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Posts Tagged ‘NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE’

THE EYE VERSUS THE HAND IN “TAKING A KNEE”

In Business, Entertainment, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on June 11, 2018 at 12:05 am

To understand the ongoing war between President Donald Trump and the National Football League, you need to first read a crucial passage in Niccolo Machiavelli’s classic work, The Prince

“…For men in general judge more by the eyes than by the hands, for every one can see, but very few have to feel.  Everyone sees what you appear to be, few feel what you are….”

What is taking place is a symbolic war—with football players literally “taking a knee” on one side and with Trump and his Republican minions symbolically waving the Stars and Stripes on the other.

For players, “taking a knee” during the playing of the National Anthem before the start of a football game means protesting against racial injustice and police brutality aimed at blacks.   

For the Right, refusing to stand for “The Star Spangled Banner” is unpatriotic, perhaps bordering on treason. They claim it’s insulting to the military—and especially those soldiers who have died in America’s wars.

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first took a knee on August 14, 2016. 

During the 49ers’ first game of the pre-season, Kaepernick sat on the bench during the National Anthem both then and in their next game.  

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Colin Kaepernick

On August 26, he did so again. The next day, he explained his reason for it: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”  

The 49ers issued a statement: “We recognise the right of an individual to choose and participate, or not, in our celebration of the National Anthem.” 

On August 29, Trump—still a Presidential candidate—thrust himself into the budding controversy: “I think it’s personally not a good thing. I think it’s a terrible thing. And, you know, maybe he should find a country that works better for him. Let him try. It won’t happen.” 

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Donald Trump

One year later, on August 12, 2017, Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch sat for the anthem during preseason, on his first game back post-retirement. 

The next day, Seattle Seahawks defensive lineman Michael Bennett sat for the anthem. He gave as his reason the “Unite the Right” rally of white racists in Charlottesville, Virginia. 

On September 17, Trump—now President—told a rally in Alabama that refusing to sing the National Anthem showed “disrespect of our heritage. Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired.'” 

On September 23, Trump, on Twitter, called for NFL players who “disrespect our great American flag” to be fired. Later on in the day, he called for a boycott of the NFL. 

On September 24, infuriated by Trump’s insults, NFL players across the country linked arms, took a knee, or stayed in the changing room during the National Anthem. Every game featured some form of demonstration.

Washington Redskins Kneeling

By Keith Allison from Hanover, MD, USA (Washington Redskins National Anthem Kneeling) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Since then, the confrontation between players “taking a knee” and Trump and his Right-wing shills has mushroomed. 

Yet these protests have not led one police department to change its “use-of-deadly-force” policies. Blacks are still getting shot by trigger-happy police, often when they’re unarmed and unresisting   

During 2017, there were 987 fatal police shootings; 223 blacks were shot and killed by police (23% of all fatal shootings), and 68 of the victims were unarmed. 

In the wake of the controversy, these shootings have been largely forgotten and it is the kneeling players who are getting the media’s attention

These players’ celebrity could be put to far better use by appearing before legislative committees urging reforms in police “use-of-deadly-force” policies.

Also ignored is that Trump, for all his boasts of patriotism, was a five-deferment draft dodger during the Vietnam war. Four deferments cited academic reasons and the fifth cited bone spurs—which usually result in small pointed outgrowths of bone—in his heels. 

But there is one more factor that overshadows both of these truths:  There is no reason to play “The Star Spangled Banner” at football games—or any other sports event

The song celebrates the bombardment of Fort McHenry by British ships in Baltimore Harbor during the War of 1812. Francis Scott Key, an amateur poet, witnessed the attack and was inspired the next morning when he saw the United States flag still flying triumphantly over the fort. 

Yet there is nothing inherently patriotic about attending any sports game:

  • The country isn’t being threatened.
  • No one is risking anything in its defense.
  • There are no casualties (save those suffered by athletes earning kingly salaries).
  • No one’s life is made any better by watching the game.

And “standing for the National Anthem” is an easy and safe way to present yourself as a patriot. American history is filled with men who “wrapped themselves in the flag” only to betray the Constitutional liberties of their fellow citizens.

This conflict of symbols arouses tempers, but otherwise achieves nothing.

MERCENARIES: NO FEAR OF GOD, NO LOYALTY TO MAN

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 7, 2017 at 12:03 am

On October 4, four American Special Forces soldiers were ambushed and gunned down at the border of Niger and Mali.

For 12 days after the tragedy, President Donald Trump said nothing.

Then, during an October 16 press conference in the White House Rose Garden, a reporter asked him about his silence.

