Front Page Talking Points


Presidential campaign remark about NATO fuels discussion of military alliance's role


1.gifShare a quote from NATO coverage and tell why you pick it.

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Former President Donald Trump is reviving concerns about how he sees the North American Treaty Organization (NATO), a Western military alliance. If Russia expands its Ukraine war, he said at a South Carolina campaign rally, his potential administration might not assist allies that fall short of full NATO funding levels. "No, I would not protect you," the leading Republican presidential candidate said. "In fact, I would encourage them [Russia] to do whatever the hell they want. You've got to pay."

NATO was created in 1949, four years after World War II, by the United States and 11 other nations in North America and Europe. They pledged to assist each other if attacked. Their main concern then was aggression by the Moscow-based Soviet Union (Russia and allies). "With the fall of the Soviet Union [in 1991] and the rise of Russian president Vladimir Putin, NATO resisted Russian aggression instead," posts Boston College historian Heather Cox Richardson. The current invasion of Ukraine (not a NATO member, yet) heightens security concerns in other countries bordering Russia – such as western neighbor Finland, which joined the group last April.

Strong responses to Trump's Feb. 10 comment came from around the 31-nation alliance. "Any suggestion that allies will not defend each other undermines our security," Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said from NATO headquarters in Brussels, the capital of Belgium. German Chancellor Olaf Scholtz called Trump's remark "irresponsible and dangerous," adding: Nobody is allowed to play or do deals with Europe's security." In America, President Biden slammed the statement as "dumb . . . shameful . . . dangerous . . . un-American." He added last week: "When America gives its word, it means something. When we make a commitment, we keep it. And NATO is a sacred commitment . . . that protects America and the world."

In 2006, NATO members agreed to commit at least 2% of their gross domestic product (a measure of national production) to their own defense spending in order to make sure the alliance remains combat-ready. The economic crash of 2007–08 caused some governments to fall short, and most still don't meet the commitment.

But a U.S. president can't pull out without approval from at least 67 of the 100 senators (if all vote). "We shouldn't have to do that. The president of the United States should actually want to stick with our alliances," Republican Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma said in reaction to Trump.

President says: "The greatest hope of all those who wish America harm is for NATO to fall apart. And you can be sure that they all cheered when they heard Donald Trump." -- Joe Biden

Republican says: "He just put every military member at risk and every one of our allies at risk. . . . People ought to take this very, very seriously because it feels as if we are sleepwalking into a global catastrophe." – Nikki Haley, former South Carolina governor running for president

Congressman says: "Putin must be absolutely thrilled. Trump is the gift that won't stop giving to Putin." – Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.

Front Page Talking Points is written by Alan Stamm for, Copyright 2024

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Common Core State Standard
SL.CCS.1/2/3/4 Grades 6-12: An essay of a current news event is provided for discussion to encourage participation, but also inspire the use of evidence to support logical claims using the main ideas of the article. Students must analyze background information provided about a current event within the news, draw out the main ideas and key details, and review different opinions on the issue. Then, students should present their own claims using facts and analysis for support.