How Trump’s 'isolationist' anti-NATO policy is 'living on through' Josh Hawley: report
When it comes to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), President Joe Biden has been a radical departure from former President Donald Trump — who was intensely disdainful of NATO and wanted the United States to withdraw from the international alliance. Biden, in contrast, has been an aggressive and outspoken champion of NATO, enthusiastically welcoming Sweden and Finland’s decision to apply for NATO membership in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Meanwhile, in the U.S. Senate, Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri — a far-right MAGA Republican and Trump loyalist known for raising his arm in solidarity with the January 6, 2021 insurrectionists — has been speaking out against NATO expansion. Politico reporter Andrew Desiderio, in an article published on August 3, draws a connection between Hawley’s position on NATO and the possibility that he will seek the GOP presidential nomination in 2024.
“Donald Trump’s ‘America First’ foreign policy is living on through one senator: Josh Hawley,” Desiderio explains. “The Missouri Republican staked out MAGA turf earlier this week by coming out against a joint effort by Finland and Sweden to join NATO — a vote that could end with him standing alone in the ‘no’ camp. Hawley’s move puts him at odds with fellow GOP senators considered possible 2024 presidential contenders, as party leaders work feverishly to stamp out Trump’s influence on foreign policy within their ranks.”
Desiderio continues, “Hawley has worked for months to distinguish himself from the Republican pack on national security, beginning with his blockade of Pentagon nominees in protest of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and his opposition to a $40 billion Ukraine aid package. Opposing an expansion of the most successful military alliance in world history as it works to counter Russia’s war in Ukraine, however, is a particularly bold play for the GOP base that has cheered Trump’s critiques of NATO.”
In contrast to Republican presidents who came before him — from Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush to George W. Bush — Trump pushed an “America First” approach to foreign policy during his four years in the White House and was a blistering critic of neocons, which is why John Bolton was such an unlikely pick for Trump’s national security adviser. Bolton is the ultimate neocon war hawk, and Trump arguably hired Bolton as a way to “own the liberals” — only to end up firing him.
While Never Trumper conservatives like The Bulwark’s Bill Kristol, a neocon, and Washington Post columnist Max Boot were vehemently critical of Biden’s withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, they generally consider Biden a major improvement over Trump where foreign policy is concerned — and have applauded his pro-NATO outlook. Hawley, in contrast, believes Biden is much too friendly with NATO.
“In a defiant op-ed, the freshman senator said he plans to oppose (Sweden and Finland’s) bids to join the alliance because he believes the U.S. should be prioritizing the myriad threats emanating from China rather than expanding its security commitments in Europe,” Desiderio observes. “He has long called for reducing U.S. troop levels in Europe in favor of an Asia-focused strategy.”
The “defiant op-ed” that Desiderio is referring to was published by the website The National Interest on August 1. Desiderio notes that Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, “along with Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), have typically embodied their party’s Reagan-era hawkishness, while Hawley veers toward an ‘America First’ approach that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has described as isolationist.”
“Hawley has made it clear that he thinks the GOP is ill-served by foreign-policy traditionalism and that the Republican voter base is on his — and Trump’s — side,” Desiderio notes. “He has made that case on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show to a sympathetic audience, aligning himself with the billionaire MAGA backer Peter Thiel.”
Desiderio points out that Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, who chairs the NATO Observer Group in the U.S. Senate, is totally dismissive of Hawley’s views on NATO. When Shaheen was asked about Hawley’s opposition to Sweden and Finland joining NATO, Desiderio reports, she “rolled her eyes” and told Politico, “He’s irrelevant. Print that, will ya?”
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