U.S. presidential election campaign remarks
“We will not protect delinquents” to allies
Suggests possibility of withdrawal of security umbrella if re-elected
NYT “Reminiscent of the Acheson line sung on June 25”
Former President Donald Trump (pictured), the leading U.S. Republican presidential candidate, made a statement with the intention of ‘encouraging Russia to invade North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) member countries that have not paid enough for their defense costs.’ When he was in power, he pressured member countries to spend 2.0% of their gross domestic product (GDP) on defense, saying that NATO was “free riding on security,” and even hinted at the possibility of withdrawing the security umbrella for the alliance, citing defense costs, if he returns to power.
Former President Trump told an anecdote during a campaign rally in South Carolina on the 10th (local time) that a former leader of a NATO member state asked him, “Even if we don’t pay for defense, will you protect us if we are attacked by Russia?” In response, he said, “If you are a delinquent, I will not protect you.” “Rather, we will encourage Russia to do what it wants,” he said. He also added that he said, “You got to pay your bill.”
During his time in office, former President Trump expressed strong dissatisfaction, saying that wealthy allies were not paying enough for defense. He criticized South Korea and Germany, saying they are ‘trying to rip off the United States’ and ‘I cannot understand why a rich country spends so little on defense.’ He also mentioned the withdrawal of US troops stationed in Korea and Germany.
The allies protested. “Any suggestion that allies may not defend each other undermines the security of everyone, including the United States,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement on the 11th.
The New York Times (NYT) expressed concern that if former President Trump comes back to power, the U.S. security umbrella that has maintained the alliance for over 80 years since World War II could virtually end. In particular, “North Korea started a war just five months after then-US Secretary of State Dean Acheson announced a ‘defense line (Acheson Line)’ excluding South Korea in 1950,” he said. It was assessed that it could lead to a situation.
“An attack on one member state is treated as an attack on all member states and is jointly defended.”
This is the content of ‘Article 5 of the Charter’ of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which was established in 1949. The gist of it is that if just one of the 31 NATO member countries is attacked, the remaining 30 countries will unite their military forces and launch a joint counterattack. Finland and Sweden, which had maintained neutrality until now after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022, joined NATO in anticipation of this collective security umbrella.
Article 5 of the NATO Charter, which has been maintained for 75 years, is being shaken to its core due to former US President Donald Trump’s remarks. On the 10th (local time), when he was in power, he criticized NATO for ‘free riding on security’ at every opportunity and strongly pressured each member state to raise its defense budget to 2% of its gross domestic product (GDP). He issued a threat to the effect that “if he returns to power, he will be willing to go as far as encouraging a Russian invasion against allies who do not pay.”
It cannot be ruled out that similar pressure will be applied not only to major NATO members but also to key Asian allies such as Korea and Japan. Former President Trump already mentioned the possibility of withdrawing U.S. troops from Korea during his tenure and also requested a five-fold increase in defense cost sharing.
The United States was responsible for most of NATO’s finances after its establishment. According to NATO, the United States covered 71.7% of NATO’s defense spending in 2017, when former President Trump took office. In particular, former President Trump increased the level of pressure on each member state by directly mentioning the ‘2% of GDP’ standard.
According to the international statistics site Statista, as of last year, among the 31 NATO member countries, there were a total of 11 countries spending more than 2% of GDP on defense, including Poland (3.9%), the United States (3.49%), and Greece (3.01%). . During his time in office, former President Trump was at odds with then-German Chancellor Angela Merkel at every turn, saying, “Why does a rich country pay so little?” regarding Germany, which did not meet this standard. Ultimately, President Trump announced a plan to reduce the number of U.S. troops stationed in Germany by 12,000 out of 36,000 in 2020.
In his remarks that day, former President Trump treated countries that did not meet the standards as “delinquents.” This means that we owe money to the United States. In this situation, if he returns to power in the November presidential election, many NATO member countries whose defense spending falls below 2.0% are expected to suffer from strong demands from the United States for an increase.
South Korea may also face pressure linked to increased defense spending and adjustments to US forces stationed in Korea. Accordingly, the government has reportedly decided to begin negotiations with the United States early this year to conclude the 12th Special Defense Cost-Sharing Agreement (SMA) in preparation for the possibility of his return to power. The SMA is an agreement that stipulates the amount to be borne by the Korean government for the cost of stationing US troops in Korea. The 11th SMA applies until 2025.
Regarding the reason for the hasty start of SMA negotiations, which have about two years left until the deadline, a government source said, “There were also concerns that if former President Trump was elected, he could demand a large increase in contribution as he did when he was in office.” It has been reported that Lee Tae-woo, Consul General in Sydney, has been appointed as our representative for negotiations.
U.S. President Joe Biden, who is likely to clash with former President Trump again in the presidential election, criticized in a statement on the 11th, “This is a green light for Russia to attack not only Ukraine, but also Poland and the Baltic countries,” and called it “horrible and dangerous.” Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, who is competing with former President Trump in the Republican presidential nomination, said, “You should not side with the thugs (Russian President Vladimir Putin).”
All of Europe was turned upside down. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warned that it “weakens the United States and Europe and puts American and European soldiers at greater risk.” Josep Borrell, the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said, “NATO cannot be a military alliance that operates based on the whims of the US president.”
Polish Minister of Defense Władysław Kośniakkamys also expressed anger at former President Trump’s re-election campaign, saying, “It cannot be an excuse to play with the security of our allies.” Former British senator Peter Ricketts cited former President Trump’s hobby of golfing and said, “NATO is not a ‘country club’ that provides defense services for a fee of 2% of GDP.”
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Mark Jones is a world traveler and journalist for News Rebeat. With a curious mind and a love of adventure, Mark brings a unique perspective to the latest global events and provides in-depth and thought-provoking coverage of the world at large.