Diplomats worry that Trump will withdraw from NATO if he gets a 2nd term as president

U.S. President Donald Trump leaves after a reception at Downing Street, ahead of the NATO summit in Watford, in London, Britain, December 3, 2019 Reuters
  • President Donald Trump may withdraw from the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation if he is re-elected for a second term,The New York Times reported on Thursday.
  • Trump has repeatedly privately spoken of withdrawing from the military alliance, according to the Times.
  • Former senior national security officials in Trump’s administration have said the move could be a great victory for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
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President Donald Trump has repeatedly, privately spoken about withdrawing from the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, The New York Times reported on Thursday. And if he wins a second term as president, he may be able to pull it off.

The Times reported that officials in the US and in Europe are worried that if Trump wins another term, he may be emboldened to actually withdraw from the military alliance.

Former senior national security officials in Trump’s administration have said the move could be a victory for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who views NATO as a bulwark against his global ambitions.

Trump has a history of being critical of NATO. In December, he undercut one of the alliances’ principals when he suggested that the US may not defend a fellow member if it came under attack.

The Times reported that while Congress would probably block Trump’s effort to withdraw from the alliance, he could still take other measures to undermine it. He could, for example, loosely adhere to Article 5, which calls for collective defence.

Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton said in June that the president clashed with European leaders over his belief that other countries did not spend enough money on defence at a NATO summit in 2017.

Bolton, in his recent book “The Room Where it Happened,” also said that Trump repeatedly said he wanted to quit NATO. Last month, Bolton told a Spanish newspaper that Trump could possibly even declare his intent to withdraw from the alliance in October as a promise for his second term ahead of the November election.

John Kelly, a retired general, said “one of the most difficult tasks he faced with Trump was trying to stop him from pulling out of NATO,” according to a book published this week from Times reporter Michael Schmidt.

“It is a real risk,” Thomas Wright, the director of the Centre on the United States and Europe at the Brookings Institution, told the Times. “We know from Kelly and Bolton that he wanted to go much further in the first term. If he feels that he has been totally vindicated in the election, and he feels that people have endorsed his policies, I think he could effectively withdraw from NATO.”