NATO said Tuesday the U.S. remains committed to trans-Atlantic security, despite a New York Times report claiming Trump told aides repeatedly last year that he wanted to exit the alliance.
Citing unnamed senior administration officials, the NYT report said that while Trump had publicly walked back threats to leave the 70-year-old organization, the U.S. could still withdraw because member countries continue to lag behind Trump’s increased-payment demands.
However, NATO, which was set up after World War II to counter the Soviet threat, insists Trump is committed to the group.
“The United States is strongly committed to NATO and to trans-Atlantic security,” a NATO official told VICE News. “The U.S. has significantly boosted its commitment to the defense of Europe, including with increased troop commitments. At the same time, European allies and Canada are stepping up with new investments in major capabilities, contributions to operations and missions, and four consecutive years of rising defense spending.”
“NATO is founded on the bond between Europe and North America, standing together and defending each other. A strong NATO is good for Europe and good for North America,” the official added.
Trump first raised the possibility of withdrawing during the group’s annual summit last July, when he hit out at member states for failing to pay their fair share towards the NATO budget.
After a tense few days, Trump held an impromptu press conference where he voiced his support for the organization.
“The U.S. were not treated fairly, but now we are. I believe in NATO,” he said.
NATO has for decades been a key deterrent to Russian aggression, and its destabilization remains a top goal for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
News of Trump’s desire to blow up the alliance comes at a time of increased scrutiny for his relationship with Russia.
“Withdrawing from NATO — even discussing withdrawing from NATO — would be disastrous for the security of the United States,” former National Intelligence Director James Clapper told CNN Tuesday. “This would play into Putin’s hands.”
Cover image: Donald Trump arrives to speak to the media at a press conference on the second day of the 2018 NATO Summit on July 12, 2018 in Brussels, Belgium. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)