Trump will leave NATO, says Hillary Clinton, as US commitment is in question

Former United States President and current Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses the press at Mar-a-Lago on February 16, 2024, in West Palm Beach, Florida.

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MUNICH, Germany — NATO members on Saturday weighed possible U.S. withdrawal from the military alliance if Donald Trump returns to the White House, with Hillary Clinton saying she would waste no time in resigning if re-elected.

Clinton urged delegates at the Munich Security Conference to take her former presidential rival’s tough talk “literally and seriously” as anxiety grows over the future of the US-led pact.

“He’s going to get us out of NATO,” Clinton told attendees during a lunchtime session.

Trump stoked new concerns about the US commitment to NATO last weekend when he said he would “encourage” Russia to attack any member that does not meet its spending targets. He has long criticized the alliance’s failure to ensure that members meet their obligation to contribute 2% of gross domestic product to defense.

Amid such rhetoric, the US Congress passed a bill in December aimed at preventing any American president from unilaterally withdrawing from the alliance without congressional approval.

Is the United States leaving NATO?

Republican US Senator Jim Risch, a ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on Saturday dismissed talk of the US leaving NATO, saying: “We have answered that question.”

“It would take a two-thirds vote in the United States Senate to get out — that will never happen,” he told CNBC in Munich.

Clinton said, however, that Trump may actually simply refuse to fund the alliance. “The United States will be present in name only,” he said.

Trump against NATO

Concerns about continued US and European military coordination dominated discussions at this year’s annual defense summit in Germany, as the specter of a second Trump presidency looms and a controversial aid package for Ukraine is hanging in the balance in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte referred to the constant “whining and moaning” at an event on the future of NATO under Trump on Saturday.

“Stop bitching and bitching and complaining about Trump,” he said.

He was one of many European voices, including that of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, who said Europe needed to become self-sufficient in the face of a more uncertain future with its closest diplomatic ally.

NATO chief says US won't withdraw from alliance: makes it 'stronger'

“No matter what happens in the United States … we need to be able to protect ourselves,” Frederiksen said.

Indeed, Germany’s defense minister said his country’s commitment to spending 2% of GDP on defense should be just the beginning, stressing that the threshold could rise to 3.5% if necessary.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg struck a more optimistic tone on transatlantic coordination, however, saying he believes the United States will remain “a loyal and committed NATO ally” whatever happens in the next election.

“I expect that regardless of the outcome of the US elections in November, the United States will remain a loyal and committed NATO ally,” he told CNBC’s Silvia Amaro.

“It is in the security interests of the United States to have a strong NATO,” he added.

Made with Flourish

Stoltenberg acknowledged Trump’s frustration with members’ spending but said “things are changing now.” NATO announced on Wednesday that 18 of the alliance’s 31 members will meet the 2% spending target this year.

NATO member countries first committed to minimum spending targets in 2006, but by 2014 only three had reached the threshold.

The alliance will celebrate its 75th anniversary this year at its annual summit in Washington in July.

Senator Risch said he would like to see all members commit to their goal by that point.

“Talking about what will happen years in the future is not now, and we are always interested in the present,” he said. “This is good for the relationship: everyone keeps their commitments.”

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