- US President Donald Trump has finally confirmed his personal and America’s commitment to the mutual defense clause of the NATO treaty.
- Almost five months into his Presidency, he had so far failed to do so generating serious concerns among the European allies of the United States.
- Trump decided to declare his commitment to Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty at a meeting with Romania’s President Klaus Iohannis.
- He has praised Romania for upping its defense spending to reach the NATO target of 2% of national GDP.
- Trump seems to have erroneously suggested that Romania’s increased defense funding is going to the Alliance rather than being spend domestically.
US President Donald Trump has at long last declared his and America’s commitment to Article 5 of the NATO treaty, the mutual defense clause which stipulates that an attack against one member of the Alliance is considered an attack against all.
Trump notoriously omitted to mention Article 5 and the US commitment to the security of its European allies during his first NATO summit in Brussels at the end of May.
Instead, the US President voiced half-hearted support for NATO, and reprimanded allies over what he called unpaid debts.
Because of Trump’s disparaging comments about NATO (and the EU) while he was on the campaign trail and then as President-elect, ever since he took office in late January, the Trump Administration has been working hard to reassure its NATO allies of the US commitment to European security.
These efforts have included Brussels visits by Defense Secretary James Mattis and Vice President Mike Pence, and by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson who in March sent a strong message of America’s commitment to NATO, describing the Alliance as crucial in “countering” “Russian aggression”.
Another cause of concern have been the resurfacing allegations about undisclosed contacts between the Trump presidential campaign and the Russian government.
While America’s European allies have been worried that it might abandon them, the new US Administration has been insisting that the rich (Western) European members of the Pact pay more for their own defense, including by meeting the NATO target of defense spending amounting to 2% of their GDP.
Presently, only five out of the 28 NATO members – the US, the UK, Poland, Greece, and Estonia – are meeting the target. America alone accounts for about 70% of NATO’s combined defense spending.
In 2014 and again in 2016, all NATO member states pledged to meet the 2% defense spending target by 2024.
Being ‘There to Protect’
Almost five months into his term, US President Donald Trump finally made an explicit commitment to NATO’s core mutual defense obligation.
He did so at a joint news conference with Romania’s President Klaus Iohannis in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, D.C., The Los Angeles Times reported.
“I’m committing the United States and have committed, but I’m committing the United States to Article 5. And certainly we are there to protect,” Trump stated in response to a question by a reporter, as cited by Reuters.
“And that’s one of the reasons that I want people to make sure we have a very, very strong force by paying the kind of money necessary to have that force,” Trump said.
“But yes, absolutely, I’d be committed to Article 5,” he added
US allies were disturbed last month when Trump did not personally affirm his commitment to Article 5 during his first NATO summit in Brussels.
The White House has downplayed the omission, and even called the dust-up “silly.”
“The President’s presence at an Article 5 commemoration and his discussion about NATO invoking Article 5 for the first time ever after 9/11 pretty much speaks for itself,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said earlier this week.
Administration officials debated the precise language Trump should use in reaffirming the U.S. commitment to the alliance, only to have Trump strike the final language, Politico reported.
During their joint news conference on Friday, Trump praise President Klaus Iohannis and Romania for raising that nation’s defense spending to meet the alliance’s goal of 2% of national GDP.
Even though threshold predates Trump’s time in office, he has championed “even if at times he has appeared to misunderstand how that money is spent”, The Los Angeles Times notes.
“The money is starting to pour in,” Trump said, suggesting that the new defense spending by Romania was being paid into the alliance, rather than being spent internally.
“Other countries are starting to realize that it’s time to pay up and they’re doing that. Very proud of that fact,” the US President said.
As the second largest NATO and EU member state from among the former communist countries in Central and Eastern Europe, Romania’s has been a valued US ally.
Russia has named Romania as an “outright threat” because of the elements of the US and NATO missile defense system which are deployed in the Deveselu Air Base in Southwest Romania, Olt County.
The part of the US / NATO missile defense system in Europe which is based in Romania’s Deveselu was inaugurated in May 2016. While the system is built and paid for by the USA, in July 2016, it was formally placed under NATO command, rather than remaining directly under US control.
The missile shield based in Romania is officially expected to provide America’s European NATO allies with protection from ballistic missiles (with or without nuclear loads) fired from “rogue states” in the Middle East.
Pundits have commented that a possible source of this type of threat could be Iran. Yet, Russia has protested vehemently against the system, arguing that it undermined it military capabilities, and thus violated the balance of power in Europe.
Paradoxically, it is under Trump that NATO has expanded for the first time since 2009 by just admitting Montenegro as the 29th member of Alliance – even though US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was overtly missing from Montenegro’s accession ceremony held at the State Department in Washington.
Montenegro’s NATO membership has been adamantly opposed by Russia which has threatened the small Balkan and Adriatic country with “response measures”.