“Pay or I will encourage Russia to invade you. » This is essentially what Donald Trump declared on Saturday to NATO member countries during a meeting in South Carolina. His comments triggered an outcry, while the Alliance has been showing its teeth to Moscow since its invasion of Ukraine. Described as “distressing and dangerous” by Joe Biden, these words nevertheless raise a more than essential question: what will happen to NATO if Donald Trump is re-elected? Because the former President of the United States remains a major adversary for Joe Biden, weakened by increasingly acute suspicions about his mental healthnine short months before the national election.
“If we use an image to make things more meaningful, NATO is like The three Musketeers : “one for all! All for one”. What Donald Trump declared therefore contradicts the very principle on which NATO is founded,” reacts Amélie Zima, doctor in political science at Irsem (Strategic Research Institute of the military school and specialist in the Alliance ). Article 5 of NATO provides, in fact, that if one of the members is the victim of an armed attack, this amounts to a military attack on all the members of the Alliance. In his statements, Donald Trump mimicked an interview with a president of a NATO member country to whom he allegedly affirmed that the United States, under his leadership, would not defend him if he did not “pay”.
“NATO is not a grocer”
“In the principles of NATO, there has always been this objective of achieving 2% of the GDP of member countries in defense spending,” recalls Yves Boyer, deputy director of the Foundation for Strategic Research. However, this principle remains a “non-binding standard”, recalls Amélie Zima. “NATO has no tool to force countries to do anything. When Donald Trump talks about debts, it is a misunderstanding of the Alliance, no country is in debt to NATO,” she insists. “NATO is not a grocer who counts who put 100 grams and who put 150! », adds Yves Boyer.
This is not the first time that Donald Trump has threatened countries that do not respect their commitments in terms of military spending. During the campaign, the American troublemaker repeatedly threatened to leave the Atlantic Treaty Organization if he returned to the White House. Intimidations which never left him, even when he was president of the United States, although he never implemented them. But if his latest statements have caused so much outrage, it is because this time he went further, assuring that he would “encourage” the Russians “to do what they want” with countries that have not devoted at least 2% of their GDP to their defense budget.
A candidate in a “big game of poker”
“The fact that Donald Trump admits that he intends to give Vladimir Putin the green light for more war and violence, to continue his brutal assault on a free Ukraine and to extend his aggression to the people of Poland and the Baltic states is distressing and dangerous,” Joe Biden reacted on Sunday. “The strength of NATO is to show itself as a united organization in the face of the security challenges it encounters,” notes Amélie Zima. However, during the last NATO Strategic Council, in 2022, the Alliance designated Russia as the main threat. » The pill of “encouragement” to Putin is therefore difficult to swallow for the Allies while the supreme commander of the Alliance, responsible for the organization’s military operations, is systematically American.
“The United States is in the middle of an electoral campaign,” recalls Yves Boyer. We must temper the statements of Donald Trump who is addressing a people increasingly centered on themselves in a large game of poker where everyone raises the stakes. » Because the former American president, who faces numerous obstacles, particularly legal ones, is far from being elected. It is therefore only as a presidential candidate that he speaks. “And even if Donald Trump were re-elected, I doubt he would be able to withdraw from NATO when his country has many interests in Europe! », Adds the deputy director of the Foundation for Strategic Research.
Despite the real estate magnate’s thunderous declarations, the Americans continued to participate in NATO’s deterrence effort, notably by sending American soldiers to the eastern flank of Europe when he was at home. Blanche, also recalls Amélie Zima. More than a threat to the survival of NATO, “it is perhaps a warning to Europeans who should emerge from their lethargy and give themselves the means to defend themselves” rather than through an Alliance 75 years old, Yves Boyer concludes. An advice that many European countries have already started to put in place, like Poland, terrified of being the next target of Moscow, which has decided to devote not 2% but 4% of its GDP on defense this year…