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Did Trump undermine NATO?

Did Trump undermine NATO?

One of the Democrats evergreen narratives is that President Trump undermined and weakened NATO.  This may be another example of spinning the rhetoric and ignoring the facts.

In his inimitable style – of which I am a constant critic – Trump berated NATO members.  Critics say he wanted to withdraw the United States from the Alliance. But why?

The central issue for Trump was that NATO members were not meeting their individual commitments to fund NATO – leaving the United States to pay more than its fair share.  (I guess NATO was using the United Nations funding philosophy.) 

That is not a new issue.  Virtually every modern-day President had called on the member-nations to meet their commitments.  While they relied on a “pretty please” approach – that repeatedly failed to get results — Trump complained openly and loudly.  His bellicose language and perceived threats were not intended to weaken NATO – or really withdraw America – but to get the member-nations to ante up.  IN fact, it was a call to strengthen NATO.

Even the Secretary General of NATO publicly agreed with Trump that the members had to increase their financial contributions to meet their obligations – and the challenges of an increasingly hostile world environment.

It worked.  The member-nations increased their financial contributions.  This left NATO stronger.  Not weaker.  And once that was accomplished, Trump stopped bad-mouthing the Alliance.  He had done what his predecessors had tried to do – but failed.

Trump approved the addition of Montenegro to NATO – much to the chagrin of Vladimir Putin.  The Russian despot was apoplectic over the addition of more nations to NATO.  It was thwarting his maniacal dream of taking back the old captive nations that were once part of the Soviet Union of his dreams.

Then there was oil.

Trump not only railed against NATO’s dependency on Russian oil, but he also stopped the certification of the second Nord Stream Pipeline to Germany.  Trump argued that NATO’s dependency on Russian oil weakened NATO.  He offered to work on the infrastructure that would allow the United States to start supplying oil and gas to Europe – based on Trump’s efforts to make America oil independent and an exporter nation.  In 2019, the United States became both oil independent and an exporter nation.

Reducing NATO-nations dependence on Russian oil would have had a significant impact on the Alliance’s response to Putin’s dirty little war.  NATO would have been stronger.

Unfortunately, President Biden had different ideas.  He cut American oil production – currently and in the future.  He ended American oil independence.  He reversed Trump and approved the Nord Steam Pipeline.  And did nothing to provide the means to sell oil and gas to our European allies.  With just those policy reversals, Biden weakened both NATO and the United States – a weakness Putin perceived to be to his advantage.

The only thing that can be said about the Democrats bogus claim that Trump weakened NATO – or wanted to weaken NATO – is that the former President did use belligerent and un-diplomatic language to get the job done.  And to the left – especially the pin-stripe pants crowd – protocol is more important than results.  And to the left-leaning news media, propaganda attacks on Trump are more important than honest journalism.

The argument that Trump weakened NATO is simply untrue.  Quite the opposite.

So, there ‘tis.

About The Author

Larry Horist

So,there‘tis… The opinions, perspectives and analyses of Larry Horist Larry Horist is a businessman, conservative writer and political strategist with an extensive background in economics and public policy. Clients of his consulting firm have included such conservative icons as Steve Forbes and Milton Friedman. He has served as a consultant to the Nixon White House and travelled the country as a spokesman for President Reagan’s economic reforms. He has testified as an expert witness before numerous legislative bodies, including the U. S. Congress. Horist has lectured and taught courses at numerous colleges and universities, including Harvard, Northwestern, DePaul universities, Hope College and his alma mater, Knox College. He has been a guest on hundreds of public affairs talk shows, and hosted his own program, “Chicago In Sight,” on WIND radio. Horist was a one-time candidate for mayor of Chicago and served as Executive Director of the City Club of Chicago, where he led a successful two-year campaign to save the historic Chicago Theatre from the wrecking ball. An award-winning debater, his insightful and sometimes controversial commentaries appear frequently on the editorial pages of newspapers across the nation. He is praised by readers for his style, substance and sense of humor. According to one reader, Horist is the “new Charles Krauthammer.” He is actively semi-retired in Boca Raton, Florida where he devotes his time to writing. So, there ‘tis is Horist’s signature sign off.


  1. jeffery neider

    Two times America tried to stay out of the world wars on the European continent. Both times the nations of Europe were not prepared for their own defense. America has bankrupted itself seeing to it that Europe was freed from tyranny. Then later that they and Japan got the oil they need and that international trade on the high seas between nations was maintained. As well as security from the very threat they are facing now. What thanks do we get? “None”. If anyone is to blame for weakness in NATO it is the European members that never lived up to their end of the commitments on spending to protect themselves.

