Amidst the ongoing global crisis, perhaps the worst since World War II, former President Donald Trump is raising questions about America’s commitment to its allies. In a shocking revelation on Saturday night, he admitted 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. Instead, he encouraged the Russians to “do whatever the hell they want.”
The NATO alliance was established in 1949 as a collective defense agreement, with Article 5 of its founding charter inviting its members to come to each other’s defense in case of an attack. However, 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. Emotional commitments are not something he is known for; he only believes in the “bottom line,” both towards friends and adversaries. He places US relationships with the world on foundations of material gain.
Trump’s message “I will not protect you” is now accelerating the heartbeat of countries that lie along the possible front line with Russia, from Finland in the north to Turkey in the south, from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea. The announcement takes away breath from America’s military and political partners from Northeast Asia to South Pacific and quickens pace in Eastern Mediterranean too. This is also time for quickening heartbeats in Eastern Mediterranean too.
No US president or claimant has so explicitly repudiated signed international obligations as Trump has done with his latest announcement during his campaign speech last night.
Russian President Vladimir Putin / photo: ap/Gavriil Grigorov