NATO and Donald Trump: Reactions to the former US President’s statement

Donald Trump would not support NATO members who do not pay enough, the Republican said. Europeans and members of the military alliance are outraged. But some people react calmly.

Former US President Donald Trump triggered criticism and calls for more military spending with his threat to withdraw protection from a Russian attack from unpopular countries. “NATO cannot be an ‘a la carte’ military alliance that depends on the whim of the US president,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in Brussels on Monday. Chancellor Olaf Scholz showed little concern: “I am sure that NATO is essential for the USA, for Canada, for the European countries.” The Americans would also see it that way.

The federal government also pointed out that Germany was already meeting NATO’s goal of spending two percent of economic output on defense and therefore did not feel addressed. Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas and her Danish colleague Mette Frederiksen, on the other hand, spoke of a wake-up call to the Europeans to invest more money in armaments.

Donald Trump questions NATO protection

Trump, 77, who plans to run again in the US presidential election in November, said at a campaign rally that he would not protect NATO allies from a Russian invasion who do not spend enough on their own defense. Trump had already threatened European allies with withdrawing US protection during his first term in office.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) sharply rejected former US President Donald Trump’s statements about not wanting to defend defaulting NATO allies in the event of re-election. “Any relativization of NATO’s guarantee of assistance is irresponsible and dangerous,” said Scholz on Monday evening at a joint press conference with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk in Berlin. Such statements were “solely in Russia’s interest,” criticized Scholz.

Overall, the federal government reacted calmly: “We are committed to the two percent target and determined to continue to adhere to it,” said deputy government spokeswoman Christiane Hoffmann. The NATO countries had agreed to increase defense spending to two percent of their economic output by 2024. The federal government wants to achieve this goal thanks to the 100 billion euro special loan for the Bundeswehr. Finance Minister Christian Lindner had also assured that this would remain the case beyond 2028, when the money from the special pot has been spent. “I am convinced that the transatlantic partnership is in the overriding interest – no matter who is in power in the White House.”

Lindner: Germany has to do its homework

Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier sharply criticized former US President Donald Trump’s announcement that he would not defend defaulting NATO allies in the event of re-election. “These statements are irresponsible and even play into Russia’s hands,” said Steinmeier on Monday during a visit to the Cypriot capital Nicosia. “Nobody in our alliance can have an interest in that.”

Steinmeier commented on Trump’s comments after a meeting with Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides. The German head of state said that even if some things were provocative in the election campaign, that didn’t mean “that we don’t take it seriously.” It is clear that the Europeans must increase their defense efforts – regardless of whether the incumbent US President Joe Biden or Trump is re-elected. But he also called on Europeans “not to act as if the election had already been decided in the USA.”

Germany must do its homework to strengthen the location and its own defense capability. FDP leader and Federal Finance Minister Christian Lindner said this on Monday during a visit to London. “I am convinced that the transatlantic partnership is in the overriding interest – no matter who is in power in the White House.” If Germany does its homework, it will also be interesting as a partner for the USA. The same applies to Europe.

Lindner recently attracted attention with statements that Germany was no longer competitive as a location. In his discussions in London with companies and financial institutions he did not get the impression that Germany was the “sick man” in Europe, but he had already visibly lost competitiveness. Lindner referred to the high energy prices and taxes in Germany as well as too much bureaucracy.

Reminder from Poland and Estonia

“There is no alternative to the EU, to NATO, to transatlantic cooperation,” said Poland’s Prime Minister Donald Tusk in Paris. Europe must become a safe continent and be prepared to defend its own borders. “I think what the American presidential candidate said is also something to maybe wake up some of the allies who haven’t done so much,” emphasized Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas. “No matter what happens in the USA this year: I think the decision must be made now that Europe will become stronger,” said Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen at the Rheinmetall meeting.

The head of the Munich Security Conference, Christoph Heusgen, also called on Europeans to spend more money on their security. It is difficult to explain to Americans why they spend much more on defense than Europeans. It is legitimate for the USA to expect its allies to do their homework. “We will have to expand this ability to act, (…) regardless of how the elections in the USA turn out,” said Green Party co-leader Omid Nouripour.

The winner of the Finnish presidential election, Alexander Stubb, appeared relaxed. “The election campaign in the United States is very different from that in Finland, and the rhetoric is much sharper,” he said. “I think it’s best at this stage to stay calm and focus on expanding our NATO membership.”


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