Trump’s Rocky Relationship with NATO

As Donald Trump travels to Brussels to meet with NATO leaders, his frequent criticisms proceed him. Trump’s ham-fisted approach to the crucial organization of strong allies has drawn reservations and concerns from NATO’s top leaders.


Trump previously called NATO “obsolete” and suggested he’d be okay if it broke up.


Bloomberg:I think NATO may be obsolete. NATO was set up a long time ago, many, many years ago. Things are different now. We were a rich nation then… I think you really have to really examine NATO. And it doesn’t really help us, it’s helping other countries. And I don’t think those other countries really appreciate what we’re doing… We're paying too much. As to whether or not it's obsolete, I won't make that determination.”


New York Times: “Donald J. Trump on Saturday went further than ever before in his criticism of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, telling a crowd here that he would be fine if NATO broke up.”


Trump demanded NATO allies pay more for defense or be “prepared to walk.”


TRUMP: “And the other thing is the countries aren’t paying their fair share so we’re supposed to protect countries but a lot of these countries aren’t paying what they’re supposed to be paying, which I think is very unfair to the United States.”


TRUMP: “So when they ask me, I say wait a minute. There's no terrorism, they don't pay, it's obsolete. NATO's going to be good, I mean NATO's going to be fine, and these countries are going to pay. You have to be prepared to walk. And by the way, if they don't pay, bye-bye. Bye-bye. Bye-bye.” (Trump Campaign Rally, Toledo OH, 7/27/16)


Trump raised concern by suggesting that the U.S. might not defend its NATO allies against Russian aggression.


New York Times:He even called into question whether, as president, he would automatically extend the security guarantees that give the 28 members of NATO the assurance that the full force of the United States military has their back. For example, asked about Russia’s threatening activities that have unnerved the small Baltic States that are the most recent entrants into NATO, Mr. Trump said that if Russia attacked them, he would decide whether to come to their aid only after reviewing whether those nations ‘have fulfilled their obligations to us.’”


Politico: “But such explanations are unlikely to satisfy NATO members, especially smaller countries, such as the Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, who in recent years have begun to fear Russia's military aims. Toomas Hendrik Ilves, the president of Estonia, tweeted his dismay early Thursday, saying, ‘Estonia is 1 of 5 NATO allies in Europe to meet its 2% def expenditures commitment. Fought, with no caveats, in NATO's sole Art 5 op. in Afg.’ He added, ‘We are equally committed to all our NATO allies, regardless of who they may be. That's what makes them allies.’”


Trump alarmed Western European allies who were concerned about his comments and ties to Russia.


Newsweek: “Officials from two European countries tell Newsweek that Trump’s comments about Russia’s hacking have alarmed several NATO partners because it suggests he either does not believe the information he receives in intelligence briefings, does not pay attention to it, does not understand it or is misleading the American public for unknown reasons.”


Newsweek: “One British official says members of that government who are aware of the scope of Russia’s cyberattacks both in Western Europe and America found Trump’s comments ‘quite disturbing’ because they fear that, if elected, the Republican presidential nominee would continue to ignore information gathered by intelligence services in the formulation of U.S. foreign policy.”


Newsweek: “Officials in Western Europe say they are dismayed that they now feel compelled to gather intelligence on a man who could be the next president of the United States but believe they have no choice. Moscow is seen as a direct threat to their interests—both in its aggressive efforts to reshape global alliances and for its power to damage Western Europe, which obtains almost 40 percent of its natural gas from Russia. Should the United States, the last remaining superpower, tilt its policies away from NATO to the benefit of Russia, the alliance between America and Western Europe could be transformed in unprecedented ways. And so, for perhaps the first time since World War II, countries in Western Europe fear that the American election, should Trump win, could trigger events that imperil their national security and do potentially irreparable harm to the alliances that have kept the continent safe for decades.”


Trump wrongly demanded credit for establishment of NATO group focused on terrorism.


Bloomberg: The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that NATO is creating a powerful new intelligence post, ‘amid growing criticism of the alliance’s failure to focus more resources on terrorism,’ including from Trump.  ‘It’s all because of me,’ Trump said in the interview. ‘In all fairness, you know, it’s not my life,’ Trump said about foreign policy and national security. ‘But I know about NATO. It’s obsolete. And it doesn’t cover terrorism.’ In a statement to Politico, an unnamed NATO official rejected Trump's conclusion, saying there was no connection to the U.S. presidential campaign.”