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What did Trump say about NATO funding and what is Article 5?

Published 02/12/2024, 08:24 AM
Updated 02/13/2024, 04:50 AM
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Former U.S. President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during the National Rifle Association (NRA) Presidential Forum at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex & Expo Center, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, U.S., February 9,

(This Feb. 12 story has been corrected to specify that the size of the German defence fund is 100 billion euros in paragraph 19)

By Andrew Gray and Sabine Siebold

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Former U.S. President Donald Trump raised a storm of criticism from the White House and top Western officials for suggesting he would not defend NATO allies who failed to spend enough on defence and would even encourage Russia to attack them.

Here are the answers to some key questions about NATO, the comments by Trump - who is running for another term in the White House in November and leading President Joe Biden in some polls - and their implications.


Founded in 1949 to counter the Soviet Union with Cold War tensions rising, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is a political and military alliance of countries from North America and Europe.

Enshrined in Article 5 of its founding treaty is the principle of collective defence - the idea that an attack on one member is considered an attack on all of them.

NATO takes decisions by consensus but the political and military strength of the United States means that it is by far the most powerful country in the alliance, with its nuclear arsenal seen as the ultimate security guarantee.


NATO currently has 31 members - most of them European nations, plus the United States and Canada.

The newest member is Finland, which joined last April in reaction to Russia's 2022 invasion of Ukraine. Sweden applied to join along with Finland but is waiting for Hungary to ratify its application as the final major step before membership.

During the Cold War, NATO's main focus was protecting Western Europe from the Soviet Union. After the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall, NATO expanded to take in former communist bloc countries from Central and Eastern Europe.

NATO's members range from large countries such as Britain, France, Germany and Turkey to small nations such as Iceland and Montenegro.


As U.S. president from 2017-21, Trump often lambasted NATO and members such as Germany, accusing them of not paying enough for their own defence and relying on Washington to protect them. He openly questioned the collective defence principle.

Other U.S. administrations have also accused Europeans of not spending enough on defence, but in less strident terms.

Trump took his criticism to a new level at a campaign rally on Saturday in Conway, South Carolina, when he recounted what he said was a conversation with the "president of a big country".

"Well sir, if we don't pay, and we're attacked by Russia - will you protect us?" Trump quoted the unnamed leader as saying.

"I said: 'You didn't pay? You're delinquent?' He said: 'Yes, let's say that happened.' No, I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them (Russia) to do whatever the hell they want. You gotta pay," Trump said.


Trump has often accused other NATO members of not paying their dues, giving the impression that the alliance is like a club with membership fees.

But NATO operates differently. It has some common funds, to which all members contribute. But the vast bulk of its strength comes from members' own national defence spending - to maintain forces and buy arms that can also be used by NATO.

However, NATO members have committed to spending at least 2% of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) every year on defence - and most of them did not meet that goal last year.


According to NATO estimates from July last year, 11 members were expected to meet the 2% target in 2023. Those members were Poland, the United States, Greece, Estonia, Lithuania, Finland, Romania, Hungary, Latvia, Britain and Slovakia.

Germany, Europe's economic heavyweight, was estimated at 1.57%. But German officials have said they expect to meet the 2% target this year, partly thanks to a special 100-billion-euro fund established in response to Russia's war in Ukraine.

The lowest spenders as a share of national GDP were Spain, Belgium and Luxembourg, according to the NATO figures.

NATO is expected to release updated figures in the coming days that will show more allies meeting the 2% target, according to people familiar with the data.


In Article 5 of the founding treaty, NATO members declared that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America "shall be considered an attack against them all".

They agreed they would "assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force".

However, Article 5 stops short of a commitment to an automatic military response to help an ally under attack. That means the strength of Article 5 depends on clear statements from political leaders that it will be backed up by action.

This is one reason Trump's comments caused such a furore, particularly as they came at a time of heightened alarm in NATO about Russia's intentions, following its invasion of Ukraine.

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Former U.S. President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during the National Rifle Association (NRA) Presidential Forum at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex & Expo Center, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, U.S., February 9, 2024. REUTERS/Leah Millis

By suggesting he would not take military action to defend an ally, Trump undermined the assumptions that give Article 5 its power.

"Any suggestion that allies will not defend each other undermines all of our security, including that of the U.S., and puts American and European soldiers at increased risk," NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Sunday.

Latest comments

If the US were to pull out of NATO, the European Nation will fail, as one of the "heavyweights" will decide that they want to solely rule over the entire affair.  Without  Ukraine, or Russia.  History has a way of repeating itself.
Trump will make USA great again because that’s as far he will see. The back turn on his allies, that space will be filled by others, anti-Semitism and grown up differences in NATO will bring a peace treaty between EU and Russia. Ukraine will be a part of EU and Russia, as they pull out o NATO. Russia finds no threat at his frontiers.  Commerce and understanding with the neighborhood reestablished as if NATO and despise for all refereeing Russia was the problem for all that fuss. So thanks to Trump the war in Ukraine will be over too.
Dear god, why so many stopd floxkers?
Excellent strategy screw all our allies, close our country and live in total isolation with no friends in the world.
US should not just leave NATO like Afghanistan.  If US wants to leave NATO i am sure the Europeans are more than happy to pick up the slack.  But US have to go timeline and then you see Germany wakes up then France Poland and the rest.  This are not childplay countries... these are heavyweight perfectly capable to taking on Russia on their own and definitely when together.
If you don't eat your meat, you can't have any pudding.  How can you have any pudding if you don't eat your meat?
If you dont pay your bills do not expect service, period. NATO countries has to pay the 2% of the GDP, simple as that. BTW NATO was created to protect Europe from Russia. The US can defend itself so once again we are the piggy bag of the world. Our greatest threat is the debt that in part is related to finance waste like to cover the NATO expending.  That is why all this countries hates Trump because he is a nationalist that his main goal is USA, like other presidents should do about their countries. This is like taking care of other people's son instead yours. God Bless America and the world.
You are as American as Tolstoy.
Hey .... Tre is back! Yes .... Big Don will definitely scare NATO to paying up. No Dough, No Show! Europe has been overrun twice already, so the 3rd time's a Charm. Good Military Training Exercise for NATO. Big Don will give Putin the nod. Maybe overrun Poland just the get their attention. Gotta love Trump. Love to All, Charles.
You sound completely deranged…starting ww3 as a NATO execise? To prove a point.
Mark Trump is not running for president in russia where you come from.
Germany committed to spending their 2% for NATO defense. You might not like his methods but Trump gets things done. look forward to having him as our 47 President 🇺🇲
we saw how Trump handled the pandemic crisis with crazy talk, hate, chaos and incompetence. America doesn't need another 4 years of that, then there's the problem of impulse control which he demonstrated during his presidency and continues to demonstrate in public and at his rallies. America shouldn't be risking giving a man like that, the nuclear button .....
 dont bother !! Mark is a russian troll, so trying to explain anything to him thats not about praising Trump or talking against Ukraine he will not listen. he is a hopeless russian case.
Trump got very Little dome, outside his 2017 tax cut for the corportions and the wealthy, which helped increase the debt by 30% in his 4yr presidency.
Democrats love to say wealthy don't pay their fair share. this is even more simplistic, you agreed to pay 2%, do it
Finally, something we can agree on: that is simplistic.
glad to see you agree with trump and they need to pay what they agreed to
The Donald rambled for 2 hours in every rallies and people are still surprised that he said something stupid?
Well the dead European men and women soldiers must be losers and suckers, because they went to war for America honoring NATO oath when we where attacked by Afghanistan.
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