The news spread through Europe quickly when President Donald Trump delivered charging messages against the NATO alliance during his first foreign trip as president, threatening not to provide American defense for the identified nations that are not currents in paying their fair share of defense expenses.
Trump did not initiate this conversation, as Pres. Barack Obama has repeatedly condemned the failure of NATO members of contributing enough money on defense.
But Donald Trump was the one who used undiplomatic rhetoric that effectively ushered the topic to the status of the most important on this week’s group agenda as the members of the coalition are anticipated to be accepting the concept of public report cards that ensures each member is achieving the requirements set forth by the alliance.
It has been three years since Obama appealed to the leaders of the European Union. Stating that Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region “reminds us that our freedom isn’t free,” Obama proclaimed that the United States and Great Britain could not carry the majority of the financial weight on the entire union’s behalf.
Three years before that, Robert Gates, the Defense Secretary of the time, took it a step further, giving warning to NATO leaders that American politicians who are younger in age might be more than willing to walk away from the 60-year-old defense coalition of all members and not accept their fair responsibility and make the contributions as such. Gates sites that those willing to abandon the group so easily are those who
do not remember the Cold War as a formative experience as it does for older generations do, so they cannot fully comprehend the importance in totality.
However, it was not until Trump called the 28-member alliance “obsolete” while signaling that he would severely cut financial American contributions or pull out of the union altogether that the leaders frighteningly responded to the demands.
During the same time on Wednesday that Trump was sporting Air Force One in route to Brussels, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg held a meeting with reporters in Brussels, commanding the Trump administration for presenting a budget that would give a 40% increase in military spending in Europe, setting the pace by example for other leaders to follow.
“This is a commitment to our collective defense from the United States, not only in words but also deeds,” he said.
Trump’s visit Wednesday visit in Brussels followed his departure of the Vatican where he met with Pope Francis and marked the end of the first half of his 5-country tour. The second half of Pres. Trump’s trip follows a religious pilgrimage that started in Saudi Arabia, led to Israel then continued to Rome.
The next section of this tour involves an anticipated meeting on Thursday between members of NATO and leaders of Europe aimed at discussing the additional contributions that NATO allies are able to do in order to effectively fight against terrorism and contribute their fair share into the finest photos of the alliance.
The meeting is anticipated to be awkward in its setting. Looking past Trump’s claim that NATO was obsolete, a claim that he has since withdrawn, Trump has faced distinct criticism for allegedly physically delivering a fake overdue “bill” to German Chancellor German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s for payments not made to NATO, according to German officials, while meeting in Washington back in March. The White House denies that any such action ever took place.
Even still, the pressure will remain on Trump’s premise so that he supports the alliance and affirmation that leaders very much desired to see when considering the large net of controversies surrounding possible connections between Russia and Trump’s political campaign, especially since Russia is an enemy too many leaders of the European Union.
The leaders who are members of the union or observing Trump see whether he will convey a populist message by repeating comments that were considered vile tile by members when he intervened to block June’s Brexit vote. Such a move would trigger the departure of Britain from the European Union, with other leaders expected to follow their lead.
Taking into account the efforts on the behalf of NATO to confront Russia about the aggression they are displaying in Ukraine, members of the union are specifically concerned because of Trump’s failure to explicitly endorse Article 5 of NATO, which is the substantial text of the treaty that specifies that an attack on one member of the union is to be interpreted as an attack on all members.
Even though Defense Secretary James Mattis and VP Mike Pence have confirmed his commitment to the core mission of the alliance, Trump himself has never verbally confirmed himself. That worries quite a few members of the union, according to the director of the Brookings Institution’s Center of the United States and Europe at in Washington, Thomas Wright.
“He said NATO’s not obsolete anymore, but when he says that, he only says that because it’s fighting terrorism, not because he has endorsed its original mission,” Wright said. “He has yet to endorse its original mission. I think that might be a bit of a problem.”
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke with reporters while aboard Air Force One and proclaimed that Trump does indeed support Article 5. When Tillerson was asked if the commander-in-chief would explicitly say that, he said, “He is still working on final remarks, so I don’t want to tell you exactly what is going to be in the speech.”
Stoltenberg down talked the controversy when he said that Trump has demonstrated a stance of strong support for NATO. He went on to insinuate that in effect, his stance also means he supports the core missions of NATO.
“So by expressing strong support to NATO, to our security guarantees, the United States, President Trump, has also, of course, expressed strong support to Article 5, because of Article 5, collective defense, is NATO’s core task,” he said.