On the campaign trail, candidate Donald Trump repeatedly hit a theme that few other Republicans have ever dared to emphasize: The lopsided NATO alliance. While previous presidents, including George W. Bush and even Barack Obama, have had their gripes about the U.S.’s outsized financial responsibility for global protection, only Trump has made it a central feature of his political ideology. And when he arrived in Brussels for a speech at NATO’s headquarters, no one was surprised when he told the gathered members that they needed to live up to their obligations.
“The NATO of the future must include a great focus on terrorism and immigration, as well as threats from Russia and NATO’s eastern and southern borders,” Trump said Thursday. “These grave security concerns are the same reason that I have been very, very direct with Secretary Stoltenberg and members of the alliance in saying that NATO members must finally contribute their fair share and meet their financial obligations.”
Trump was as direct as he has ever been in his criticism of NATO’s member countries, saying that 23 of the 28 treaty signatories were “still not paying what they should be paying” for their own defense.
“This is not fair to the people and taxpayers of the United States,” he said. “And many of these nations owe massive amounts of money from past years and not paying in those past years.”
Trump’s critique of NATO has been characterized by some as part of a supposedly pro-Putin agenda. But Trump, both as president and as a candidate, has said over and over again that he’s in favor of the alliance. What he is not in favor of, however, is seeing the U.S. get stuck with the majority of the bill.
We have to remember that we’re not talking about third-world countries here. We’re talking about Spain. We’re talking about Germany. We’re talking about Italy, France, and Belgium. These are highly-developed countries with enormous reservoirs of wealth. There is no reason why the European Union cannot step up and spend 2% of their collective GDP on defense – as they agreed to do when they signed the treaty.