European governments have reportedly dispatched envoys to the US to figure out the former president’s stance on NATO
EU diplomats and think tank officials have been contacting former US President Donald Trump’s associates to figure out whether he would pull the US out of NATO if he returns to the White House, the New York Times reported on Friday.
With less than a year to go until the 2024 presidential elections, Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee and is leading President Joe Biden in most polls. A host of former Trump administration officials and anti-Trump pundits have claimed in recent weeks that a second Trump presidency would herald the collapse of NATO, and that panic has reportedly spread to the EU.
“European ambassadors and think tank officials have been making pilgrimages to associates of Mr. Trump to inquire about his intentions,” the New York Times reported, citing anonymous sources. These officials included Finland’s ambassador to the US, Mikko Hautala, who the newspaper said “reached out directly to Mr. Trump and sought to persuade him of his country’s value to NATO as a new member.”
Other countries are expected to try and win Trump’s support with “flattery and transactional tributes,” the Times stated, citing interviews with current and former diplomats.
Trump has not threatened to pull the US out of NATO. However, he spent his presidency railing against the bloc’s European members, accusing them of freeloading off the US’ massive military presence on the continent while failing to meet NATO’s target of spending 2% of GDP on defense. Trump used NATO’s annual summits to berate European leaders into boosting their military spending, and according to former National Security Advisor John Bolton, was ready to announce the US’ withdrawal from the alliance in 2018.
Trump’s final national security advisor, Robert O’Brien, and Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, told the Times that the former president’s NATO-related gripes should be viewed as a negotiating tactic, aimed at pressing European members into committing more money to the bloc.
In a statement to the Times, Trump wrote that “it is the obligation of every US president to ensure that America’s alliances serve to protect the American people, and do not recklessly endanger American blood and treasure,” adding that his “highest priority” would be “the defense of our own country, our own borders, our own values, and our own people.”
Such a statement is consistent with Trump’s long-standing view that American troops should not be “the policemen of the world.” While Trump carried out military strikes on Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, he attempted to withdraw American troops from all three countries, and was the only US president in modern history not to engage in a new foreign war.
However, Trump’s former defense secretary, Marc Esper, told MSNBC on Thursday that this anti-interventionism would lead to the eventual collapse of NATO. If Trump were to pull military support for Ukraine, Esper claimed, “the whole effort to support Ukraine in its war with Russia would eventually crumble,” as would the alliance itself if Trump then began pulling troops from Europe.
Trump has repeatedly promised that he would end the conflict in Ukraine “within 24 hours” of his inauguration, hinting that he would use military aid as leverage to achieve this by cutting off the flow of weapons to force Kiev to the negotiating table.