Donald Trump’s bizarre recent remarks in which he said that the United States would reconsider its NATO obligations if he is elected president is freaking everyone out — not only at home, but in Europe, too.
NATO, or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, established in 1949, is an international alliance between 28 countries, whereby its member states agree to mutual defense in response to an attack by any external party.
However, in an interview with the New York Times published Wednesday, Trump said that the U.S. should only help NATO partners who “fulfill their obligations to us,” in effect reaffirming his longstanding belief that not all NATO countries were contributing sufficiently to the alliance, and therefore, were not subject to aid from the United States if there was a threat to their sovereignty.
“You can’t forget the bills. They have an obligation to make payments. Many NATO nations are not making payments, are not making what they’re supposed to make. That’s a big thing. You can’t say forget that.”
Apart from his remarks on NATO, Trump also expressed his other controversial foreign policy stances during the interview. If he was elected the next U.S. president, Trump said that he would not criticize authoritarian regimes for cutting off civil liberties and purging their political rivals, that he would make the United States pull out of the North American Free Trade Agreement if Canada and Mexico did not conform to more favorable terms, and that he would consider pulling out U.S. troops from all over the world — even the most sensitive areas.
And while his complete interview was a blueprint of the radical — and dangerous — foreign policy shift America might be subject to under a Trump presidency, his remarks on NATO is what ruffled the most feathers.
As Politico reports, Donald Trump’s statement on NATO flies in the face of one of the alliance’s “bedrock principles, Article 5, which lays out that an attack on one member amounts to an attack on all members, and that fellow NATO states must help the one that was struck.”
Not only Trump’s different views on NATO — if implemented — could upset the present world order radically, it could make the countries part of the alliance much more vulnerable to external threats, including Russia, North Korea, and the jihadist militant forces, including but not limited to ISIS, the Taliban, and Al-Qaeda.
It is no wonder, then, that Donald Trump has come under scathing criticism soon after his interview was published — not only at home but in rest of the world as well.
NATO’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, said that solidarity is the core value of the NATO alliance, and any intentions to subvert it could put the member states in deep peril — possibly even preparing the ground for World War III.
“Solidarity among allies is a key value for NATO. We defend one another… Two world wars have shown that peace in Europe is also important for the security of the United States.”
Ojars Kalnins, who chairs the foreign affairs committee in Latvia’s parliament, said in an interview with Latvian radio Thursday that Donald Trump’s remarks on NATO are “both dangerous and irresponsible,” according to Bloomberg.
“This won’t be good for NATO unity or the security situation. In principle, he is saying the U.S. will not fulfill its promises or obligations.”
Beyza Unal, a fellow at the London-based Chatham House think tank, said that Trump’s NATO stance could effectively trigger the next world war.
“If Trump wants to put conditions through Article 5, he would endanger the whole alliance,” Unal said.
Estonia’s president, in one of the most explicit condemnations of Donald Trump’s remarks, said that all NATO countries have fulfilled their commitments to the alliance, including his own country, and that America should do the same.
Estonia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Mariann Sudakov, echoed the country’s president’s views, saying that America should respect the alliance just as every other members commits to it.
“Estonia’s commitment to our NATO obligations is beyond doubt and so should be the commitments by others,” Sudakov said.
The fact that Donald Trump’s remarks come less than two weeks after the NATO summit in Warsaw agreed to enhance deployment of forces in Poland, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia, is cause for even more concern, according to former George W. Bush ambassador John Bolton, who was left “deeply disturbed” by Trump’s stance.
“When an American leader says ‘I’ll look at what the situation is after the Russians attack,’ that is an open invitation to Vladimir Putin. When he (Putin) reads this kind of statement, it’s an encouragement to him. We’re not deterring him, we’re in effect giving him a free hand. So I hope that whoever advised Mr. Trump on this rethinks it.”
U.S. Ambassador to NATO, Robert Hunter, seemed to agree, who said that under no circumstances should an external threat be made to believe that the United States would not respond if there was an attack on a NATO ally, reports NBC News.
“For the credibility of the alliance and of the United States, there has to be no doubt in the aggressor’s mind that we — the U.S — would respond.”
The uproar surrounding Donald Trump’s NATO remarks prompted the White House to issue a statement, which essentially reiterated that America’s commitment to NATO’s principle of mutual self-defense was “ironclad.”
“There should be no mistake or miscalculation made about this country’s commitment to the trans-Atlantic alliance,” spokesman Josh Earnest said.
In the face of overwhelming criticism, Donald Trump’s campaign has appeared to go in damage-control mode, with his campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, insisting that Trump simply wanted to convey that NATO members need to adjust to new security realities.
“What Mr. Trump has said consistently is that he thinks NATO needs to be modernized and brought into the world of the 21st century where terrorism and [the Islamic State] which didn’t exist when NATO was created are taken into account in the way they deal with things.”
Nonetheless, for many people at home and abroad, Donald Trump’s latest remarks are just another proof of how ill-equipped he is to handle America’s foreign policy, and by extension, how ill-suited he is to the job of being the free world’s leader.
[Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]