Rogers: Trump right to demand NATO allies pay up

Chad Livengood
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Cleveland — Former Michigan Congressman Mike Rogers said Thursday Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is “setting the table for a negotiation” with European allies by suggesting the U.S. wouldn’t automatically defend NATO allies from Russian aggression if he’s president.

Trump caused a stir on the eve of his Thursday night speech accepting the GOP nomination for president by saying he would only defend Eastern European allies if they start paying their share of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization defense alliance created after World War II.

Rogers, a former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said Trump is right to demand NATO countries spend 2 percent of their domestic gross product on the joint military defense alliance.

“His position was the same as Hillary Clinton and every other secretary of state for the last two years: You’re not paying your fair share of GDP to the military engagement,” Rogers told reporters after speaking Thursday morning to Michigan’s delegation attending the Republican National Convention. “This is a guy setting the table for a negotiation.”

Trump has repeatedly vowed to renegotiate treaties and trade agreements he believes aren’t putting “America first” and on Wednesday the billionaire New York businessman set new conditions for the United States to protect NATO countries from Russian aggression if he reaches the White House.

“If they fulfill their obligations to us, the answer is yes,” Trump told The New York Times. “... Right now, there are many countries that have not fulfilled their obligations to us.”

Rogers, who is now a CNN national security commentator, said Trump is right to demand payment after “we’ve spent a lot of money protecting them.”

“It’s not the way I would have done it,” Rogers said. “But (when) I take a step back and look at the language and think, ‘Well, maybe that will push them into doing their fair share.’ They’re not doing their fair share, and we forget that in this conversation — and they haven’t in 30 years.”

Trump’s confrontational style has appealed to Republican primary voters, Rogers said.

“People wanted somebody who’s not a politician, and he’s not going to talk like a politician,” said Rogers, who represented the 8th Congressional District for seven terms. “You can’t have it both ways.”

Rogers addressed the Michigan delegation on the final day of the four-day Republican National Convention, which has been marked by signs of continued disunity among some factions of the GOP. In his remarks, Rogers offered his endorsement of Trump over Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state, U.S. senator and first lady.

“Donald Trump wasn't my guy ... but our party spoke out and spoke out loudly that we are a little bit tired of the way things have been working,” said Rogers, who now does syndicated radio commentary and has a new TV show on CNN about American spies.

The Trump campaign also has been dealing with a fiasco surrounding a speech writer at Trump’s business who admitted to plagiarizing from first lady Michelle Obama’s 2008 Democratic National Convention for a speech Melania Trump delivered Monday night at the GOP convention. Trump refused to accept speechwriter Meredith McIver’s resignation over the controversy.

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Twitter: @ChadLivengood