Aides Say Trump Repeatedly Pushed to Withdraw US From NATO

Trump complained Europe wasn't spending enough on the military

Adding significant detail to the July 2018 NATO summit, a number of Trump aides both current and former have told the press that Trump repeatedly pushed the idea of withdrawing the US from NATO in the lead-up to, and during, the summit.

In the lead-up to the summit, President Trump reportedly told his top national security team that he did not see the point of the military alliance, and that he viewed it as a drain on US resources. He repeatedly complained Europe wasn’t spending enough on their militaries.

All of this is broadly in keeping with President Trump’s past stance on NATO, which centered on repeated demands that all NATO nations meet a 2% of GDP, a US-imposed goal most nations weren’t meeting. Then, in July Trump pushed the demand to all NATO nations spending 4% of their GDP on their military.

Reports at the time of the July summit saw Trump declaring himself “extremely unhappy” with the alliance, and claiming that everyone had agreed to give him whatever he wanted, though other NATO leaders contested this.

There were even multiple media reports at the time that Trump threatened to withdraw from NATO at the summit if he didn’t get his demands met. French President Emmanuel Macron claimed this was untrue, and that Trump had never directly made such a threat.

The push for NATO spending increases is hardly a Trump-exclusive one, and has been common among US presidents for decades. Trump’s willingness to question the need for NATO as an anti-Russia alliance is unusual.

NATO’s hostility toward Russia is likely why this report is coming out now, six months after the summit. Media reports have tried to claim Trump is beholden to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the reports on the summit were peppered with quotes from Obama-era officials claiming that Trump’s position is a “gift to Putin.”

It is also likely this determination to make everything about Russia that has the White House blanketly denying the reports about what happened in July, even though they broadly just confirm everything we were already told about the environment surrounding the summit at the time.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.