A scenario with Donald Trump back in the White House and in a world with the Russian threat, the rise of China and the worst war scenario in half a century seriously worries NATO and its allies. The insinuation of the former American president – and more than possible Republican candidate in the presidential elections in November – that the United States governed by him would not defend an ally that invests little in defense, calls into question Article 5 of the Alliance, which predicts that An attack on a partner is considered an attack on everyone and for this reason it is necessary to help him. All this comes at a time when several European countries have warned that Russia could try to weaken NATO over the next decade and even test that guarantee of collective security with an attack against one of the 31 allies. This Monday, France urged Europeans to prepare for the possible return of the populist republican to the White House.
“I will not stop persuading all leaders of the importance of our alliance, which works for the benefit of all, including the United States,” French Foreign Minister Stéphane Séjourné said Monday. “Every minute counts to prepare Europeans to absorb the shock of the scenario outlined by Donald Trump and we will work together to analyze the context, in particular the American elections”, he added. The EU High Representative for Foreign Policy and Security, Josep Borrell, commented ironically on Trump’s statements. “NATO cannot be an à la carte military alliance…depending on the mood of the president of the United States,” he noted on Monday.
Trump’s words “cast doubt on the credibility” of the United States as an ally, says Michal Baranowski, director of the German Marshall Fund for the East. The expert also points out that the former president has distorted reality and claimed that the 2% of GDP that the allies have committed to spending on defense – as underlined by Wales’ commitment in 2014 – is actually paid to Washington and presented as “non-compliant”. to allies who did not cover this contribution. “That’s not how the Alliance works,” Baranowski observes over the phone. “France, Germany, Poland must open the debate on what should be done in the face of a possible Trump presidency, both in terms of support for Ukraine and for European security and defense,” he adds.
‘The Three Musketeers’
“NATO’s philosophy is like that of The Three Musketeers“Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said this on Monday in Paris, before having lunch with French President Emmanuel Macron – who long ago banned his 2019 speech in which he assured that the Alliance was “brain dead” –. Already on Sunday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg responded to Trump’s comments with an unusual accusation of “undermining the security” of allies.
Several allied defense ministers have been warning of the Russian threat to NATO for weeks, when two years have passed since the Kremlin’s large-scale invasion of Ukraine and when it is increasingly clear that the war on the eastern flank borders on Alliance and EU will be long. The latest, just a few days ago, was the Danish Defense Minister, Troles Lund Poulsen, who asked the citizens of the Nordic country to prepare for a difficult phase. “It cannot be ruled out that within a period of three to five years Russia will test Article 5 and NATO solidarity,” said the Danish minister, who stressed that his comments were motivated by “new information ”.
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Germany, Romania, Estonia, Belgium and Sweden expressed themselves in a similar way, a country which asked to join the transatlantic organization after the Russian invasion of Ukraine and which awaits Hungary – which has not yet ratified its entry, despite its leader They said it would not be the last country to approve it.
“We hear threats from the Kremlin almost every day, so we have to take into account the fact that Vladimir Putin could even attack a NATO country,” German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius launched at the end of January. “For now,” this scenario is not likely, he said in an interview with Der Tagespiegel, in which he stressed that German experts believe this possibility could be realized “in a period of five to eight years” and stressed the importance of preparation “in military, social and military defense terms.” Meanwhile, Rob Bauer, head of NATO’s military committee, said the alliance faced the “most dangerous world in decades” and called for a “military transformation of NATO”.
Trump’s comments are similar to those he made in 2017, during his White House tenure, when he became the scourge of allies falling short of the 2% of GDP in military spending that marks Wales’ commitment (agreed in 2014 and which also manages other variables, such as investments in capacity). But this time, this boisterous mimicry comes at a very complicated time when, moreover, the EU partners fear that they will be left alone in their support for Ukraine, a candidate country for the community club. And even more so if Trump, who has had a complicated relationship with the country, returns: a conversation with Zelenskyj in which he blackmailed him by blocking military aid if they did not investigate the affairs of Joe Biden’s son in Ukraine, motivated his first indictment in 2019 – and who is perceived as someone sympathetic to Putin.
Camille Grand, Security and Defense specialist at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), believes that Trump’s statements add uncertainty to a very delicate moment and highlights the “unpredictability” of the former president and the fact that he seems to introduce a transactional element in NATO and its member protection umbrella. “And then, having an unpredictable ally is very complicated,” she underlines. Like Baranowski, Grand – NATO’s top official from 2016 to 2022 – believes it is time for European allies to ask themselves whether they could adapt to an organization in which the United States has less of a presence.
NATO has not changed its alert level and some diplomatic sources indicate that the latest warnings aim to raise citizens’ awareness of the need for an increase in defense spending. Also to the fact that the situation with Russia will not improve and, in the most optimistic scenario, would remain unchanged. However, the fact that the Kremlin has so rapidly increased its capacity to produce military equipment is a cause for great concern. By contrast, Europe’s defense industry, a sector that many allies had neglected until Putin launched the invasion of Ukraine two years ago, is moving slowly. Allied sources underline that the campaign in the United States and Trump’s profile will further exacerbate the debate on the 2% of military spending which is now achieved by only 11 countries (Spain is at 1.26%): Poland, United States, Greece , Estonia, Lithuania, Finland, Romania, Hungary, Latvia, the United Kingdom and Slovakia.
However, since 2014, the year of Russia’s invasion of Crimea, which annexed the Ukrainian peninsula in an illegal referendum, all allies have significantly increased military spending. Especially since 2022, the year of the large-scale invasion. Only three countries reduced that budget in 2023, compared to levels nine years earlier (and none are from the EU): the United States, Turkey and the United Kingdom, according to the latest NATO report.
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