BRUSSELS — When President Donald Trump arrives here for a series of key meetings, including a dinner with other heads of state at the new NATO headquarters Thursday night, a couple of key questions will hang over his visit.
Will he back NATO’s key clause, Article 5? It undergirds the alliance, called the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, because it establishes the collective defense of each of its 28 member countries. Although Trump has pledged his commitment to the organization, he has not expressed support for Article 5.
In a press conference here Wednesday morning, Independent Journal Review asked NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg if he expects the president to give public backing to the clause, but he accepts the president’s related statements as tacit support.
“President Trump has clearly stated his strong support to NATO. The core task of NATO is collective defense. By expressing strong support to NATO, to our security guarantees, the United States, President Trump, his security team, has also of course expressed strong support of Article 5, because Article 5, collective defense, is NATO’s core task,” Stoltenberg said.
The secretary-general pointed out he has talked to Trump by phone twice and met with him in the White House, suggesting his comments then amounted to support. He also noted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, and Vice President Mike Pence have voiced support for Article 5.
But to foreign policy experts, it remains unclear whether Trump even backs the clause implicitly.
It may indeed make for an awkward visit on Thursday if he does not back the clause, particularly because he will dedicate an Article 5 and 9/11 memorial at the official opening of the new NATO headquarters. The first time Article 5 was invoked was when terrorists attacked the United States in 2001.
But Stoltenberg pressed the case that the United States shows its support to NATO through action, not just rhetoric:
“Yesterday the Trump administration presented a budget where they increased funding for U.S. Military presence in Europe by 40 percent, which is a significant increase that comes on top of the increases last year. And that enables an increased military presence of U.S. forces, more exercises, more equipment, more training, more pre-positioned supplies, weapons, ammunition, and more investments in infrastructure. So after many years of a decline in U.S. military presence in Europe, now we are seeing for the first time in many years an increase. So this is a commitment of collective defense. Not only words but also deeds.”
IJR also asked Stoltenberg about whether the news last week that Trump shared Israeli intelligence with Russian officials without express permission concerns him.
Trump, heads of state from other NATO countries, and Stoltenberg will discuss how to improve intelligence sharing in the wake of increased terrorist threats.
“Shared intelligence is a core activity for NATO. We have shared intelligence for many, many years in this alliance. And actually, we are stepping up our sharing of intelligence because we have established a new intelligence division. And also expect us to make new decisions in order to even more on intelligence tomorrow when we meet the leaders.”
And will NATO need to put controls in place or address with Trump his decision to share intelligence with adversaries?
“Of course I trust all allies that they are able to handle intelligence in a good way, and that’s what we’ve been able to do for many, many years, and we will also continue to do that,” he said.