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Defense minister 'convinced' Trump would not withdraw US from NATO

Hanno Pevkur.
Hanno Pevkur. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Minister of Defense Hanno Pevkur (Reform) does not believe the U.S. will leave NATO if Donald Trump wins a second presidential term, but International Center for Defense Studies (ICDS) researcher Tony Lawrence was more cautious in his assessment on Monday.

Former President Trump shocked the West over the weekend when he said at a rally in South Carolina on Saturday that he would "encourage" Russia to "do whatever the hell they want" to NATO members who do not spend 2 percent of their GDP on defense.

Pevkur told Monday's "Aktuaalne kaamera": "I am quite convinced that Trump will not even suggest that the US should withdraw from NATO. Just as the US needs European allies, European allies need the US. And this military alliance, which has kept the peace for 75 years, is worth keeping. Of course, Trump's statements are very regrettable."

Tony Lawrence, a researcher at the IICDS in Tallinn, said Trump's comments sow uncertainty.

"We shouldn't take it too lightly. Politicians have choices and they can choose to lead, to explain why certain things need to be the way that they are, to demonstrate the benefits of those things to their people. Or they can just latch on to those popular sentiments. And there seems to be a populist sentiment in the States at the moment to the effect that they are being taken advantage of."

On Monday, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) said Trump's comments may "wake up" members of the 30-member alliance who are doing too little.

Estonia's 2024 defense spending is equivalent to 3.2 percent of its GDP per year.

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Editor: Mait Ots, Helen Wright

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