Steinmeier calls Trump’s comments on NATO “irresponsible”

As of: February 12, 2024 7:44 p.m

Trump’s NATO threat causes sharp criticism. Federal President Steinmeier warned that the statements should be taken seriously, even if there was an election campaign in the USA. Chancellor Scholz said Trump’s threat was “solely in Russia’s interest.”

Statements by US presidential candidate Donald Trump about NATO support have met with sharp criticism in Germany. Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said: “These statements are irresponsible and even play into Russia’s hands.” Nobody in the alliance could have an interest in this.

Steinmeier said at a press conference with Cyprus President Nikos Christodoulidis that there was an election campaign in the USA and that some things were provocative. “But even if it is provocative, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take it seriously.” At the same time, he appealed to Europeans not to act as if the election in the USA had already been decided.

Scholz: “Irresponsible and dangerous”

Chancellor Olaf Scholz made similar comments. “Any relativization of NATO’s guarantee of assistance is irresponsible and dangerous,” said Scholz. Such statements are “solely in Russia’s interest.” NATO’s promise of protection applies “unrestrictedly: all for one, one for all,” affirmed the SPD politician.

During a campaign appearance on Saturday, the former US president made it clear that he would not grant protection from Russia to NATO partners who do not meet their financial obligations. A “president of a large country” once asked him whether the United States would still protect this country from Russia even if it did not pay for defense spending, Trump said. He replied: “No, I wouldn’t protect you.” On the other hand, he would “even encourage Russia to do whatever the hell they want.”

It was unclear whether such a conversation had ever taken place between Trump and a head of state, as the Republican also said: “Let’s assume that happened.” Trump will most likely enter the presidential race again in November as the US Republican candidate.

“Unpredictable, unscrupulous and unreliable”

Several German foreign policy experts also expressed alarm. “Donald Trump’s erroneous statements about the US’s contractual obligations in the event of an attack on a NATO member prove once again how unpredictable, unscrupulous and unreliable he is,” said the German government’s transatlantic coordinator, Michael Link (FDP), to the “Tagesspiegel “.

Green Party leader Omid Nouripour described the statements as threatening to common security and “reckless towards NATO”. Former Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said the statement was like an invitation to Russian President Vladimir Putin to test the defense alliance. “He won’t test us in Germany, but perhaps in the Baltics,” warned the SPD politician Deutschlandfunk.

CDU foreign policy expert Norbert Röttgen said a Trump victory in the presidential election in the fall would plunge NATO into an existential crisis. “Anyone who, in his opinion, does not pay enough will not be protected by the USA,” he told “Bild”. Germany must therefore “understand that we will soon have no choice but to defend ourselves, at a time when there is war in Europe. We have to do this as Europeans, because anything else would mean capitulation Putin would be.”

“NATO is not a military alliance ‘à la carte'”

Trump’s threat also sparked massive criticism at the European level. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell emphasized that the military alliance cannot depend on the whim of the US President. “NATO cannot be an ‘à la carte’ military alliance,” said Borrell. It cannot mean “yes now, no tomorrow”. The alliance exists or it does not exist.

“There is no alternative to the EU, to NATO, to transatlantic cooperation,” said Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk. Europe must become a safe continent and be prepared to defend its own borders.

“Wake-up call to Europeans”

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas and her Danish colleague Mette Frederiksen spoke of a wake-up call to the Europeans to invest more money in armaments. “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,” Kallas emphasized.

“No matter what happens in the USA this year: I think the decision must be made now that Europe will become stronger,” said Frederiksen.

Two percent of Economic performance for defense

The NATO countries agreed in 2014 to spend two percent of their economic output on defense by 2024. The federal government says it will achieve this goal in 2024, also 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.

NATO has an assistance clause regulated in Article 5 of the treaty: it states that an armed attack against one or more Allies is considered an attack against all. So far, this alliance has only been declared once: in 2001 after the terrorist attacks by Al Qaeda on the USA.

Claudia Sarre, ARD Washington, tagesschau, February 12, 2024 4:06 a.m

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