In the last few hours, former US President Donald Trump has made some statements about NATO that have generated great controversy.
What the media says Trump said
Trump made these statements at a public event in Conway, South Carolina. What the media has highlighted is that when he was president, he was told by an unidentified NATO member who asked him about his threat not to defend members that did not meet defense spending targets. of the Alliance. According to Associated Press, Trump said: em>"No I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want. You gotta pay. You gotta pay your bills." That "I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want" was going for the Russians.
Video of Trump's speech in Conway
Did Trump say that? I'm distrustful of the media, so I looked up the speech in question. At that time, Trump was talking about the large amount of money invested by the US in Ukraine and the much smaller amount invested by the countries of the European Union. Then he started talking about NATO. You can hear in this Youtube video starting at point 2:34:12 (I have inserted it so that it starts at that point):
You can read here the transcript of that part of his speech:
"I did the same thing with NATO. I got them to pay up. NATO was busted until I came along. I said: everybody's going to pay. They said: well if we don't pay are you still going to protect us? I said: absolutely not. They couldn't believe the answer, and everybody, you never saw more money. The Secretary-General Stoltenberg was -I don't know if he is anymore, but he was- my biggest fan. He said: all these presidents came in, they'd make a speech, they'd leave and that was bit, and they all owed money and they wouldn't pay. I came in, I made a speech and I said you got to pay up.
They asked me that question. One of the presidents of a big country stood up said: "Well, sir, if we don't pay and we're attacked by Russia, will you protect us?" I said: you didn't pay, you're delinquent? He said: "Yes". Let's say that happened. No, I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want. You got to pay. You got to pay your bills. And the money came, flowing in, and Henry would know this if I said: yes I will, you don't have to pay, yes I will. Most politicians have said to that yes we will protect you under any circonstance. Well, then they're never paying up. I said: no, no, you have to understand you don't pay your bills, you get no protection. It's very simple.
Hundreds of billions of dollars came into NATO and that's why they have money today, because of what I did, and then I hear that they like Obama better. They should like Obama better, you know why, because he didn't ask for anything. We were like the stupid country of the world, and we're not going to be the stupid country of the world any longer".
Would Trump let Russia attack an allied country without responding?
Reading the context, I think that now it is better understood what Trump meant, although his reference to Russia, honestly, does not seem fortunate to me at all, especially seeing what Russia is doing in Ukraine. That said, does Trump's statement mean that he would not act if Russia attacks any NATO country?
First of all, to obtain an answer we must go to the Treaty of that Alliance itself: the other members have the obligation to come to the support of a country that is attacked, regardless of their investment in defense. Let's say that at this point, Trump talks for the sake of talking, as many politicians do in a public event in front of his supporters.
Allied countries that fulfill their spending commitments
Secondly, which countries should feel alarmed by Trump's statements? To do this, it is enough to review the percentages of defense spending of each member country of the Alliance. Statista published the 2023 data here. The following 11 NATO countries (of the 31 member countries) are those that fulfill their commitments to invest at minus 2% of its GDP in defense:
As you can see, all NATO countries bordering Russia (Poland, Estonia, Lithuania, Finland and Latvia) comply with their obligations, with the sole exception of Norway , which invested 1.67% of its GDP in defense in 2023. Obviously, the countries bordering the Baltic Sea know the threat posed by Russia and that is why they invest what is necessary in defense. Sweden hopes to reach 2% in 2024, coinciding with its foreseeable entry into the Alliance.
It should be noted that the Russian invasion of Ukraine has encouraged many NATO countries to increase their defense spending. The most notable case is that of Poland, which has gone from being the fourth country in this percentage of spending in 2022 (after Greece, the US and Lithuania) to top the list, thanks to the extensive program of military purchases implemented by the previous government of Mateusz Morawiecki. The Baltic republics (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) have also increased their defense spending. However, Greece has reduced it, although it is still well above the European average.
The allied countries that do not even remotely fulfill their commitments
At the bottom of the list we find these countries that do not comply with their obligations even remotely (I indicate those that do not reach 1.5%):
Which president of a large country was Trump referring to?
Looking at this list, we can get an idea of who Trump could be referring to when he spoke of "one of the presidents of a large country" who did not fulfill his obligations: Recep Tayyip Erdogan, president of Turkey, or Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada. These are two large countries that have the Russian threat very close, but that do not comply with their defense spending commitments.
Would that mean Trump would let Russia invade Canada or Turkey? It is very unlikely.The US and Canada are not only part of NATO, but also AUKUS, a military alliance that also includes Australia and the United Kingdom. Let us also remember that The US and Canada share NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command). In turn, Turkey controls the strategic passage between the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea.
The cases of Luxembourg, Belgium, Spain and Turkey
In any case, the countries that seem to be encouraging Russia to attack allied countries are those that do not fulfill their commitment to the Alliance even remotely. Luxembourg, Belgium, Spain and Turkey are the most embarrassing cases due to their low percentages. Belgium and Turkey even reduced their percentage between 2022 and 2023, despite the Russian invasion of Ukraine. We can attribute the case of Belgium and Luxembourg to pure selfishness: the BENELUX countries do not have strategic enemies nearby. In turn, Turkey relies excessively on the good relationship between Putin and Erdogan.
For the rest, Spain not only has an important strategic position due to its position in the southwest of Europe and access to the Mediterranean Sea (that is why the US installed its anti-missile shield in Rota, at its own expense) but also has the threat from Morocco. When we ask ourselves if NATO would come to the defense of Spain in the face of a Moroccan attack, let us first ask ourselves: does Spain fulfill its commitments to NATO? As a Spaniard I feel ashamed.
Don't miss the news and content that interest you. Receive the free daily newsletter in your email:Click here to subscribe