The United States’ NATO allies are beginning to respond to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump‘s comments to the New York Times on Wednesday, in which he suggested that he wouldn’t honor the United States’ pledged defense of its European allies.
After Trump was quoted stating that member countries would need to “defend themselves” if they haven’t met their NATO financial obligations, campaign manager Paul Manafort claimed that his candidate was misquoted. The Times shot back, releasing a full transcript of the interview that shows Trump’s positioning on the matter in no uncertain terms. When the Times asked, “If Russia came over the border into Estonia or Latvia, Lithuania … would you come to their immediate military aid?” Trump replied, “I don’t want to tell you what I’d do because I don’t want Putin to know what I’d do.” The conversation continued:
SANGER: They are NATO members, and we are treaty-obligated —
TRUMP: We have many NATO members that aren’t paying their bills.
SANGER: That’s true, but we are treaty-obligated under NATO, forget the bills part.
TRUMP: You can’t forget the bills. 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.
SANGER: My point here is, Can the members of NATO, including the new members in the Baltics, count on the United States to come to their military aid if they were attacked by Russia? And count on us fulfilling our obligations —
TRUMP: Have they fulfilled their obligations to us? If they fulfill their obligations to us, the answer is yes.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg responded to Trump’s comments on Thursday, telling BuzzFeed News, “Solidarity among allies is a key value for NATO. This is good for European security and good for U.S. security. We defend one another.” Though Stoltenberg said that he didn’t want to “interfere” with the U.S. Presidential election, he did note, “Two world wars have shown that peace in Europe is also important for the security of the United States.”
The president of Estonia also responded to Trump’s statements on Twitter early Thursday morning, reminding his followers that Estonia was “1 of 5 NATO allies in Europe to meet its 2% def expenditures commitment” and that the country had followed the U.S. into Afghanistan with “no caveats.”
Article 5 of the NATO Treaty states that “an armed attack against one or more [NATO member countries] in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them … will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.” Article 5 has only been invoked once since the treaty was ratified in 1949, in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.