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Donald Trump

So Trump claimed—falsely—that earlier Presidents—including Barack Obama—had  never or rarely called or written family members of soldiers who died on duty.

But it was his call to Myeshia Johnson, the widow of Sergeant La David Johnson, that ignited a firestorm.

According to Florida Democratic Representative Frederica Wilson, Trump’s condolence call was brutally insensitive.  Wilson was riding in a limousine with Johnson and heard the conversation on speakerphone.

“He knew what was signing up for, but I guess it hurts anyway,” Wilson quoted Trump as telling the grieving widow.

But maybe Sergeant Johnson didn’t know what he was signing up for.

On October 19, Pentagon officials said that a private contractor airlifted some of the troops from the scene.

Trump had sent a private aviation contractor—instead of the U.S. military—to retrieve the bodies of the four soldiers killed in Niger.

Robyn Mack, an official for U.S. Africa Command, said Texas-based Berry Aviation was “on alert during the incident and conducted casualty evacuation and transport for US and partner forces.”

Sergeant Johnson’s body was left behind when the bodies of his three fellow soldiers were evacuated. His remains were recovered two days after the extraction by Nigerien troops. 

Even worse, his corpse had been so corrupted by heat that the Pentagon demanded a closed coffin for his burial service.

Contractor aircraft are typically not armed, though their crews may carry side-arms for personal protection.

It’s possible that lightly-armed private contractors were so eager to leave the danger area they did a slapdash search for bodies—and accidentally left Johnson’s behind.

Berry Aviation has also done Defense Department work in Afghanistan, Central African Republic and Burkina Faso. 

Since the end of the Cold War, the American military and Intelligence communities have grown increasingly dependent on private contractors. In the past, such groups were called mercenaries.

In his 2007 bestseller, Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA, Tim Weiner writes:

“Patriotism for profit became a $50-billion-a-year business….The [CIA] began contracting out thousands of jobs to fill the perceived void by the budget cuts that began in 1992.

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“A CIA officer could file his retirement papers, turn in his blue identification badge, go to work for a much better salary at a military contractor such as Lockheed Martin or Booz Allen Hamilton, then return to the CIA the next day, wearing a green badge….”

Much of the CIA became totally dependent on mercenaries. They appeared to work for the agency, but their loyalty was actually to their private companies. The CIA thus had two workforces-–but the private one was paid far better.

Wrote Weiner: “Legions of CIA veterans quit their posts to sell their services to the agency by writing analyses, creating cover for overseas officers, setting up communications networks, and running clandestine operations.”

One such company was Total Intelligence Solutions, founded in 2007 by Cofer Black, who had been the chief of the CIA’s counter-terrorism center on 9/11.

His partners were Robert Richer, formerly the associate deputy director of operations at the CIA, and Enrique Prado, who had been Black’s chief of counter-terror operations at the agency.

Future CIA hires followed suit: Sign up for five years, win that prized CIA “credential” and sign up for far more money with a private security company.  

This situation met with full support from Right-wing “pro-business” members of Congress and Presidents like George W. Bush.

They had long championed the private sector as inherently superior to the public one. And they saw no danger that a man dedicated to enriching himself might put greed ahead of safeguarding his country.

One of Trump’s key military advisers is Erik Prince, the former head of Blackwater. Under President George W. Bush, the now-infamous mercenary company got $1 billion to provide security for American officials and soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Blackwater was also accused of abusing Iraqis and engaging in torture.

There were, however, others who could have offered a timely warning against this use of mercenaries-–had there been leaders willing to heed it.

One of these, reaching back more than 500 years ago, was the Florentine statesman, Niccolo Machiavelli, who famously warned of the dangers of relying on mercenaries.

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Niccolo Machiavelli

In The Prince, Machiavelli writes:

“Mercenaries…are useless and dangerous. And if a prince holds on to his state by means of mercenary armies, he will never be stable or secure. For they are disunited, ambitious, without discipline, disloyal. They are brave among friends; among enemies they are cowards.

“They have neither the fear of God nor fidelity to man, and destruction is deferred only as the attack is. For in peace one is robbed by them, and in war by the enemy.”

Centuries after Machiavelli’s warning, Americans are realizing the bitter truth of it firsthand.

TYRANTS AND EMPATHY

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 19, 2017 at 12:21 pm

On October 4, four American Special Forces soldiers were ambushed and slain on the border of Niger and Mali. Their killers were members of an ISIS-affiliated guerrilla group.

The next day, President Donald Trump attacked one of his favorite targets—the free press—as “fake news.”

