Ross Clark Ross Clark

Trump’s madness will strengthen Nato

‘Appalling and unhinged’ was Joe Biden’s (or at least the White House’s) verdict on Donald Trump’s remarks that he might actually encourage Vladimir Putin to invade Nato member states who fail to meet the organisation’s requirement that they spend at least 2 per cent of GDP on defence.   

It is hard to disagree with that verdict, but then someone has to shock Nato’s laggards into keeping their side of the bargain. Trump has tried this tactic before, at the 2018 Nato summit in Brussels, when he described Germany as a ‘captive of Russia’ owing to its decision to spend billions on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to import Russian gas, while spending only 1.23 per cent of GDP on defence.

Not only was Trump proved right about the pipeline and Germany’s reliance on Russian gas – but his shock tactic of suggesting that the US might lose patience with defending Europe did have some effect. At the time of the 2018 summit only four countries were meeting the two percent target: the US, on 3.31 per cent, Greece (2.38 per cent), the UK (2.06 per cent) and Estonia (2.01 per cent). Five countries were spending less than 1 per cent, including the summit hosts Belgium, who were managing only 0.88 per cent. Most member states had failed to take any notice of Barack Obama’s polite requests to take their defence more seriously. Since 2018, however, a further six countries have hit the 2 per cent target.    

Trump, as most people will have worked out by now, doesn’t really mean much of what he says. A lot of it is just bombast.

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