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Trump refuses to commit to Nato in second term at Fox News town hall

Trump has complained in past about Nato members not upholding their end of financial commitment to alliance

Namita Singh
Thursday 11 January 2024 05:20 GMT
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Trump refuses to commit to Nato in second term during Iowa town hall

Donald Trump on Thursday refused to commit to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (Nato) if elected for a second term and accused European countries of exploiting the US on trade and strategic affairs.

“Would you be committed to Nato in second Trump term,” asked Fox News host Bret Baier during the town hall with the former Republican president.

“Depends on if they treat us properly,” he said. “Look, Nato has taken advantage of our country. The European countries… took advantage of us on trade and then they took advantage of us on military protection.

The town hall took place at the same time Florida governor Ron DeSantis and former UN ambassador Nikki Haley came out swinging during a debate as they sought to emerge as the clear alternatives to Mr Trump just days before the campaign’s first votes are cast.

His comments on Nato come a day after a high-level EU official claimed that Mr Trump, during his presidency, said that the US would never help Europe if it came under attack. According to Thierry Breton, a French commissioner responsible for the European Union’s internal market, Mr Trump made the remarks to European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2020.

"You need to understand that if Europe is under attack, we will never come to help you and to support you," Mr Breton quoted Mr Trump as saying during the Davos meeting.

"By the way, Nato is dead, and we will leave, we will quit Nato," Mr Trump also said, according to Mr Breton, speaking at an event hosted by the Renew Europe political party at the European Parliament.

"And by the way, you owe me $400bn, because you didn’t pay, you Germans, what you had to pay for defense," he quoted Mr Trump as saying.

During his first term from 2017 to 2021, Mr Trump repeatedly clashed with traditional allies over trade and defence spending, while complaining that  Nato owed the US back payments and that member countries were not upholding the financial end of their alliance responsibilities. Those claims are mostly inaccurate.

Nato is not a club in which members pay monthly dues or lose their benefits.

Former Barack Obama administration National Security Council staff member Aaron O’Connell told NPR that Nato does not have a ledger that tracks member contributions.

When Mr Trump complains that Nato member countries aren’t hitting their defence spending goals, he is referring to a commitment made by members in 2014. Under that commitment, member countries agreed to move toward spending 2 per cent of their GDP on defence by 2024. Currently, only nine of the 29 members commit 2 per cent of their GDP to the alliance.

Mr Trump is the frontrunner to be the Republican nominee in the 2024 presidential election, with opinion polls predicting a tight contest against president Joe Biden in the November vote.

Additional reporting by agencies

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