Trump 'not serious about abandoning Nato treaty commitments'
Published 17/11/2016 | 03:16
A top Nato general has said Donald Trump's suggestion that the United States might abandon its Nato treaty commitments is not serious - because no American president "would dare" change the arrangement.
Czech army general Petr Pavel underlined the treaty's importance to America and its allies, saying Nato's Article 5 mutual defence clause is quite clear, and Nato will come to the defence of any fellow member who is attacked.
Gen Pavel, the chairman of Nato's military committee, made the remarks ahead of this weekend's Halifax International Security Forum in eastern Canada - the first major national security conference since Mr Trump was elected US president.
Mr Trump's speculation during the presidential campaign over a possible review of allies' financial contributions - in this case, contributions owed by Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania - before acting under Article 5 if they were attacked by Russia could rock the foundations of security structures which have underpinned European stability since the end of the Second World War.
Mr Trump also called Nato "obsolete" and a bad deal for America.
Gen Pavel said: "The continuity of the trans-Atlantic relationship, spanning almost 70 years, is simply so binding that no American president would dare be able to change it, and even not willing, because we understand on sides on both sides of the Atlantic that Nato is as important to European allies as it is to North America and we have a treaty that is binding to all of us.
"I really think that there is no serious threat there to challenging the principles of Nato."
US administrations of the past have complained that many Nato members are not footing their share of the alliance's bills. The US accounts for more than 70% of all Nato defence spending. Only four other allies - the UK, Estonia, Greece and Poland - meet the minimum level of 2% of gross domestic product on defence that Nato requires.
Mr Trump's idea that this spending target would be a prerequisite for the US to defend them is an abrupt break for the most powerful member of Nato, which styles itself as the most successful military alliance in world history.
"Article 5 is quite clear," Gen Pavel said. "I believe this commitment will be met whatever the situation. I also believe that it is necessary that all European allies do their best to meet their commitments."
Gen Pavel said Russia is pursing political objectives through military force, and that this is unacceptable in the 21st century.
"We are witnesses to the first illegal change of boundaries since the Second World War by force," he said, in reference to Crimea.
Russia annexed Crimea in March 2014 from Ukraine following a hastily called referendum, a move that led to crippling Western sanctions. A separatist insurgency also erupted in eastern Ukraine the following month, backed by Russia.
Gen Pavel said he hopes Mr Trump will moderate his remarks now that he is president-elect.