Trump’s positive clarification on NATO – Washington Examiner

Former President Donald Trump has made a welcome clarification that he would “100%” defend NATO allies that meet the alliance’s defense spending target of 2% of their GDP. Amid the war in Ukraine and associated Russian threats to Europe, there is no excuse for any NATO member not to meet that target.

In an interview with with GBNews’s Nigel Farage, Trump was asked about recent comments in which he said he would encourage Russia to attack a NATO ally that spent less than 2% of GDP. He told Farage that “what I’m saying is a form of negotiation. Why should we guard these countries that have a lot of money and the United States was paying for most of NATO? When I went there, I had already had it out with them. They then stopped paying again. But now, they’re paying because of those comments that you saw two, three weeks ago. I don’t know if you know, but a lot of money’s come in since those comments were made.”

These comments underline Trump’s penchant for viewing foreign policy strategy through the prism of a businessman. Trump wants to leverage American power to extract greater concessions from allies that might otherwise take advantage of that power without requisite consideration.

But Farage then pushed the key point: “If [NATO allies] start to pay their bills properly and the club is fair, are places like Poland going to be defended? Will America be there?”

Trump: “Yes. But the United States should pay its fair share, not everybody else’s fair share. … it’s more important to them than it is to us. We have an ocean between some problems.”

Farage: “So, if they start to play fair, America’s there?”

Trump: “Yes. 100%.”

This is a positive clarification. While Trump does not fully understand the benefits that the U.S. accrues from NATO, his explicit pledge to defend allies that meet the 2%-of-GDP target is important. It will be met with a sigh of relief by America’s eastern flank allies.

After all, while those allies are most at threat from Russia, they are also exceeding the 2%-of-GDP target. Most have been meeting that target for years now. This is especially true of Poland and the Baltic States; Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. New NATO member Finland also exceeds the 2% target. Still, Poland, the focus of Farage’s question, is particularly notable. The latest NATO figures show that Poland spent 3.92% of its GDP on defense in 2023. That’s higher than any other NATO ally, including the U.S. (3.24% of GDP). Norway is the only NATO ally bordering Russia that does not currently meet the 2% target, although it anticipates doing so in 2024.

Top line: America’s eastern-flank allies are meeting Trump’s standards. And these nations are some of America’s very best allies. Their peoples have, at least compared to other European populations, unusually pro-American attitudes, and their governments have previously deployed troops into combat alongside U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq. They would fight hard and well from day one of any NATO conflict to the final day of conflict.

It’s worth noting that the smaller Baltic nations have also accepted economic hardship in order to support U.S. efforts to counter China’s espionage and its undermining of global democratic norms. Far wealthier allies such as France and Germany have taken the exact opposite approach, preferring to bow politically to Beijing in order to win favorable trade arrangements (France at least deserves credit for boosting defense spending).

Where does this leave us?

Well, the U.S. has every right and the U.S. president a responsibility to demand more from allies that think NATO is a piggy bank for freeloading off of America. Too many such as Belgium, Canada, Portugal, and Spain continue to adopt that understanding. Yet the critical ingredient of any successful, durable alliance rests on the intersection of shared interests and shared burdens. If allies do not want to spend 2% of their GDP on defense, that is their democratic privilege. But, with caveats for natural disaster or economic calamity, they should be given a short time window to reach the 2%-of-GDP standard or lose the benefits of automatic American defense.


Fortunately, this is no problem for the eastern-flank allies most at risk from Russia and most under Vladimir Putin’s gaze.

They are already exceeding Trump’s 2% standard. The former president is right to pledge that he would defend them in the event of a Russian attack. The key benefit and strategic intent of NATO is that of deterrence. But if Putin ever decides to effect his dreams of being Peter the Great reincarnated, he’ll find the folly of his delusions rendered by the meeting of 82nd Airborne paratroopers and Russian mechanized forces on Estonia’s EU20 highway.