Trump on defending Estonia: Would fulfill NATO obligation, but defending allies expensive and US contributes too much (6)
American Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gave a longer interview focused on foreign policy to The New York Times last Friday, which also touched upon the defense of Estonia as a NATO ally. While he answered affirmatively when asked whether he thought the US should honor Article 5 and defend the the tiny country if needed, he also indicated that he found the US’ defense of other NATO allies to be disproportionately burdensome for the country.
“There are several countries that have joined NATO in recent times* — Estonia among them, and so forth — that we are now bound by treaty to defend if Russia moved in. Would you observe that part of the treaty?” asked journalist David E. Sanger.
“Yeah, I would,” replied Trump. “It’s a treaty, it’s there. I mean, we defend everybody. (Laughs.) We defend everybody. No matter who it is, we defend everybody. We’re defending the world. But we owe, soon, it’s soon to be $21 trillion. You know, it’s 19 now but it’s soon to be 21 trillion. But we defend everybody. When in doubt, come to the United States. We’ll defend you. In some cases free of charge. And in all cases for a substantially, you know, greater amount.”
In Trump’s opinion, while US needs to think about the world, it also needs to consider itself. “I mean, look at what China’s doing in the South China Sea,” the Republican candidate went on. “I mean they are totally disregarding our country and yet we have made China a rich country because of our bad trade deals. Our trade deals are so bad. And we have made them — we have rebuilt China and yet they will go in the South China Sea and build a military fortress the likes of which perhaps the world has not seen. Amazing, actually. They do that, and they do that at will because they have no respect for our president and they have no respect for our country.”
The Republican presidential hopeful has previously mentioned when discussing his positions on foreign policy that the United States must significantly scale back its participation in NATO, and that European security should be dealt with first and foremost by European countries themselves.
“We certainly can’t afford to do this anymore,” said Trump in a March 22nd interview. “NATO is costing us a fortune, and yes, we’re protecting Europe with NATO, but we’re spending a lot of money.”
Donald Trump echoed these views in the New York Times interview as well. Two things in particular bothered him about NATO — that it is obsolete, and that it is expensive, for the United States in particular, who is expected to contribute to it more than other allies.
“When NATO was formed many decades ago we were a different country. There was a different threat. Soviet Union was, the Soviet Union, not Russia, which was much bigger than Russia, as you know,” Trump observed. He added that the focus should be shifted to fighting terrorism instead.
The presidential hopeful also found that NATO was simply economically unfair to the United States, “because it really helps [other allies] more so than the United States, and we pay a disproportionate share.”
*Editor's note: Sanger's wording of this interview question, particularly the use of the terms "recent times" and "now" could potentially leave readers with the impression that Estonia had only joined NATO sometime during the past few years. It is worth nothing that Estonia joined NATO exactly twelve years ago today, on March 29, 2004.