Biden and Trump’s Dispute over NATO Reflected Split Views on America’s Role in the World

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Biden condemned Trump’s outbursts against NATO as “shameful”, “dangerous” and “non-American”. The views of the two American presidents, current and former, on America’s role in the world have become markedly divergent. President Joe Biden, for whom strengthening coalitions to confront adversaries has become a major foreign policy focus, favors greater international cooperation in general. Former President Donald Trump, the most likely Republican presidential candidate, is again insisting on his “America First” policy that troubled allies during his administration. The debate has revolved around how Washington will fulfill its obligations under Article 5 of the NATO charter, which requires alliance members to help each other in the case of an external attack. Speaking at a campaign event last week, Trump said that as president he would deny protection to countries that “evade” allocating 2% of GDP to the military. Insisting that the House of Representatives approved a $95 billion aid package for Ukraine, Israel and other allies, Biden condemned Trump’s outbursts against NATO as “shameful”, “dangerous” and “un-American.” Trump is “bowing to a Russian dictator,” Biden said, promising that his administration will not back down from its “sacred obligations” to the alliance. Jason Miller, a senior adviser to Trump’s campaign headquarters, said Trump “got our allies to increase their NATO spending by demanding they pay up, but Joe Biden went back to letting them take advantage of the American taxpayer”. “When you don’t pay your defense spending you can’t be surprised that you get more war”, Miller told Voice of America. Trump’s associates have also floated ideas designed to make NATO members pay more. Keith Kellogg, former chief of staff of the National Security Council under Trump, has proposed transforming NATO into a “tiered alliance” in which members that do not devote 2% of GDP to defense cannot expect protection under Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty. According to Kristine Berzina, managing director of the Geostrategy North programme at the German Marshall Fund, such signals from Trump and his allies go beyond isolationism and undermine the confidence of European allies. They contradict “the essence of the deterrence doctrine” and invite hostile action, she said. Before Trump, supporting allies and partners was never a controversial element of US foreign policy. However, following Trump’s criticism of NATO, the issue of America’s role in the world will be another topic splitting voters. Only 50% of Republicans believe the US benefits from transatlantic alliances, in contrast to 80% of Democrats and 63% of independents. These are the results of a poll by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.