Trump’s incendiary NATO remarks send very real shudders through Europe

LONDON  -  Remarks by Donald Trump normally rever­berate in an echo cham­ber of his own creation, a sort of vacuum that often strips them of any consequence glob­ally. It is white noise, one might think – rhet­oric designed to proj­ect strength and the rejection of the status-quo, rather than an ex­pression of any actual policy. It is just Trump being Trump. But when the former president suggested on Saturday that he would let Rus­sia do “whatever the hell they want” to any NATO member that doesn’t meet spending guidelines, the impact was acute.

He recalled what he said was a conversation with a “large” NATO ally. It was unclear who he was referring to or when the conversation took place – which, accord­ing to his telling, had de­clined to spend the 2% recommended equiva­lent of their GDP on de­fense, but nevertheless wanted assurances from the US that they would be protected if Russia attacked. Trump said he would not give such an assurance, as the ally was “delinquent,” and Russian President Vladimir Putin should feel free to have his way. Trump’s opinion of NATO has been known for years – he thinks it is the epitome of every­thing he despises about of America’s allies, taking advantage of US strength without giving anything in return: a store loyalty club in which you get points without propor­tionate spending.

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