The potential re-election of Donald Trump could herald a shift in the United States' foreign policy, particularly regarding its commitment to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Insights from my upcoming book, "The Return of Great Powers," set to release on March 12, delve into the serious implications of Trump's disdain for the alliance and how it could jeopardize the very fabric of Western security against Russia.
Trump's Stance on NATO and International Alliances
Donald Trump's tenure as President was marked by a contentious relationship with NATO, often criticizing the alliance and its members for their defense spending, or the lack thereof, compared to the United States.
His skepticism wasn't just limited to financial concerns but extended to the utility and value of the U.S. maintaining its longstanding security commitments, including those with South Korea and Japan. According to retired General John Kelly, Trump's perspective was that these alliances served little purpose and only provoked the very adversaries, such as Russia and North Korea, they were meant to deter.
The narrative shared by multiple former advisers, including Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton, suggests that Trump's disillusionment with NATO could lead him to attempt a formal withdrawal from the alliance if he secures a second term.
This move would not only undermine the principle of collective defense that forms NATO's cornerstone but also embolden adversaries by showcasing a fragmented Western alliance.
Near Exit in 2018: A Prelude to Future Actions?
Trump's 2018 NATO summit outburst, where he reportedly issued orders to withdraw from the alliance, exemplifies his unpredictable approach to international relations.
This incident, as recounted by advisers and officials who served under his administration, illustrates the lengths to which Trump might go to reshape U.S. foreign policy according to his worldview—one where financial contributions are valued over strategic alliances and global stability.
The repercussions of such a withdrawal would extend beyond Europe. The U.S.' s support for Ukraine and Taiwan, pivotal in the current geopolitical landscape, could also wane under Trump's leadership. His transactional view of foreign policy, as noted by Bolton, could result in the U.S.
abandoning its support for these nations in favor of deals that undermine their sovereignty and security.
The Implications of a Second Trump Term
The prospect of Trump's return to the White House raises critical questions about the future of international alliances and the global order.
His administration's policies could lead to a fundamental realignment of U.S. foreign policy, with far-reaching consequences for global security and democracy.