Donald Trump’s statements to the New York Times that allude he may not honor NATO alliances are setting off alarm bells.
During the interview, Trump said he “would prefer to be able to continue” the treaty. According to NBC News, NATO’s charter reads “an armed attack against one or more [members] in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all” and was signed in 1949.
Trump said scrapping the military alliance is part of his “America first” approach to foreign policy. But NATO, which stands for North Atlantic Treaty Organization, has been the bedrock of post-World War II foreign policy.
“You can’t forget the bills,” Trump told the Times. “They have an obligation to make payments. Many NATO nations are not making payments, are not making what they’re supposed to make. That’s a big thing. You can’t say forget that.”
His comments have rattled the international community and foreign policy experts, prompting NATO’s secretary general to weigh in.
“I will not interfere in the US election campaign, but what I can do is say what matters for NATO,” Jens Stoltenberg told CNN. “Solidarity among Allies is a key value for NATO. This is good for European security and good for US security. We defend one another.”
NBC News reports that some fear were Trump elected, his waffling on NATO would embolden Russian president Vladimir Putin to intimidate Baltic allies.
Estonian president Toomas Hendrik Ilves hit back at Trump’s comments on Twitter.
“Estonia is 1 of 5 NATO allies in Europe to meet its 2% [defence] expenditures commitment. Fought, with no caveats, in NATO’s sole Art 5 op. in [Afghanistan],” he wrote. “We are equally committed to all our NATO allies, regardless of who they may be. That’s what makes them allies.”
South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham also went on Twitter to blast Trump’s statements.
“I can only imagine how our allies in NATO, particularly the Baltic states, must feel after reading these comments from Mr. Trump,” he wrote, adding “Mr. Trump has shown the ability to correct statements such as this. I hope he will do so tonight when the world is watching.”
Graham echoed the fear that Trump could allow Putin to intimidate the Baltic countries.
“I’m 100 percent certain how Russian President Putin feels – he’s a very happy man,” Graham tweeted.
Several journalists and foreign policy experts tweeted their alarm as well.
— Max Boot (@MaxBoot) July 21, 2016
I have no idea how to convey the enormity of Trump’s NATO comments to readers. They literally make World War III more likely.
— Zack Beauchamp (@zackbeauchamp) July 21, 2016
Boot was referring to criticism, as described by the Atlantic, that “Trump’s understanding of America’s role in the world aligns with Russia’s geostrategic interests” and that his top campaign adviser, Paul Manafort, was for years on the payroll of Putin-backed Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovych.