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Will Trump Pull the US Out of NATO if He Wins Election?

Donald Trump NATO
Trump, when in office, once remarked, “I don’t give a shit about NATO.” Credit: Gage Skidmore. CC BY-2.0/Flickr

Donald Trump’s recent suggestion the US would not protect NATO allies failing to spend enough on defense has sent shockwaves across Europe.

The Republican frontrunner said he had told allies he would “encourage” Russia to attack any NATO member that failed to meet the alliance’s target of 2 percent of their GDP.

Addressing crowds during a rally in South Carolina last week, Trump said he had made his comments during a previous meeting of leaders of NATO countries.

The former president recalled that the leader of a “big country” had presented a hypothetical situation in which he was not meeting his financial obligations within NATO and had come under attack from Russia.

He said the leader had asked if the US would come to his country’s aid in that scenario, which prompted him to issue a rebuke.

“I said: ‘You didn’t pay? You’re delinquent?’…’No I would not protect you, [and] in fact I would encourage them to do whatever they want. You gotta pay.'”

Jens Stoltenberg, the Alliance’s chief, said that Trump’s comments “undermine all of our security” and also suggested it put US and European troops at greater risk.

President Joe Biden called his comments “appalling and dangerous,” suggesting his predecessor intended to give Russian President Vladimir Putin “a green light for more war and violence.”

Trump critical of NATO

Many analysts and commentators have been questioning whether Trump will take the US out of NATO if reelected in November.

At the core of NATO and enshrined in Article 5 of the treaty is the promise of collective defense—that an attack on one member nation is an attack on all the nations in the alliance.

Trump has long complained about the amount NATO members spend on defense compared with the US.

Dr. Patrick Bury, a defense and security expert and former NATO analyst, told the BBC that Trump was reflecting anger in the US that some European NATO countries were not spending two percent of their budget on the military, as NATO requests.

“Playing hardball with NATO allies is correct, but it all depends on how far you go,” he said. “These comments are too far, really.”

Journalist and historian Anne Applebaum says that, if reelected, he would end US commitment to the European alliance, reshaping the international order and hobbling American influence in the world.

Writing in The Atlantic recently, she noted that Trump, when in office, once remarked, “I don’t give a shit about NATO.” Of Europeans, he once wrote that “their conflicts are not worth American lives. Pulling back from Europe would save this country millions of dollars annually.”

However, during Trump’s time in office, the withdrawal never happened. That was because someone was always there to talk him out of it, Applebaum says.

“But they didn’t change his mind. And if Trump is reelected in 2024, none of those people will be in the White House,” she added.

In The Return of Great Powers, which will be published March 12th, a former senior US official, who served in both the Trump and Biden administrations at a high level, told CNN that, if Trump defeats Biden in November, “the US will be out of NATO.”

Trump’s disparagement of US security commitments extends to its mutual defense agreements with South Korea and Japan, as well, retired General John Kelly, who served as White House chief of staff to Trump, told CNN.

Related: Greece Tops Defense Spending as Percentage of GDP in NATO

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