President Donald Trump’s anti-NATO rhetoric was not born during his 2016 bid for the White House — in fact, it was born during the Cold War: as early as the 1980s, Trump was blasting America’s allies for what he considered “taking advantage of the United States.”
Buzzfeed News reported in July 2015 that Trump had taken out a full-page ad in 1987 — for nearly $100,000 — criticizing U.S. foreign policy, along with U.S. allies.
The ad, which ran in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe, bore the headline: "There's nothing wrong with America's Foreign Defense Policy that a little backbone can't cure.”
Below, the reader finds "an open letter from Donald J. Trump" -- addressed "To The American People" -- "on why America should stop paying to defend countries that can afford to defend themselves."
The ads appeared in the papers on September 2, 1987. According to an Associated Pressstory published the night before they appeared in print, Trump paid $94,801 to run the advertisements.
"For decades, Japan and other nations have been taking advantage of the United States," the letter declares. "The saga continues unabated as we defend the Persian Gulf, an area of only marginal significance to the United States for its oil supplies, but one upon which Japan and others are almost totally dependent."
Trump wondered in the letter why American allies were “not paying the United States for the human lives and billions of dollars we are losing to protect their interests?”
He added: "The world is laughing at America's politicians as we protect ships we don't own, carrying oil we don't need, destined for allies who won't help."
"'Tax' these wealthy nations, not America," suggests the tycoon. "End our huge deficits, reduce our taxes, and let America's economy grow unencumbered by the cost of defending those who can easily afford to pay us for the defense of their freedom."
"Let's not let our great country be laughed at any more," Trump's letter concludes.
In the years before his ad ran, Trump reportedly had been trying to win an official government post to the Soviet Union, under the misguided thinking that he alone could negotiate a nuclear arms disarmament and end the Cold War.
"He already had Russia mania in 1986, 31 years ago," asserts Bernard Lown, a Boston-area cardiologist known for inventing the defibrillator and sharing the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize with a top Soviet physician in recognition of their efforts to promote denuclearization. Lown, now 95 and retired in Newton, Massachusetts, tells The Hollywood Reporter that Trump sought and secured a meeting with him in 1986 to solicit information about Mikhail Gorbachev. (Gorbachev had become the USSR's head of state — and met with Lown — the year before.) During this meeting, Lown says, the fast-rising businessman disclosed that he would be reaching out to then-President Ronald Reagan to try to secure an official post to the USSR in order to negotiate a nuclear disarmament deal on behalf of the United States, a job for which Trump felt he was the only one fit.
Though the lengths to which Trump went to learn about Gorbachev and to secure an official post from the Americans never have been revealed, Trump's interest in "making a deal" with the Soviets was widely reported — and mocked — at the time.
In an April 8, 1984, profile in The New York Times, Trump revealed that concern about a nuclear holocaust had plagued him since his uncle, the groundbreaking nuclear physicist Dr. John Trump, first spoke to him about it 15 years earlier. "His greatest dream is to personally do something about the problem," wrote the Times' William E. Geist (NBC anchor Willie Geist's father), "and, characteristically, Donald Trump thinks he has an answer to nuclear armament: Let him negotiate arms agreements — he who can talk people into selling $100 million properties to him for $13 million." Geist continued, somewhat snarkily, "The idea that he would ever be allowed to go into a room alone and negotiate for the United States, let alone be successful in disarming the world, seems the naive musing of an optimistic, deluded young man who has never lost at anything he has tried. But he believes that through years of making his views known and through supporting candidates who share his views, it could happen someday."
Asked during a 1984 interview with the Post how he would go about solving the nuclear arms problem, Trump offered a response that rings familiar:
"'I wouldn't want to make my opinions public,' he says. 'I'd rather keep those thoughts to myself or save them for whoever else is chosen. … It's something that somebody should do that knows how to negotiate and not the kind of representatives that I have seen in the past.' He could learn about missiles, quickly, he says. 'It would take an hour and a half to learn everything there is to learn about missiles. … I think I know most of it anyway. You're talking about just getting updated on a situation.'"
By the time Trump took out the ad in 1987, it was widely speculated that he might run for president, with some believing the ad criticizing U.S foreign policy was a precursor to his candidacy.
Asked why he had [placed the ad], his spokesperson said, "There is absolutely no plan to run for mayor, governor or United States senator. He will not comment about the presidency." A month later, though, he did: ''I'm not running for anything,'' he told The New York Times, while adding, ''I believe that if I did run for president, I'd win.''