On Feb. 25, NATO issued a formal condemnation of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine and issued sanctions against the country. The U.S. is a founder and longtime member of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization). However, former President Donald Trump wasn’t a fan of the country’s involvement in the global organization. Did Trump take the U.S. out of NATO?
No, Trump didn’t take the U.S. out of NATO during his time in office, although that was reportedly his intention. Throughout Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, he talked about withdrawing the U.S. from NATO. He complained that other NATO countries weren’t paying their fair share, which put an unfair burden on the U.S.
“Twenty-three of the 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying and what they’re supposed to be paying for their defense. This is not fair to the people and taxpayers of the United States,” Trump said in 2017, reported The New York Times.
However, after he was elected, Trump pledged to “never forsake the friends that stood by our side” after the terrorist attacks against the U.S. on September 11, 2001. Those attacks are the first and only time NATO invoked its Article 5 clause, which states that any armed attack on one NATO country is considered an attack on all and necessary action, such as armed defense, will be taken.
Trump told his advisers that he didn’t see a reason for NATO.
Trump started talking again about withdrawing the U.S. from NATO in 2019. According to The New York Times, Trump reportedly told his top national security officials that he didn’t see a reason for the alliance.
John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser, reportedly said Trump was considering withdrawing from NATO if he was reelected in 2020, The Guardian reported in 2019.
Congress took steps to prevent Trump from withdrawing from NATO.
Concerned that Trump would withdraw the U.S. from NATO, Washington legislators moved to thwart any such withdrawal. The House of Representatives passed the NATO Support Act (H.R. 676) in January 2019, which prohibits the appropriation or use of funds to withdraw the U.S. from NATO.
The U.S. Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee also passed a bipartisan bill in December 2019, which would require the U.S. president to get the Senate’s consent on a withdrawal from NATO.
“It specifies clearly, that the law of the land will now be that a president cannot withdraw from NATO absent a congressional vote,” Senator Tim Kaine, sponsor of the bill, told The Guardian. “So he could announce he was withdrawing, but that would be an illegal action, and we would feel completely confident that a court would uphold us.”
Putin warns NATO about expanding into Eastern Europe.
Russian President Vladimir Putin opposes any NATO expansion into Eastern Europe. NATO was founded in 1949 to counter aggression by the Soviet Union. After the fall of the Soviet Union, three former Soviet republics — Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — joined the alliance. The talk of Ukraine and neighboring Georgia joining NATO started in 2008, but the two countries still aren't part of the alliance.
Retired NATO supreme allied commander Admiral James Stavridis told the Times in 2019 that a U.S. withdrawal from NATO would be “a geopolitical mistake of epic proportion” and “the gift of the century for Putin.”