    • Dawson

      The problem is not that Trump weakened anything; although it’s obvious that he soft peddled Putin when he was POTUS and the result of that action may well have been read as either weakness or complacency by Putin and in the long run played a part in Putin’s calculus to invade Ukraine. The bigger problem is that Trump growled so often and so arrogantly about everything but his legacy aside from malfeasance is that he accomplished nothing – and that is a huge problem for the country. The most obvious problem (the Republicans refused to accept) is that he has been dishonest and in legal trouble on so many other situations that what he says cannot be believed; he truly embodies the boy who cried wolf – even when the argument he tries to make is valid and that becomes a new problem for the right each time they blindly accept his malfeasance and inexperience. His lack of character & record of dishonesty played out in his handling of NATO: confusion and conflict over a simple idea. That is exactly WHY he was and remains the wrong person to ever hold the office of US president. As for NATO itself isn’t it correct that they ignored Trump’s call to pay more until Putin invaded?

  2. frank stetson

    Hard to believe all the lies you can spew in one short post. Amazingly, you can lie on both sides of the aisle either against Biden or for trump. You must be bi-partisan.

    • larry Horist

      Frank Stetson….. hard to believe your level of ignorance and strident bias. There is not one statement in the commentary that is not true. You certainly are not bipartisan, but I am now wonder if you are bipolar.

  3. the old Marine

    Trump was trying to get everyone to pay their fair share, he did use language and means that affended the weak at heart but got the job done. You people who are always after Trump take a look at what is happening now. We are in a world of Shit. I can not believe there are people who can still say everything is fine. We are being destroyed by our own people. WAKE UP.

    • Ted harvey

      That’s true. I voted for the man. Not a personality. Seller fi

  4. Rat Wrangler

    Out of the 28 member nations in NATO, five have met or exceeded the requested 2% of their GDP for defense. If the rest could come up with that 2% or better and put it in a pot, the US could collect that money and use it to defend the planet. We could outfit our military properly, pay our soldiers well enough so we don’t need the draft, and do it with less tax dollars than we are spending now. With NATO money funding the bulk of our military, we could bring the necessary manufacturing jobs back to our shores, bring our VA hospitals and benefits into the 21st century, and offer decent jobs to our younger generations. If we did all of that, it would not take long for this nation to be great again.

    • Ben

      That isn’t how nato funding works. “We” don’t get the money, the US does not collect the money, if the other countries spend more, we don’t automatically spend less….

      • larry Horist

        You are half correct … but totally wrong. The US does not collect the money that other member-nations put in. But we do carry more than our fair share to make up for the nation’s who were not paying their fair share — by agreement. The US can reduce its proportionate share of the expenses when other nations meet their commitment. Trump succeed where previous presidents failed. Their “polite” complaints did not work.

        • frank stetson

          Wow, even a rube debater knows don’t go for the slam unless you are 100% sure. I kinda expect a mea culpa on this one, dude.

          Do we pay more than our fair share? NO, everyone shoots for the target of 2% of GDP, no one is on-the-hook to cover another country.

          There is nothing to make up. The 2% is a guideline, not a mandate. Remember, you don’t like mandates :>)

          That’s the agreement.

          The US can reduce it’s input to 2% of GDP at any time.

          There were contribution increases in 2016, 2107 before Trump, still waiting on 2022. I thing the biggest % increase was in 2017, budget determined during Obama. You can check that. Not 100% sure.

          Apparently, polite complaints do work and don’t piss the member countries off needlessly.

          Some supporting facts and stuff:

          The “agreement” is a target 2% GDP;” there is no penalty for not reaching target, it is formally a guideline, the US does not have to “make up for other nations” nor does it make up for other nations unless it is feeling charitable. No one owes the US a cent. The US does not have to put one extra penny in. This agreement was made in 2014, before Trump.

          A small amount of the total budget is used for hqtrs, admin., and central strategic and tactical support, a small amount of the total; like 1.5B in a 940B budget. Each country uses the rest of it’s contribution for itself. IOW, IF the US added extra money, it would be either for the US, or literally given to another country under whatever agreement you want, but not NATO —– even if the country used the money for it’s NATO target.

          The 2% goal was determined in 2014; spending increasing by 3.14% in 2016 and a 5.27% in 2017, determined before Trump took office.

          a source document:

          That article is a little dated, but the process is the same and the increases continue to this day. While Trump is not the reason, or the only reason spending has increased, his bullying, name calling, taunting, and general bellicose negotiation behaviors may have had greater costs in damaging the alliance. However, he is part of the reason for the increase; the budgets were growing before Trump, and since Trump.