Over the weekend of October 7-8, Trump went golfing. Then he took to Twitter and let his venom flow.  His victims included:

  • The National Football League;
  • Puerto Rico;
  • North Korea;
  • Bob Corker, Republican United States Senator from Tennessee and the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

For 12 days after the tragedy, Trump said nothing.

Then, during an October 16 press conference in the White House Rose Garden, a reporter asked him about his silence.

So Trump claimed—falsely—that earlier Presidents—including Barack Obama—had  never or rarely called or written family members of soldiers who died on duty.

But it was his call to Myeshia Johnson, the widow of Sergeant La David Johnson, that ignited a firestorm.

According to Florida Democratic Representative Frederica Wilson, Trump’s condolence call was brutally insensitive.  Wilson was riding in a limousine with Johnson and heard the conversation on speakerphone.

“He knew what was signing up for, but I guess it hurts anyway,” Wilson quoted Trump as telling the grieving widow.

Cowanda Jones-Johnson, a family member who raised Johnson, told CNN that Wilson’s account of the call was “very accurate.”

Veterans such as Arizona United States Senator John McCain have expressed their outrage at Trump’s callousness. But this shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone.

On January 21, Donald Trump—on his first full day as President—visited CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia.

Officially, he was there to pay tribute to the men and women who dedicate their lives to discovering when and where America’s enemies are planning to strike.  And to countering those threats.

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And now Trump was appearing before what, to CIA employees, was the agency’s most sacred site: The star-studded memorial wall honoring the 117 CIA officers who had fallen in the line of duty.

So Trump spent much of his time talking about himself.

Among the worst examples:  

  • Somebody said, are you young?  I said, I think I’m young.  You know, I was stopping—when we were in the final months of that campaign, four stops, five stops, seven stops. Speeches, speeches, in front of 25,000, 30,000 people, 15,000, 19,000 from stop to stop. I feel young….
  • And I was explaining about the numbers. We did a thing yesterday at the speech. Did everybody like the speech? I’ve been given good reviews. But we had a massive field of people. You saw them. Packed. I get up this morning, I turn on one of the networks, and they show an empty field….
  • And they said, Donald Trump did not draw well. I said, it was almost raining, the rain should have scared them away, but God looked down and he said, we’re not going to let it rain on your speech…..
  • So a reporter for Time magazine—and I have been on their cover, like, 14 or 15 times. I think we have the all-time record in the history of Time magazine.  

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Crowds at Trump and Obama Inaugurals

In February, Trump approved and ordered a Special Forces raid in Yemen on an Al-Qaeda stronghold.

The assault resulted in the death of Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens.

Disavowing any responsibility for the failure, Trump said:

“This was a mission that was started before I got here. This was something they wanted to do. They came to me, they explained what they wanted to do—the generals—who are very respected, my generals are the most respected that we’ve had in many decades, I believe. And they lost Ryan.”

* * * * *

Seventy-four years before Donald Trump took office as President of the United States, Adolf Hitler suffered a blow from which he never recovered: The surrender of his once-powerful Sixth Army at Stalingrad.

For five months, 330,000 of the German army’s finest troops had fought to capture that city on the Volga River. Then they had been surrounded by even larger Russian armies and became the besieged. 

Finally, on February 2, 1943, their commanding general, Friedrich Paulus, surrendered.

Adolf Hitler flew into a rage.

  • Not at the loss of 150,000 Germans who had been killed.
  • Not at the agonies of the tens of thousands of others wounded.
  • Not at the suffering of the 91,000 men taken prisoner.

No, what infuriated Hitler was the refusal of General Friedrich Paulus to commit suicide rather than surrender.

Knowing that no German field marshal had ever allowed himself to be taken prisoner, Hitler had, by wireless, promoted Paulus—shortly before he chose to do so.

“When the nerves break down, there is nothing left but to admit that one can’t handle the situation and to shoot oneself,” screamed Hitler.

“This hurts me so much because the heroism of so many soldiers is nullified by one single characterless weakling.”

In April, 1945, with Russian troops about to capture Berlin, Hitler, 50 feet below ground in a fortified bunker, blamed his defeat on the Germans who had given him their unconditional loyalty for 12 years. 

For egomaniacal tyrants, blame always falls on others.

PUTIN OUT THE HITS?: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics on September 15, 2016 at 12:10 am

Right-wing websites and networks are gleefully buzzing with theories about the state of Hillary Clinton’s health.

The former First Lady, New York U.S. Senator and Secretary of State collapsed after briefly attending a memorial ceremony on the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

The unsubstantiated theories include stroke, brain damage, Multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.  

But there’s one theory Right-wingers scrupulously refuse to offer: That Clinton might be a victim of poisoning by Donald Trump’s well-known admirer, Vladimir Putin.

