The Republican billionaire raised the possibility that NATO members would no longer come to their aid if they were attacked. A situation that would seriously call into question the ability of Europeans to defend themselves.
A real threat or yet another provocation? By raising the prospect of not defending NATO countries reluctant to invest in their defense, Donald Trump provoked strong reactions within the alliance.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg criticized in a particularly strong statement that such a statement “undermines the security of all of us, including the United States.”
If realized, this calls into question the mutual assistance of member states in the event of an attack, which is the foundation of the Atlantic Alliance, with serious consequences for the ability of its members to defend themselves.
Washington is still “indispensable” to Europeans
Although Donald Trump is accustomed to criticizing NATO and keeping his country in the alliance while he was president, the threat issued this weekend encourages Europeans to imagine a future without the American shield. And the latter will not be rosy.
“As it stands, the Europeans are still largely dependent on the United States for their defense,” assures BFMTV.com, Jerome Pellistrandi, our channel’s defense adviser and former auditor general of the NATO Defense College.
“France and the United Kingdom are less likely, because they have a nuclear deterrent,” he adds.
The world’s leading military power, the United States represents “a little less than half of NATO’s military capabilities” and remains the primary contributor to the alliance’s operations.
According to Jerome Pellistrandi, in addition to its army and its vast military-industrial complex, the United States has “analytical and intelligence capabilities that allies cannot replace.” “Americans are the eyes and ears of Europe”, sums up our expert.
In the event of Donald Trump’s withdrawal from NATO, allies will no longer be covered by the American nuclear “umbrella”. A situation that would make countries like the Baltic States and Poland, on the front lines of Vladimir Putin’s expansionist policy, particularly vulnerable.
“There is no doubt that for the Poles, the Balts and the Nordics, the disappearance of NATO will become an existential threat,” the Iris Geopolitics Institute already expected in 2020, when Donald Trump was already threatening a similar order. If the latter were ever implemented, these countries would “activate Plan B: bilateral defense agreements with the United States”, Iris then estimated.
France, for its part, will be pressured by its European neighbors to share its nuclear deterrent. “But Emmanuel Macron has always rejected this possibility,” underlines General Palistrandi.
“The Europeanization of NATO”
In a NATO scenario without Washington, “the United Kingdom, France and Germany could be brought in to play a greater role, accelerating the Europeanization of the alliance”, continues Soldier.
Other states can be forced to increase their budgets dedicated to defense, while Donald Trump rightly criticizes them for their lack of investment in this area.
In fact, the majority of NATO’s 31 member states have still not achieved the goal of 2% of gross domestic product (GDP) devoted to military spending, a goal the alliance set in 2006. The ambition then was to distribute efforts better. between European countries and the United States.
Donald Trump recalled this many times during his presidency, as did others before him, including his predecessor Barack Obama. According to NATO estimates, only eleven of them have achieved this objective by 2023.
Trump’s Threat, Electric Shock?
For most European diplomats, Donald Trump’s threats should not be taken literally and should be placed in the context of an election campaign. But they bring awareness.
“We open our eyes, we remain calm, we continue,” summed up the French ambassador to NATO, Muriel Domenache X (ex-Tixitre) this weekend.
The French foreign minister, Stéphane Sjourne, for his part speculated that France should “think of a second life insurance, not against NATO, not as a replacement but as an addition”.