          • larry Horist

            Frank Stetson. You seem to get lost in the weeds — or may you seek extraneously factoids to build an argument upon. The United States contributes more dollars and percentage of GDP (3.7%) than any other NATO member nation (avg. 1.8%) The nations that meet the 2% agreement are Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Poland, Greece, Great Britain and Norway — and most recently France. The US picks up more than its fair share. That is a fact. Trump’s browbeating the other members has resulted in increases in contributions — and that strengthens NATO. That is a fact.

            Here was the NPR headline in 2019 … Under Trump, NATO Nations Get More U.S. Troops And Military Spending. Here is a portion of that report.

            “”It’s correct that we have now agreed a new formula for sharing those costs,” Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels. “The U.S. will pay less. Germany will pay more. So now the U.S. and Germany will pay the same, roughly 16% of NATO’s budget.”

            For the U.S., the adjustment means that starting in 2021, it will be paying $150 million less for NATO’s annual $2.5 billion maintenance than the approximately $550 million it currently contributes.

            But those savings pale in comparison to what has been — despite Trump’s frequent criticism of NATO’s cost-sharing formula — a sizeable increase in U.S. outlays for military operations in Europe since he took office.

            Most of that jump in spending was on the European Deterrence Initiative, an effort to strengthen U.S. military forces in Europe begun by the Obama administration in response to Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and continued backing of pro-Russia separatists in Ukraine.

            During the first three years of that effort, originally known as the European Reassurance Initiative, the Obama administration dedicated about $5.2 billion to building up the American military presence in Europe.

            The Trump administration has more than tripled what its predecessor spent on the EDI: A total of $17.2 billion has been requested for the initiative in the three annual budgets the current White House has sent to Congress, which in turn has approved those funding levels.”

            You claim that the US does not ante-up for the failure of other nations to meeting the agreed goal is disproved by the fact that the US could decrease the funding when others did raise their contributions. Duh.

            Frank … if you spend your time in the weeds trying to prove a point, you do not get to see the bigger picture. The point of my commentary was to dispel the bs that Trump weakened NATO. That FACT is further proven. No mea culpa for you. Frank is busted again.

          • frank stetson

            You claim … “snark, snark,” “The point of my commentary was to dispel the bs that Trump weakened NATO. That FACT is further proven. No mea culpa for you. Frank is busted again”

            I had claimed: “While Trump is not the reason, or the only reason spending has increased, his bullying, name calling, taunting, and general bellicose negotiation behaviors may have had greater costs in damaging the alliance. However, he is part of the reason for the increase; the budgets were growing before Trump, and since Trump.”

            You say I am BUSTED for saying the increases happened for a number of reasons, started before Trump, continue after Trump, he is a part of the increase. I could have said a major part. Don’t see where you have busted that.
            Still waiting for the mea culpa.

            Meanwhile….. I think “defense” spending is the worst research one can do; so byzantine. Beyond the snark, it’s nice to see you actually have some stats; how refreshing. Yes, “The United States contributes more dollars and percentage of GDP (3.7%) than any other NATO member nation (avg. 1.8%) The nations that meet the 2% agreement are Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Poland, Greece, Great Britain and Norway — and most recently France. The US picks up more than its fair share. That is a fact.” Yes, for that year, that was true.

            However, most of the rest of your quote discusses EDI, a project solely funded by the US. Granted, NATO benefits, but this is on the US’s shoulders. That’s why I passed on it, too difficult to pick the apples from the oranges. Also, there was much political spin, not left or right, but a NATO leader trying not to get yelled at by Trump days before a 3-day summit. Autocrats have a way of forcing positive spin. But will get back to you on the NATO numbers, EDI, and anything else I find. As much as I wanted to avoid it —- I will take a deeper look. You should too.

            I mean how these guys get their money is amazing; only the military can off-book major pieces of funding by calling it “foreign aid,” and then have the receiving agent buy US arms, deploy them for our benefit, and man them with our “advisors.” All off the Defense Budget books, it’s aid after all. Hell, on EDI, I think Trump used the funds to blackmail Zelensky, then he took some of these funds to build some wall. Grifters, whatttya gonna do? But the military are the best at it.

            Will get back to you on the numbers, glad to see you trying some :>)

  5. Ben

    As a Republican I’m ashamed to call you an American. You should sell all that you have, give your money to the republicans and get the hell out of America. You also show signs of cognitive problems. Go get help.

    • Ben


      As a Republican you should be ashamed.

  6. David Dutra


    • larry Horist

      David Dutra … you online version of screaming does not make you point any more valid. You obviously have drunk the Dems kool aid. I am not demonizing anyone…. just laying out facts. The Dems like to say that Trump weakened NATO, but nothing Trump DID weakened the alliance. It seems to have strengthened the alliance. He went up against Putin by sending weapons to Ukraine to protect the buffer state between NATO and Putin, who wants part of NATO back.