29 at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank, Blinken gave a laundry list of benefits that the United States gains from NATO and other alliances: economic, military, and democracy promotion.
And he dismissed assertions that alliances are more of a burden than a benefit.
“This argument remains in my judgment fundamentally flawed, overstating the costs of alliances, while underestimating the risks of turning inward and abandoning them, and certainly downplaying their benefits and virtues,” he said.
Blinken also specifically cited the sanctions imposed on Russia following its forcible annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula in 2014, and the conflict that erupted thereafter in eastern Ukraine.
“Our continued unity on sanctions has sent a strong signal to Russia that we will not allow borders to be redrawn at the barrel of a gun,” he said.
At a rally in April, Trump, the billionaire real estate developer whose campaign has upended many expectations in the presidential race, complained that many allies weren’t paying their fair share for maintaining the alliance’s military readiness. He also called NATO obsolete.
Blinken’s remarks also come as U.S. allies in Europe grapple with the fallout from Britian’s decision to withdraw from the European Union. Some officials in Europe and the United States have fretted that the withdrawal, if it happens, might undermine NATO’s unity as well
“Now is not the time to abandon the core of our liberal international order, this is a time to strengthen it,” Blinken said.