Why are NATO allies worried about a second Trump term?

Donald Trump NATO

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Washington.- The war in Ukraine has revitalized NATO like never before after years of keeping a low profile, but it could suffer a severe internal earthquake in the event of a second term for former Republican President Donald Trumpa critic of the Atlantic Alliance with an uncertain plan for the future of Ukraine.

The NATO summit, which will bring together its leaders in Washington from July 9 to 11, will take place in a rarefied atmosphere, given that a Trump victory in the November 5 elections now seems closer than ever after the disastrous performance of the current US president, Joe Bidenin the electoral debate on June 27.

Heads of state and government are expected to discuss a long-term financial support mechanism for Ukraine, but Trump will be the big elephant in the room.

“There is no doubt that NATO leaders are concerned,” Thomas Schwartz, professor of European Studies at Vanderbilt University, told EFE.

Trump is an old acquaintance of the Alliance. In his first term, from 2017 to 2021, he was highly critical of the European allies, whom he accused of not investing enough money in defense, damaging a historic relationship that the Biden administration has focused on redirecting.

But the context is now much more complex due to the war in Ukraine, which has forced the United States and European countries to coordinate to arm Kyiv and stop the Kremlin’s expansionist plans, as they believe that Russian President Vladimir Putin would not be satisfied with just the annexation of Ukraine.

So far, Trump’s signals have not been encouraging for allies. Republicans in Congress blocked approval of further military aid for Ukraine for months, using the Trumpist slogan of “America First.”

The New York tycoon also said in February that he would encourage Russia to do “whatever it wants” with members who do not meet the Alliance’s defense spending target.

According to outgoing NATO Secretary Jens Stoltenberg, 23 of NATO’s 31 members (not including the US) are now meeting the target of investing 2 percent of GDP, more than double the figure from four years ago.

Does Trump have a clear plan for Ukraine and NATO?

The truth is that Trump has not publicly outlined any specific plan for the future of the Ukraine war or for the transatlantic relationship.

In the debate with Biden, the Republican said Putin’s conditions for stopping the war, which include the annexation of eastern Ukraine, were “not acceptable,” but then argued that the conflict should never have broken out and complained that the U.S. has spent far more money than the Europeans.

Since the start of the Russian invasion, Washington has provided more than $53 billion worth of arms to Ukraine and the Twenty-Seven some $40 billion.

Professor Schwartz notes that “Trump is unpredictable and his plans will depend on the advisors he surrounds himself with.”

Several think tanks linked to Trumpism are already designing proposals that are on the candidate’s table.

One plan of these ultraconservative groups is to make the sending of weapons to Ukraine conditional on the president of that country, Volodymyr Zelensky, agreeing to sit down to negotiate peace.

“The little we know is that Trump wants a deal. He wants to win the Nobel Peace Prize and have a photo with Putin and Zelensky shaking hands,” Liana Fix, an analyst at the Council on Foreign Relations, told EFE.

But such a deal, according to Fix, would undoubtedly entail the cession of Ukrainian territory to Russia, something unthinkable for now.

As for the future of the alliance, while a US exit is unlikely, one idea in Trump’s camp is to create a two-speed NATO, where countries that fail to meet their contributions do not enjoy the security guarantees of the United States, which has the largest military in the alliance.

This would conflict with NATO’s Article 5, which states that allies must defend any of their members attacked by a third country.

Fix’s recommendation is that the EU prepare for any scenario: “The most important thing will be for European countries to remain united.”