In a meeting with the NATO Secretary General, President Trump voiced strong support for the historic alliance, causing many in the media sphere to label it a “major reversal” in the President’s opinion.
Citing the strong critiques Trump made of NATO during the 2016 presidential campaign, saying that NATO was not doing enough to fight terrorism or pay a fair share for the benefits of a mutually supportive military alliance, many have seen this change as a ‘U-turn’ or ‘flip-flop.’
“The secretary-general and I had a productive discussion about what more NATO can do in the fight against terrorism,” Trump said during the press briefing. “I complained about that a long time ago, and they made a change and now they do fight terrorism.”
“I said it was obsolete,” Trump said, referring to NATO itself. “It’s no longer obsolete.”
Trump’s primary concern over the utility of the alliance centered on what he believed was an excessive burden the United States bore in providing the military might for the alliance as a whole. His primary target was Germany, who with the largest economy in Europe, is contributing only around half of the agreed upon percentage of GDP for military spending.
In February, Defense Secretary James Mattis took the message directly to NATO, saying that NATO allies must contribute their share to the alliance, or the U.S. would “moderate its commitment.”
In March, following a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Trump tweeted: “Despite what you have heard from the FAKE NEWS, I had a GREAT meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Nevertheless, Germany owes vast sums of money to NATO & the United States must be paid more for the powerful, and very expensive, defense it provides to Germany!”
Perhaps in recognition of the changing American sentiment towards NATO, earlier this month Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg joined with Trump and Mattis and said Germany must contribute more of its resources towards its military. Stoltenberg made sure to say it was not to “please the Americans,” but instead due to the increasing security threats facing Europe as a whole.
Germany has insisted it will eventually meet the spending agreement, but not for a number of years.
Trump’s change in tone will likely be welcome news for many European leaders, who considered his earlier positions as an alarming departure from American precedent, one that could encourage an already expansionist and aggressive Russia to be emboldened by a weakened NATO.
Image courtesy of CNN