It’s a theory that has been offered by no less than Bennet Ifeakandu Omalu, the Nigerian-American physician, forensic pathologist and neuropathologist who was the first to discover and publish findings of chronic traumatic encephalopathy  (CTE) in American football players. 

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Bennet Ifeakandu Omalu

His struggle to alert the National Football League to that danger met with hostility and derision. Finally, amid growing scrutiny from Congress, the NFL was forced to take the concussion issue more seriously.

NFL owners banned players from striking opponents with the crowns of their helmets.  Meanwhile, the NFL is facing concussion lawsuits from nearly 4,000 former players.  

On September 11, a Clinton rep stated that she was suffering from pneumonia–and Omalu warned on Twitter: “I must advice the Clinton campaign to perform toxicologic analysis of Mrs. Clinton’s blood. It is possible she is being poisoned.”  

And he followed this up with a second tweet: “I do not trust Mr. Putin and Mr. Trump.  With those two all things are possible.”  

At this point, there is no evidence that Hillary Clinton is the victim of KGB “wet” methods.  And it would take lengthy, sophisticated toxicology tests to hopefully learn the truth.  

But there is plenty of evidence that Vladimir Putin has used murder–especially poison–to eliminate his opponents.

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Vladimir Putin

Putin came to power in 2000. Since then, at least 34 journalists have been murdered in Russia, according to the Moscow-based Glasnost Defense Foundation. Many of the suspected killers are military officials, government officials or political groups.

Being a political opponent of Vladimir Putin can also be dangerous.  Among the casualties:

Viktor Yushchenko: In 2004, he was running for president of the Ukraine against Putin’s chosen candidate, Victor Yanukovych.

As the campaign neared its climax, Yushchenko suddenly fell ill–with dioxin poisoning. Flown to Vienna’s Rudolfinerhaus clinic for treatment, he survived, but his face was left greatly disfigured. He went on to win the election, serving as Ukraine’s president from 2005 to 2010.

Aleksandr Litvinenko: A former KGB officer, he had accused Putin of wholesale corruption. Even worse, he charged that–as a pretext for a second war with Chechnya–Putin ordered the bombings of Moscow apartment buildings, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of people.  

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Aleksandr Litvinenko  

Litvinenko died on November 23, 2006 in London from a dose of Polonium-210 in his tea. At the time, he was meeting with two Moscow agents, one of whom is now a member of the State Duma. 

Boris Nemtsov: An official with a liberal opposition group, he had been arrested several times for speaking against Putin’s government.

Nemtsov had been scheduled to lead an opposition rally in Moscow. But on February 27, 2015, two days before the event, he was shot dead as he walked home from dinner. The killing happened a short distance from the Kremlin.

If Hillary Clinton proved to have a serious medical condition such as Parkinson’s or Multiple sclerosis, the results would be tragic but strictly national.

Mounting pressure within and outside the Democratic party would force her to drop out of the race. 

There would be a brief, furious struggle within the Democratic party for the nomination–most likely between Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders and Tim Kaine, Clinton’s choice for Vice President. The winner would face Donald Trump in the coming debates and fall election. 

And the Clintons–a force in American politics since 1992–would finally leave the national stage.

But if Hillary is a victim of a KGB assassination attempt, as Dr. Bennet Omalu suspects, then the consequences would be national and international.  

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Hillary Clinton

Nationally, such a discovery would almost certainly generate huge sympathy for Clinton–a woman singularly unable to arouse sympathy among voters. That alone could ensure her election as President.  

And even Americans who hate Clinton would never forgive Russia for daring to interfere with an American Presidential election. They would demand severe retaliation–even all-out war.

For Trump, it would prove a nightmare. He’s made too many admiring statements about Putin to disavow them now and be believed.  

National outrage followed in July when Trump invited Putin to “find the 30,000 emails that are missing” on the private server that Clinton used as Secretary of State.

If Clinton died–or was simply injured–because of a KGB plot, few would believe Trump wasn’t a party to it.

And several of Trump’s closest associates have had ties to Putin, such as his former campaign manager Paul Manafort.

Even many Republicans have already declared they can’t support Trump in abandoning NATO–much less his clear admiration for Putin, a dictator who got his start as a KGB agent. 

At his first press conference upon becoming President, Ronald Reagan harshly denounced Soviet leaders: “They reserve unto themselves the right to commit any crime, to lie, to cheat.”

A KGB plot against Hillary Clinton would convince many Americans that Republican leaders have become as corrupt as those in the Kremlin.

