Trump's NATO Remarks: Europe Braces for Reckoning

Examining Trump's Impact on NATO's Financial Dynamics.

by Nouman Rasool
Trump's NATO Remarks: Europe Braces for Reckoning
© Win McNamee/Getty Images

Landscapes in which NATO's role in Europe is redefined at a crucial moment for transatlantic security following remarks by former U.S. President Donald Trump. While Europe has relied on the US for protection against Russian aggression for years, according to Trump, that alliance may not be worth the costs.

The hint that the US might not come to the defense of NATO allies that fall short on their defense spending has sent ripples of concern across the continent. European leaders reacted sharply to the comments made by Trump. Such a stand could put the collective security at risk, according to the NATO Secretary-General, Jens Stoltenberg, and would further risk the lives of both American and European soldiers.

Meanwhile, Charles Michel, President of the European Council, accused the statement of dangerously corresponding to interests of Putin, while Josep Borrell, the top foreign policy official of the EU, criticized the notion of conditional NATO.

This is not the first framework to be doubted by Trump in terms of NATO.

Trump's NATO Pressure

Throughout his tenure, he constantly put the squeeze on European countries to boost their defence budgets, arguing countries like Germany lag behind the NATO target of spending 2% of GDP on defence.

In fact, though the US president takes credit for the increased defense spending under his administration, the actual growth started in 2014 with the annexation of Crimea by Russia. His statements often blurred the lines of NATO's fiscal commitments, suggesting indebtedness to the U.S.

rather than NATO's own defense spending targets. Trump's methodology is vastly different from his predecessors, who, despite similar concerns about defense expenditure in Europe, went for more diplomatic approaches. As it stands, the real problem is with the very principle of NATO's Article 5—the collective defense clause.

This ambiguity on the part of Trump over its core principle would introduce a lack of certainty in the alliance, and may even embolden the adversaries of the alliance, such as Putin. Despite huge criticism of Trump's position, it also had a resonance with some of the leaders in Europe who recognized that Europe needs to do more in terms of her defense.

The Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, who is a front-runner for the NATO leadership, has endorsed Trump's call to increase spending by Europe on defense.