Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s hardline nationalist election rhetoric is reverberating far beyond US borders. His words, in a New York Times interview, regarding the possibility of conditional US support for NATO allies in times of need has evoked a strong negative response in Europe and sent ripples of unease around the post-communist bloc.
In an interview that has made headlines around Europe, the Republican candidate said that if he is elected president, the US may abandon its guarantee of protection to fellow NATO members who are not fulfilling their commitments. The words, said in connection with the Baltic States, sent shock waves around Europe, and elicited a swift response from NATO headquarters. The Czech Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, Petr Pavel, said NATO was based on the solidarity principle.
“If any member state comes under attack then Article Five on NATO’s collective defense applies no matter what the given country’s contribution amounts to.”
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stressed that while he had no wish to interfere in the US election, there should be no question regarding the validity of Article Five. “Solidarity among allies is a key value for NATO,” he said. “This is good for European security and good for US security. We defend one another. We have seen this in Afghanistan, where tens of thousands of European, Canadian and partner nation troops have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with US soldiers.”
Meanwhile, speaking at a meeting of the Visegrad Four in Warsaw, Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka stressed the importance of maintaining stability within NATO, and said he welcomed British assurances that the country would remain a member of NATO despite leaving the European Union.
“Our expectations are that, no matter who wins the presidential election in the United States, the country will remain a solid NATO partner.”
Mr. Trump’s words also elicited a response from Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaorálek, currently on a working visit to the United States. Mr. Zaorálek said that questioning the solidarity principle on which NATO stands is dangerous. “Tabling new conditions for providing military aid beyond the framework of the Washington treaty would amount to burying that treaty,” he said. The Czech Foreign Minister also emphasized that securing NATOs common defense is not only in the interest of Europeans, but also in the interest of the US. “In the 20th century, the US left Europe twice and in both cases it had to return, but with far greater costs and sacrifices. We are living a common story and we should never forget this,” Zaorálek said.
Amid the stir caused by Mr. Trump’s remarks, the White House declared the US had an “ironclad” commitment to mutual defense with NATO allies. “That NATO is the cornerstone of American national security is a policy that the United States has pursued under every post-World War II president, Democratic and Republican,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters.