President Donald Trump repeatedly expressed to senior White House aides his desire to withdraw from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, according to a report.
The military alliance created in the aftermath of World War II by the United States, Canada and some European nations has been viewed as a critical bedrock against Soviet and Russian aggression for decades. But Trump has long balked at the U.S.’s NATO allies for not spending more on defense and meeting funding commitments.
The revelation that the president did not see the point of the alliance and discussed withdrawing from it last year, reported in the New York Times on Monday evening, comes amid allegations that Trump deliberately concealed details of his meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin, even from his own aides. It also comes amid a separate Times report that the FBI launched an investigation into Trump’s administration over whether he was secretly working on behalf of the Russians.
A weakened NATO is one of Putin’s major geopolitical goals.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the NATO report. However, Trump’s strong aversion to international alliances and organizations is well documented. He pulled the U.S. out of the Paris climate change accord and also exited a sweeping trade pact with Asian nations. Trump has previously, publicly appeared to threaten to withdraw the U.S. from NATO if allies don’t boost spending.
“I think it’s the most insulting thing I’ve ever been asked,” Trump replied in a TV interview when asked about the FBI’s probe. “I think it’s the most insulting article I’ve ever had written. And if you read the article, you’d see they found absolutely nothing.”
NATO was founded in 1949 and has 29 members. All have agreed to spend 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense by 2024. The alliance has estimated that based on current trends only half of NATO members will reach this target.
“It doesn’t get much worse than this,” Carl Bildt, a Swedish diplomat and former prime minister, tweeted Tuesday reacting to Trump’s NATO discussions.
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