Donald J. Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, discussed his views on foreign policy in Cleveland on Wednesday with David E. Sanger and Maggie Haberman of The New York Times during the Republican National Convention. The following is an edited transcript of their interview.
SANGER: So what we want to do is pick up where we left off in March. We were listening to Speaker Ryan last night, and he presented a much more traditional Republican, engaged internationalist view of the world. One in which he said that the United States would never lead from behind. In our conversation a few months ago, you were discussing pulling back from commitments we can no longer afford unless others pay for them. You were discussing a set of alliances that you were happy to participate in.
TRUMP: And I think, by the way, David, I think they will be able to afford them.
SANGER: They may be.
TRUMP: We can’t.
SANGER: But I guess the question is, If we can’t, do you think that your presidency, let’s assume for a moment that they contribute what they are contributing today, or what they have contributed historically, your presidency would be one of pulling back and saying, “You know, we’re not going to invest in these alliances with NATO, we are not going to invest as much as we have in Asia since the end of the Korean War because we can’t afford it and it’s really not in our interest to do so.”
TRUMP: If we cannot be properly reimbursed for the tremendous cost of our military protecting other countries, and in many cases the countries I’m talking about are extremely rich. Then if we cannot make a deal, which I believe we will be able to, and which I would prefer being able to, but if we cannot make a deal, I would like you to say, I would prefer being able to, some people, the one thing they took out of your last story, you know, some people, the fools and the haters, they said, “Oh, Trump doesn’t want to protect you.” I would prefer that we be able to continue, but if we are not going to be reasonably reimbursed for the tremendous cost of protecting these massive nations with tremendous wealth — you have the tape going on?
SANGER: We do.
HABERMAN: We both do.
TRUMP: With massive wealth. Massive wealth. We’re talking about countries that are doing very well. Then yes, I would be absolutely prepared to tell those countries, “Congratulations, you will be defending yourself.”
SANGER: That suggests that our forward deployments around the world are based on their interests — they’re not really based on our interests. And yet I think many in your party would say that the reason that we have troops in Europe, the reason that we keep 60,000 troops in Asia, is that it’s in our interest to keep open trading lines, it’s in our interest to keep the North Koreans in check, you do that much better out away from the United States.
TRUMP: I think it’s a mutual interest, but we’re being reimbursed like it’s only in our interest. I think it’s a mutual interest. …