In the midst of a global crisis, perhaps the worst since World War II, US President Donald Trump has questioned America’s commitment to its allies. On Saturday night, he revealed that when he was president, he told European leaders that the US would not lift a finger to defend their countries if they were attacked by Russia. Rather, the US would encourage the Russians to “do whatever the hell they want”. The reason for this, he said, is that NATO members do not pay.
The NATO alliance was established in 1949 as a collective defense agreement and Article 5 of its founding charter invites its members to come to each other’s defense in case of an attack. Trump’s insistence that NATO members “owe money” stems from a misunderstanding. Indeed, 18 years ago NATO countries agreed to devote at least 2% of their gross domestic product to their defense. Most countries did not comply with this agreement or advanced towards it lazily. It was always an expression of lack of seriousness and a source of friction. But it wasn’t a “debt”.
During his presidency, Trump showed minimal interest in the actual security of NATO and had difficulty understanding or trying to understand the historical ties that place the US on the side of its allies. He is a man who only believes in the “bottom line,” both towards friends and adversaries. He places US relationships with other countries on foundations of material gain.
The message “I will not protect you” is now accelerating the heartbeat of countries that lie along Russia’s possible front line with Finland in the north to Turkey in the south and from Finland Sea to Black Sea