This is the second in a series of USRESIST NEWS Briefs that chronicle the flip-flop nature of many of the Trump administration’s foreign policies.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO, was founded in 1949 as a response to rising global threats. NATO is the paramount international defense alliance, and its members are some of the beacons of stability and democracy across the globe. Because of President Trump’s malleable position, the United States —NATO’s largest contributor and the cornerstone of the alliance— regularly has its priorities questioned and its commitment scrutinized.
On the campaign trail, President Trump regularly criticized NATO, claiming the United States should reconsider its involvement and famously remarking that NATO may be obsolete. He refused to commit to Article V, NATO’s concept of mutual defense, and this lack of assurance may be the most dangerous aspect of his rhetoric. President Trump’s obsession with NATO members paying their fair share continued after his election, and he reaffirmed his comments about the obsolete nature of the alliance.
In April of 2017, President Trump defended himself, clarifying that he didn’t know very much about NATO and emphasizing that it was obsolete. Right before his first foreign trip, he stated how confident he was that NATO members would help — even though the only time Article V was ever invoked was immediately following 9/11. Yet when the President finally made his address to NATO, he refused to recommit to mutual defense (to the surprise of his international delegation) and instead focused on the 2% defense spending benchmark.
Our national security is threatened by the President’s muddled stance towards our most important coalition. Secretary of State Tillerson seems resolute in his support for the NATO alliance, and he expressed that “of course” the United States does support Article V. United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley also restated this commitment, and even claimed that the United States has never faltered on its responsibilities to the alliance. Whatever the case, the Trump administration must bolster our most important military and political alliance for the sake of our country and the entire democratic world.