PUTIN OUT THE HITS?: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics on September 14, 2016 at 12:09 am

September 11 marked the 15th anniversary of the worst terrorist attack in American history.

The date when, in 2001, two highjacked, fuel-laden jetliners slammed into the “twin towers” of the World Trade Center in New York City and a third crashed into the Pentagon in  Washington, D.C. 

A fourth, intended for the White House or Capitol Building, was prevented from doing so by the heroic resistance of its passengers. The highjackers crashed it into a field in Pennsylvania.

World Trade Center on September 11, 2001

For Hillary Clinton, former First Lady and Secretary of State, and now the Democratic party’s Presidential nominee, this was to be a day of memorial events.

Instead, it turned out to be her worst nightmare as a Presidential candidate.

Scheduled to attend a 9/11 ceremony in New York City, she cut short her appearance around 9:30 a.m. because she felt “overheated,” according to campaign spokesman Nick Merrill.

Amateur video captured Clinton struggling to stand and needing help to enter her Secret Service van. A woman held Clinton’s left arm as the van approached. Then two men grabbed both of her arms as her knees buckled.

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Hillary Clinton being helped into her van

Shortly before noon, Clinton left the apartment of her daughter, Chelsea. Wearing sunglasses, she waved to diners at a nearby restaurant.

“I’m feeling great, it’s a beautiful day in New York,” she said. Then she headed to her home in Chappaqua.

The official statement given by her campaign went:

“Secretary Clinton attended the September 11th Commemoration Ceremony for just an hour and thirty minutes this morning to pay her respects and greet some of the families of the fallen. During the ceremony, she felt overheated so departed to go to her daughter’s apartment, and is feeling much better.”

Several hours later, her doctor announced that Clinton was suffering from pneumonia.

Throughout the campaign, Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump has attacked her mental and physical and fitness to be President.

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Donald Trump

The 9/11 incident has hugely amplified those questions–and concerns. She not only abruptly left the ceremony, but nobody in her campaign told reporters traveling with her about her condition or whereabouts for 90 minutes after she left the ceremony. 

In 2015, Clinton, then 67, released a two-page letter from her doctor stating that she was in good health despite a blood clot and a 2012 concussion. 

But that hasn’t prevented conspiracy theorists from flooding the Internet that she is stricken with a vast array of unsubstantiated ailments, such as:

  • Multiple sclerosis 
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Brain damage
  • Stroke
  • Brain cancer
  • Post-Concussion Syndrome

The Right has salivated over the prospect of its longtime rival being yanked off the political stage, as it were, by a shepherd’s crook of deteriorating health. 

Among these celebrations:

The National Enquirer: “Failing health and a deadly thirst for power are driving Hillary Clinton to an early grave.” The article–dated September 30, 2015–claimed she would be dead in six months.

Fox & Friends: Hosts Brian Kilmeade and Steve Doocy claimed that Clinton’s glasses proved “a sign of brain damage and other things.” 

InfoWars: “Coughing can be a symptom of so many different illnesses…it is interesting to note that it happens to be one of the symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease.”

Hannity: Fox News Medical Correspondent Dr. Marc Siegel said that a video showing Clinton laughing with reporters suggested that she might be having a “mini-seizure.” Siegel added that Clinton might still suffer from “post-concussion syndrome”–after a 2012 concussion–which could affect balance, impair memory and cause dizziness.

Yet there is one conspiracy theory that is conspicuously absent from Right-wing websites and networks.  

And this is because it points to a connection that Republicans–and especially Donald Trump–want to ignore.

The ties between Trump and Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.  

Vladimir Putin

Putin’s admiration for Trump is no secret.  

“He is a bright personality, a talented person, no doubt about it. It is not up to us to appraise his positive sides, it is up to the U.S. voters. but, as we can see, he is an absolute leader in the presidential race. 

“He is saying that he wants to move to a different level of relations with Russia, to a closer, deeper one. How can we not welcome that?  Of course, we welcome that.”

Nor is Trump’s admiration for Putin. 

“It is always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond.”  

Appearing on the December 18, 2015 edition of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Trump said of Putin: “He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader. Unlike what we have in this country.” 

When Trump praised Putin as a leader–“unlike what we have in this country”–he meant President Barack Obama. 

But Putin may have serious reasons for flattering Trump.  

Trump believes the United States is paying too much of the money needed to maintain the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance. He wants other members to contribute far more. He has said that, unless they do, under a Trump Presidency, they would be on their own if attacked by Russia. 

The withdrawal of the United States from NATO would instantly render that alliance kaput.

For Putin, this clearly signals a reason to prefer Trump to Clinton. 

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