The condemnation was swift and extensive after Donald Trump’s recent suggestion at a rally that he would flatly encourage Russia to advance militarily on members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) if they fell short of ostensible financial obligations.
“Trump sells out our NATO allies to Putin. This should be front-page news of every paper in the country. These are the stakes of 2024,” Trump’s one-time electoral opponent Hillary Clinton wrote Monday on X, the platform formerly called Twitter.
Trump consistently misrepresents the nature of the claimed financial obligations. He’s seemingly trying to refer to a long-term agreement for NATO members to spend the equivalent of two percent of their annual GDPs on their national defenses — spending that, if fulfilled, would presumably not actually intersect with the U.S. in any meaningful ways. It’s separate from the alliance. In other words, they’re not organizational dues, and NATO members are not “delinquent,” a word that Trump used.
NATO operates on an agreement for mutual defense that is activated in the event any single member is attacked, creating deterrence that covers member nations large and small across continents. Trump has previously used similarly antagonistic language towards the alliance, though new legal provisions enacted by the current Congress and President Joe Biden block any president from withdrawing the U.S. from NATO on their own. Still, the idea suspiciously circulates in some GOP circles of outright flouting the standards of law as furthered by the nation’s courts, and precedent suggests that Trump might still at least try to do something damaging to the U.S.’ participation.
Trump has consistently claimed extensive aptitude in foreign policy and national security that’s not particularly borne out by the facts, even as he tells them. He’s claimed the war between Russia and Ukraine, along with other violence around the world, wouldn’t have even happened if he was still president. He has not presented a specific, systematic plan by which he would have actually averted that war or would aim to stop it now if given the powers of the presidency.